Welcome, welcome. Happy New Year, everybody! I hope you all had wonderful holidays with your families and loved ones. Me, I’m likely just getting back from the mountains for a 3-day bender with my buddies when I post this. Remind me to have Tylenol ready on my desk for when I get back.
Something me and Cap have wanted to do for a while was to start writing some amateur webcomic reviews. It was, by and large, the primary driving force behind us forming a blog for ourselves in the first place. Once we had it running though, we both just kind of forgot about it. Well I’ve got some free time around the Holidays here, so I figure I’ll get the ball rolling. The plan was originally to post a review weekly, on Wednesdays. Since we’re new to this and are likely going to be busier than the animal Canada is known for, we’re going to be posting them at our own pace. Still on Wednesdays, though.
I wondered for a while which one of the comics in my long list to review first. I don’t want to use up some of my absolute favourites, because I’m not familiar enough with the format or with writing to put my best effort in. Good thing that’s only about 6 or 7. So first up is a story about a nymphomaniac, bisexual jester girl who has magic powers. Flipside!
So, there is more to the story than just that one girl. Quite a bit more, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it all was. Maybe that’s just a side effect of having read through the archives approximately 2-3 years ago and reading a lot of stuff since. With a current archive size of around 700 pages, I couldn’t find time to read through the whole thing again, either. Which is a bit of a shame, I must be due for a re-read soon; I do remember after initially going through the whole thing, I was in love with the comic and shared it on Facebook with a good number of people. Got ‘em with the same hook, too. But after a few years in my bookmarks folder, large sections of the story have dropped from my memory. I checked back on a few chapters too, and even with visual reminders I could still not tell for the life of me what was going on, what was the context. Have I not said the author’s name yet? I need to get a handle on this rambling. It’s Brian Foulke.
Anyways, perhaps this is a sign that the story doesn’t have much staying power, perhaps it’s just me being absent-minded, perhaps it’s the type of story that needs more rapt attention than a bi-monthly check-in can provide (this would make sense, seeing as I was loving it immediately after my first reading). What I can say is that Flipside is most definitely unique, and that says something in the modern world of copy-pasting entertainment ideas.
I think one criticism I can gleam from recent catchup periods is that the story seems to be lacking a direction these days. Each character has their personal motivations, of course, but none of them line up in something that coherently moves the group along through the series of events. The prequel-esque “Book 0” was different in that I had a sense of something bound to happen soon, it was a story unto itself (largely to set up some of the concepts of the universe to new readers, as well as for Brian buffer himself through the initial “rough art” period of beginning webcomics.) At over 500 pages, it’s worth a read by itself if you feel curious about checking the comic out, and had a convenient end to call it quits at if you feel the comic’s not for you.
Characters! The story’s main character is said Jester girl, named Maytag. Maytag is the blood of this webcomic; it would not, COULD not, survive without her. She’s what brings everyone together, what ties the events into something bigger, yada, yada. She does what a main character is basically born to do. I did love her at first, because she’s just so damned open about everything. Nothing is off-limits for this girl to talk about, and she’s just so damned friendly that it’s hard not to like her. Weakness shows itself from time to time in her love life; the love interest, her polar opposite named Bernadette (yes they are lesbians) is quiet and reserved (also badass with swords and fears anything magical), and does not take well to Maytag’s very promiscuous style of friendship, and this causes Maytag some grief as she wants her to be happy.
As time goes on though, I started skrunking an eyebrow. She seems to have a god-like sense of kindness and forgiveness, at one point willingly allowing a sentient monster to eat her arm and saying there were no hard feelings. For the next - hundred, at least? I can’t remember – pages, she goes through the story with one arm, never showing any sign of blame or regret about the action, before it gets magically regrown. It’s a character type that hasn’t been explored much before, as she seemingly has no breaking limit. I don’t know whether that’s a good or a bad thing, but I do have a weak spot for the unique, so it gets a few points in my book.
As for the other characters, they all take backseats to what goes on with Maytag and Bernadette. One notable character is Crest, whom is introduced in the first few pages of the main storyline and has a seemingly important role for the beginning of the story. At one point about 500 pages in though, I noticed that he may as well no longer exist. Few speak to him about anything, he hardly speaks himself, and seems to be little more than a hanger-on whose motivations have been lost to me. I don’t care what happens to Crest anymore – give him something important to do, or send him packing back home. There are a few more stragglers that they pick up along the way, most of them versed at least somewhat (or supremely so) in magic, and they tag along with these strange people likely out of curiosity as to what Maytag is going to do next. The girl is nothing if not unpredictable.
Aside from the supporting cast, the only two characters worth mention are the Thin Man and Moss – The Thin Man is the primary antagonist, some sort of mad magic scientist who kidnaps certain individuals, performs experiments, creates monsters and has lackeys hidden around the world, and Moss is a child born with the strange curse of being able to see people’s weakness and fears. This does not gain him many friends. One strip comes to mind (if I could find it I would link it) of Moss’s childhood, wherein a foster mother attempts to console the tortured child. She promises whatever the issue is, it is not his fault and she will not lay blame to him. He tells her, tells her what he sees when he looks at her, (something to do with the woman’s own childhood, and memories of prostitution or sex abuse); she is horrified, calls the child a demon, and locks him outside her house in the night. Moss has a strong presence in Book 0, but did not make an appearance in the main storyline until around Chapter 23, and even then it was short. I hope to see him again, as he is one of the more memorable parts of the story.
My, but this review is taking a negative tone, isn’t it? I don’t mean to say the comic is bad, if it were it wouldn’t have a home in my bookmarks list. And a fair number of people appreciate it enough to vote for it every day and keep it at #19 on the topwebcomics list (as of this writing). The story just no longer grips me the way it once did, is all. I can say, however, that the art is quite fantastic, sporting a distinct mange-style of comic pages and maintaining a greyscale color style, often sticking with raw black and white inks for characters and including greys for background only. The action sequences are particularly well done, and feel very dynamic and full of motion. I could learn a few things from closer study of the fight sequences in Flipside.
All in all, the comic is definitely worth checking out. Read Book 0 first, see if Maytag interests you, and if so then move on to the main comic storyline. If you’re anything like me, you will find something to latch onto with your first reading and make your own judgment once caught up. There IS a story in there worth telling and worth reading, I just can’t remember what it is. I’ll do more research for my next review, promise. If you’re the type to check back weekly, Flipside updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so there’s plenty of new material every week. Try not to wait too long, or Brian might hit the 1,000 pages mark and scare off some potential new readers from diving in.
Flipside can be found here: http://flipside.keenspot.com/