For awhile now I’ve been wanting to post some reviews of other webcomics, as a way to give back to those who are starting out and could use some opinions on their comic and some links on another site! I don’t know how often I’ll do these, but I hope it will be every few weeks, depending on how busy I am and the interest in being critiqued.
First up for review is Life After Death, by C.A. Ostrout & Austin Scott. I met Ostrout on Twitter, when I was looking for quotes for the Adrastus book. He provided me one and was interested in hearing what I thought of his comic! Well, let’s get started then.
LAD is a comic about a Grim Reaper named Roger. He gets fired from his job and moves in with two humans, Molly and Dave. The comic then revolves around Roger’s antics trying to fit in to a “normal” life while being a skeleton wearing a cloak. The comic is a fairly new gag-a-day, but does have two longer storyline bits in it. The archive is substantial enough to give you a feel for how the comic will be, but without being so big that it’s hard to read through.
My first impression of the comic was that the concept is really interesting. I’ve seen lots of wacky roommate stories, but not one yet with a grim reaper in it. I mean, living with an unemployed Death has got to be sort of interesting, especially when it’s one as weird as Roger (who is apparently friends with a floating, talking egg, and a floating corndog with a beak). I sort of wish the concept was pushed a bit further though, actually. It seems that people in this universe are used to seeing grim reapers running around because no one much comments on Roger’s unusual look- with the exception of a child asking if he’s Voldemort, which I thought was pretty darn funny.
There are definitely some funny moments in this comic. Roger “roleplaying” made me laugh. So did the comic where he got 15,000 Facebook friends in about two minutes by changing his gender to female and putting up a picture of a girl in a bikini. Some jokes I didn’t get until my second read through of the comic though (the “Look Down” line on the second page, actually… Which might just be me being slow). To be honest, I enjoyed the longer storylines the most and would like to see more of them! The prose in them is quite well done and there’s some great descriptions. The art even seems nicer during these longer stories! The storylines, of course, end in a joke, but I found the ending of both of them to be funny and well set up. Though I would like to see the two “filler” type pages in the Spampire storyline removed. They could be put as extras somewhere else on the site because at the moment they’re just interrupting the flow of the story with where they’re placed.
Also, LOVED the mention of Charon. I was hoping he would show up eventually!
So, let’s talk about the art a bit. Going back to the beginning of the comic after reading the newer stuff (I read the archive for the first time weeks before this writing, so I had to go catch up), you can definitely see the improvement the artist has done with their drawing. They’re getting more confident with drawing the human characters and that shows. He’s also not afraid of drawing backgrounds, which is nice to see! You never are left scratching your head and wondering where in the world these characters are. I also love that he found he had to simplify Roger’s look, and so he wrote it in to the story by having Molly sew Roger a new cloak and a “skin suit”. The effect is a very cute little Death with big, expressive eyes that I think delivers the humor of the strip much better than a more realistic skeleton would. Though when there are “Naked Days” in the comic and Rog is out of the skin suit, I do LOVE the way he’s drawn. He’s skeleton-y enough to be recognizable, but cute enough that he doesn’t lose his Roger-like charm.
The comic is in color, and it’s done pretty well. No flat fills or lens flares, and there is shading done. I never had to try turning my head sideways to figure out what something was in a drawing, so everything reads as what it’s supposed to be! The only thing that does throw me a bit sometimes is Dave’s hair. The way that the character is drawn, facial structure and musculature wise, makes him look a bit like a DragonballZ character with the haircut that he has now. Maybe that was exactly what they were going for in the character design though (in which case I think Roger should make fun of him about it at some point!) Also in some of the earlier strips I noticed that there was a white “halo” on the insides of Roger’s eyes where filled in on the computer and just weren’t touched up. I haven’t noticed it in any of the later strips, but it did jump out at me when I was reading the archives.
Also, there’s the site design. It’s a SmackJeeves site, and… to be honest it took me several minutes when I first looked at the site to figure out how to actually look at the comic. I don’t know how SmackJeeves is set up and if there’s templates to customize, but if there is I would suggest another one. (Or, move to ComicDish. Free, ad-less hosting, great community, and some awesome templates to choose from or you can personalize to your heart’s content!) I’d love to see some extra things. Right now there’s only links to Home, First Comic, Latest Comic, and Archive. I’d love to know more about these characters, the world, and the grim reapers. (Potential storyline idea?)
Overall, I like the comic and I think it has some great potential! I didn’t do much laughing out loud, but I definitely thought a good number of the strips were funny and well written. The characters are interesting and I find that I care about them even though at the moment we don’t know much about them. The only comics I downright didn’t like actually were the ones heavily focusing on Molly being there for sex jokes (even though they were just pointing out that she shouldn’t ONLY be there for that) or that there were lots of women who read comics. They felt like they were a bit mean-spirited toward women- though I hope that they were simply because Roger is a bit callous and not because the creator feels that way. (Hey, he seems to like Adrastus enough to not care that I’m a girl!) I just think that maybe it was a bit unnecessary to both bring up Molly only being there as a pair of boobs, AND to actually treat the character that way.. if that makes sense. Again, those strips didn’t make me enjoy the overall comic less, I just didn’t like those particular strips, and if they made someone as open-minded and live-and-let-live as me squirm a bit in her seat, there’s probably some angry women out there that would tear someone apart over them.
So overall, I would recommend giving Life After Death a look, especially if you like quirky roommate stories and obscure references to Hellraiser and Karate Kid! (Pinhead looked freakin’ awesome in that strip, by the way) With just some more polishing I think it will definitely find its fans! I’ll be keeping an eye on it too!
I drew this… oh… sometime at the beginning of this year on a scrap of paper, with ballpoint pen, at work. One of the best things about work is that we have several people there who give me lots of ideas for outfits for Sarah, and it just so happened that I saw a girl at work wearing this sweater dress. The moment she walked past me I said “Hey, that would be great for Sarah’s Arctic outfit!” and I doodled this up.
Then I remembered that I cut the Arctic part out of the script later. So I won’t have a chance to use this. At least, not any time in probably the next two years. But I still think the outfit is awesome. (Note: I LOVE furry boots and wish I owned a pair.)
September 10-11 I’ll be appearing as a guest at TheDigiCon! This is an internet comic convention, so you can attend no matter where you are in the world. I’ll be on two panels, I believe: the “So You Want To Make A Book” panel and “Women’s Roundtable”. Plus I’m sure I’ll be streaming some Adrastus pages and doing some freebies, as well as taking Adrastus book orders too all weekend. I’ll be on whenever I can, which should be Saturday afternoon/evening, and Sunday morning/early afternoon.
September 16-18 I’ll be chilling in Artist’s Alley with a ton of awesome folks at InterventionCon! Look for the giant robot and you’ll be able to find me. (No, seriously, my table will be pretty obvious.) I’ll have bookmarks, art cards, Adrastus books, and will of course be taking commissions and such. Hoping to have some prints too, we’ll see. :)
I’ll be at my usual haunt, Anime:USA again this year, as always! From November 18th through the 20th I’ll be down in Artist’s Alley, and it will be really easy to find me again. Giant robot, table will be obvious as all get-out, yadda yadda. Adrastus books, commissions, and various other sundries will be flowing like water, of course! (Oh, and my Mom will be there, helping out at my table, so definitely come say hello!)