Provocative Praise Picks

Provocative Praise Picks #12

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick is yesterday’s page from Schlock Mercenary by Howard Tayler.

When Captain Tagon, in the third panel, complains about the need to do desk work, his father, General Tagon, in the fourth and last panel, explains to him that officer is almost the same word as office.

This presents an interesting idea of what it means to be an officer. Certainly, patriotic stories like An Officer And Gentleman tell us a very different story.

In the real world, German military training loves to refer to the words of one of the founders of the General Staff, who explained that officer comes from officium, meaning duty in Latin. This may or may not include sitting at a desk as an essential function.

As much as they were very different personalities, both Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill thought that state business and military affairs are best conducted through the written word. On the other hand I’d assume that the saying attributed to Stalin, the general staff is the part of the army that produces the greatest number of documents, was probably not meant as a compliment.

What is pretty clear is that the way Captain Tagon and Sergeant Schlock would love, namely to do only the fun part of the job, falls short of the actual requirements.

Do you have a webcomics pick that may pique our interest? Tell us in the comments!

Provocative Praise Picks #11

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick is a page from last week’s Opportunities by Elliwiny and Sincerely.

It is the penultimate page of chapter 6, a page which delivers great dialog and characterization and sets up some crucial plot development.

The main characters on that page are Kyan, chief of security for the spaceships of an alien goodwill mission, and her subordinate officer Rex. Also important is the subject of their conversation, the wonderful lover & killer, sweet-talker & liar, charge-taker trouble-maker, and all-around femme fatale, Sara Emmet. That the latter is not an active part of the page, but still plays a central role, is a particularly charming storytelling detail. Another one is that Kyan has only one line of dialog, and it’s just a cheap quip, on a page that focuses on her thinking, and all the important visuals are dedicated to her reaction to what she hears.

The page has ten panels in four rows. Panel two, three, and four show the human visitors from a distance, with voice-overs from Rex, whose gesture in the first panel introduces these panels as the subject of his explanations. In the foreground of panel four we see Rex’ index finger pointing out Sara as the subject he wants to talk about.

Panel five shows both Rex and Kyan, but the emphasis is put on Kyan, who gives her subordinate a derisive look. On panel six she makes an hourglass gesture to point out the obvious: Rex is rather fond of shapely woman, and his obsession with Sara may be based on that, instead of the professional paranoia that fuels herself. Fun fact: Rex made a similar gesture when he came down from his observation round of the hotel pool on the roof.

Panel seven shows Kyan becoming rather introspective, and in panel eight she is even surprised and openly curious. This change in her attitude, clearly visible in these three panels which form the third row of the page, is caused by Rex’ explanations that he was indeed a professional observer, at least in part, and had noticed how Sara was performing some shenanigans that must be part of the evil plan that Kyan is so paranoid about. Note: Her professional paranoia is well-merited; we know that Sara and her co-conspirators are up to no good, indeed.

Panel nine is a close-up on Rex, again, while he relates the most crucial information: The additional pseudonym that Sara used while she was disguised.

Panel ten shows both of them, and closes this page with a sarcastic remark she would be dead if which emphasises Kyan’s drive to for action following from the information.

All in all, the dialog on this page is concise, cut out to form, and well-paced, and both the dialog and its effect on Kyan are excellently visualised.

In a sentence:Very well done!

What is your favorite webcomic page or panel from last week? Tell us in the comments!

Provocative Praise Picks #10

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick is from last week’s Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques.

It is Thurday’s page that I find particularly interesting. The page shows a scene with Faye, Claire and the antropomorhic (well, sort of) robot Pintsize.

One page before, Pintsize misbehaved, par for the course, and now Faye wants to reign him in, and exact punishment. She wants to phyiscally incomodate him by stuffing his head with birdseed, but then Claire takes over and threatens to punish him by overloading him with boring data (library indexes and stuff) to bring the AI equivalent of a seizure upon him. Pintsize is scared and opts out, preferring Faye’s rather gross option instead.

What makes this page awesome is that while it is in line with the usual Faye/Pintsize dynamic it is driven by a great character moment for Claire, which is presented in sharp and witty dialog, as well as perfectly illustrated by the art.

Claire’s dialog is to the point: She is aloof, geeky, eloquent in her tech-speaky way, and performs her act cold as ice. No wonder Pintsize is scared.

The art for this page is pretty cool: The regular panel layout greates a natural and evenly paced conversation flow, but the color effect for panel four makes it stand out and marks the dramatic climax of the page. Claire’s facial expression is wonderfully drawn, and there’s an especially nice symmetry between her close-eyed look in the first and the last panel (since she is a librarian, this is book-ends in more than one sense of the word).

And if Claire takes center stage on this page, Faye and Pintsize are drawn as wonderful supporting actors. Faye’s expression is not uncommon for her, but it is refreshing to see how she is stunned by Claire’s handling of the situation, and in the last panel we can imagine that she is not onl afraid for Pintsize – which is a curious attitude for her – but also jealous, because she considers striking fear into others as her prerogative.

In a word: Aweseome!

What is your favorite webcomic page or panel from last week? Tell us in the comments!

Provocative Praise Picks #9

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick is from last week’s Schlock Mercenary by Howard Tayler.

Wednesday’s page gave us A lawyer who uses words carelessly? Or at the very least, omits critical wording. This is very unexpected, because Massey Reynstein has been with Schlock Mercenary such a long time, and he has seen more than a fair share of mayhem and devastation. To call him the voice of reason may be overstating the case, but he’s been more often than not the advocate (sic!) of using ill-reputed words in lieu of perfectly fine weapons.

The Sunday pages explains and erudicates the case, when it is made clear that Massey was busy with – and deeply invested in – concocting a constitution. It should come to no surprise that being pulled away from that can confuse any man.

In one sentence, last week’s Schlock Mercenary was about making or breaking the law!

What is your favorite webcomic page from last week? Tell us in the comments!

One more thing: Last week there was also an awesome Drive update. See my upcomig post about Drive next week.

Provocative Praise Picks #8

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick is the webcomic Elephants: Wild Again! by Mark Oftedal, or more precisely the first five pages (including the cover) of it, which is all that there is, right now as I’m typing.

This comic is an example of how a comic can be funny and fun, and interesting, even if it is executed in a very simple fashion, both in writing and in art, and doesn’t follow any road less travelled.

In the first page /cover page our hero is introduced, and immediately identifies himself as the worst possible combination of Doctor Exposition and Captain Obvious.

On the next page he adds a lot of bad puns to the mixture, and one more page later he demonstrates a lack of common sense and situation awareness, never seen since the days of the comedians of old.

On the most recent page yet, the story moves on, in a very cartoonish, and even quite silly, style.

How the comic manages to draw me in, nevertheless, and makes me looking forward to more pages to come, is a question I can’t answer. There must be something about it that’s real cool, and it might have to do something with the irreverence and boldness to use these old styles and tropes without any hesitation or shame.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments!

BTW, the most impressive webcomic page of last week was really from Dave Kellet‘s webcomic Drive, but that webcomic will be covered in more detail in my next post on Wednesday. As usual, I encourage you to check out and archive binge Drive in advance!

Provocative Praise Picks #7

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick: Last week’s Questionable Content storyline by Jeph Jacques.

Questionable Content: Humans who need to grow a pair, and robots who are too cocky!

Apart from that, I won’t even try to explain what Questionable Content is about, firstly because I assume you are already reading it, like pretty much everybody else does, and secondly because it would be impossible to do. [Note: I also wrote about Questionable Content here.]

The storylines starts when veteran combat robot Bubbles arrives to join the main cast’s party.

Despite Bubble’s intimidating size and her brash attitude, the first round of introductions goes quite well, but when Hanner’s naive cloudcuckoolander’s cuteness clashes with the reality and harshness of war, and Bubble’s attempt to be as normal as possible is disturbed by the misguided admiration of the nerds, things get kinda awkward.

To save what can be saved, Faye tells Marten to do his usual dorky nice guy act, which he tries at his best, without being able to pierce Bubble’s armour (bad pun unashamedly intended).

Pintsize, well, lets just say, he’s Pintsize, if you catch my drift?

Finally, Bubbles decides to leave, Faye intervenes in person, but with suboptimal results, a dramatic climax of a wonderfully crafted little storyline.

Everything is spot-on in these few pages: Cool plot, excellent pacing, true-to-the-characters dialog, and visuals that support the story excactly as required.

Good job, Jeph!

How do you like this storyline? Which is your favourite storyline from Questionable Content?

Tell us in the comments!

Provocative Praise Picks #6

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick is last Friday’s page from Opportunities by sincerely and Elliwiny, who, by the way, recently answered my Seven Questions About Opportunities.

That page illustrates the unique ways in which comics can combine visuals with dialog and plot to tell an interesting story.

First in case you aren’t up-to-date on Opportunities, the two aliens are security officers charged to protect the alien diplomats and decision-makers (not seen on this page) on a goodwill and negotiation mission to Earth. Kyan, the female-looking alien, is in charge, and frustrated at the difficulties in her job due to diplomatic necessities. Rex, the male looking alien, is a laid-back type of guy who wants to make sure Kyan is not more p*ssed off that usual by others, and doesn’t p*ss off other.

The humans are all involved with the negotiations, and they want to use some spare time to visit the alien spaceship and have fun. Cortez, the suave hispanic man, is trying to impress the other humans, especially Sara, his newly-aquired lover. Sara is, unbeknownst to the other humans, but highly suspected by Kyan, actually an assassin who want to wreak havock on the aliens, posing as the secretary of a man they killed before he could have introduced her.

Now let’s do an in-depth analysis:

Panel One, we see Cortez approaching Kyan, who is still in her suffer-no-fool-especially-not-these-ones mood, clearly visble in her posture.

Panel Two, Sara tried to back out, because she doesn’t want to risk exping her fake identity. Note the changing look on Kyans face, and note how her ear is very prominent in the panel, reminding us that she has excellent, superhuman hearing and can understand Sara clearly.

Panel Three, we see Rex going through hoops trying to deflect the humans wish to see the spaceship without being too obviously rude.

Panel Four is the most interesting, the encapsulating the crucial plot point. Kyan is now determined to make use of the crazy situation, and play the player, Sara, thinking that it may be better to keep a dangerous person close, if you have control of the situation. Note how the panel itself is visually unassuming, but fraught with meaning, and the dialog is sparse and only hints at her thoughts. It’s our own mind that makes this panel so great and important.

Panel Five gives us the crucial decision in one line of dialog, visually zooming back to show all the persons affected by it.

Panel Six & Seven show us Rex trying to understand what’s happening, inviting us to muse on it as well, and figure out the stuff that I wrote above.

As you can see now, this page serves well to show why I love Opportunities.

Do you notice more interesting details on the page? Tell us in the comments!

Provocative Praise Picks #5

Today’s Provocative Praise Picks are from last week’s Drive, usually by Dave Kellett, but this time a guest comic by Dylan Meconis.

If you don’t read Drive, you are missing out!

It’s epic sci-fi at its finest, and after a wild, wild ride, we were just told by it’s creator that we now have just finished Act One; which means there is so much more to come, which is hard to believe since we’ve already seen so much, but also easy to believe because we’ve seen what Dave is capable of. Hint: You won’t believe it. (OK, OK, I’ll stop here.)

In addition to all the wonderful stuff that Dave creates, recently the generosity of his Patreon supporters has enabled him to enlist a couple other artists to create short stories set in the Dri’verse.

The first of these tells the backstory of Nosh, who epitomizes the dictum that the story is serious, the characters are hilarious.

And last week, Your Distant Homeland – Page 8, showed a totally different side of Nosh, and of the whole Dri’verse, embedding past Old Mother Russia within modern days as well as the future Second Spanish Empire.

Someone commented that the comfort emanated by this page contrasts terribly with out knowledge of what happened to Nosh recently – he became Vinn-ified – and that someone is right!

So please, at your earliest possible convenience, go check out Drive!

Provocative Praise Picks #4

Today’s Provocative Praise Picks are from last week’s Schlock Mercenary, by Howard Tayler.

In case you are not up to date with Schlock Mercenary, you need to know that the big spherical spaceship is a large tranport vessel, Cindercone, and that in its hold is, among other things, their flagship Broken Wind, and that the holographic lady is Cindercone‘s AI, aptly named Cindy.

The large Sunday strip sets up a dramatic scene, and offers surprising insight into the possibilities of using the word toast in wordplay. Without even actually using the we are toast metaphor.

Monday‘s shows how a Mad Scientist‘s understanding of physics can sometimes trump the tactical genius of an AI, to the point that the latter concedes: “I am stupid!

Tuesday‘s strip continues with the Mad Scientist mixing physics and tactics, so his squad has to defy physics on orders.

Of course, the story continues after that, and I certainly want to encourage you to read on, yourself!

If you really need further encouragement, this is yesterday’s Sunday page.

On Wednesday, I’ll post an article enigmatically called What to expect when you are expecting, which will not be about what you expect it to be about. (Though I assume you are aware I’m neither an OB/GYN nor a midwife.)

This week’s Provocative Praise Picks bonus: Here is a Misfile page that explores the meaning of Bikini Car Wash.

Provocative Praise Picks #3

Last week on Jeph Jacques’ excellent webcomic Questionable Content:

The last three pages of last weeks Questionable Content are part of a nice little storyline that started just now and will – unless there’s a scenen break coming – be continued next week. When protagonist Marten Reed, joined by his girlfriend Claire, enters Coffee Of Doom, his barrista friend Hannelore tells them that her benevolent mad scientist father send her a strange looking eletronic device, to have fun. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. But what makes the three pages awesome, rather than merely funny, is how well the characters are expressed in the dialogue:

On page 3043 we see Marten curious, but also anxious, if not to say timid, and Claire coming up with seemingly farfetched ideas; but the best performance is Hannelore’s, in the annoyed way she rejects the notion her father could make a toy, and the blase way she asserts she already has an app for targeting orbital railguns.

On the next page Marten and Hannelore continue their conversation, with Marten now becoming the more spirited partner, whereas Claire is voicing her own fear, and is obviously disconnected.

On last weeks final page the owner of Coffee Of Doom, Marten’s former girlfriend Dora, joins them and suggests the simple solution to just call Hannelore’s dad. How that throws off all three from their train (-wreck) of thought is wonderfully depicted, and finally Hannelore gets back in character, saying that she will only text her father, to not disturb him.

Now remember, this Wednesday will se the next Seven Questions About installment – where I’m asking sincerely and Elliwiny about their webcomic Opportunities – will be published in two weeks. So please, to fully understand what the questions and answers are about, take the time to read Opportunities!