|Original review author:||William Seagate (Original and Rewrites); Lesbot (Images and Captions)|
|Webcomic name:||Abstract Gender (Old webpage is down, no alternate host has been located.) Reboot is at Stewart's DeviantArt|
|Author:||Aaron "Rayne" Stewart|
|Artist:||Shawn Ullom (quit after 7 updates), Ian Samson (temporary replacement for 20 updates), D. Michael Moore (quit after 173 updates), "Asuka" (quit after 78 updates). A fifth artist, "Verias" was contacted for a reboot, but he quit after one test strip.|
|Start Date:||May 30, 2005|
|End Date:||September 22, 2007 (Last Update: Officially Dead)|
|Genre:||Comedy, Drama, Gender-Bender Fetish|
|Defining Flaw:||Even if I were to concede this comic's reason to exist, just about everything on it is done fucking poorly and generically! It's all a crude setup for Paypal donation buttons.|
|Summary:||A middle-of-the road transgender comic ham-handedly managed for the mere purpose of raking in PayPal money from fans who didn't know any better. Features an erratically paced and illogical story, unstable art from a revolving door of artists and fanart, and humiliating attempts at fanservice, all adding up to a soul-sucking experience that might as well sum up all that transgender webcomics represent.|
Hey, kids! Do you know what "transgender" is? I'm sure you've heard some things about it being a mental condition. Others may know it for its physical variants. Finally, there's all that anguish and stories of confusion and alienation. It's a sad and serious topic that shouldn't be mocked or ridiculed. Fear not, buddy, because THAT'S NOT AT ALL WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE.
No, in the webcomics world, transgender is but a fetish topic, constantly exploited for the benefit of amusing teens too young for porn. It's when one or more fucked-up guys (boy, it could even be you!) fantasize about being chicks, because that's just FAKKIN HAWT. It's quite a universe to "grasp": you get gender issues, lesbians, angst, groping, pr0nz, drama, getting into the world of girls, drama, lame breast jokes, drama, fap material, drama, fish out of the water, drama, drama... hey, did I mention drama? And when you're done, always visit the site's gift shop, buy some wallpapers, commission art, or simply give up all your cash! Sorry, I meant donate money to us.
If you want to basically understand what transgender comics are without having to swallow years of thinly-veiled porn and irritating plots, just read Abstract Gender, a webcomic as pale and generic as the Math problem your teacher made up last Monday. It includes all standard features, from stupid and illogical plots, bad characters and cookie-cutter art, to cheap fanservice, and the guarantee that there's no end in sight (specially since many transgender comics, including this one, die out before being close to it). Oh, and the endless sellout for donations. It almost goes without saying.
Story and Plot
Warning: This section contains spoilers. Also, the shame that this story can be summed up so shortly.
Ryan and Brian are friends. Ryan is the dull, snarky downer. Brian, the goofy moron he hangs out with inexplicably. It was a common day at the mall with gal-pal Katie, when that meanie Montgomery teased them into exploring an abandoned house with a hidden treasure guarded by penguins! Our heroes go to investigate, only to be captured by shady doctors and be turned against their will into GIRLY GIRLZ WITH GUHRL PARTS! Then there's a furry strip!! OMG! SO KAWAII!!
Only Ryan ("Rachel") has to stay a girl. Brian ("Brianna") has the Ranma-esque power to change his gender back and forth. This means we get to see "Rachel" stumble his way into the girls' world, sulking through school full of boiling emo, while Brian/Brianna exploits their woman body for modeling and lives the high bi-life! But don't worry about the whole mystery of the gender change. Nobody does! Ryan's mother likes him better that way! So do Brian's parents! Ryan's got a boyfriend! Everything is A-OK. Sport tryouts for everyone!
Eventually, Ryan decides to get a clue about his mysterious dick-snapping. All it took is one casual step into the house to catch an important lead blaming Brian for all. It then took 60 updates (most of which weren't comics), a tank-full of angst, family drama, a volleyball match, more furry fantasies, and almost a year (real-life) to discover he was totally wrong.
After a quick spa trip and a job babysitting, Rachel goes to Brian's house to apologize to him at his mother's surprise party, when it turns out she was brutally murdered at the hands of a crying criminal (he was CRYING, you guys!). Life just can't give a break to these poor boys. What will ever happen to them? How will Ryan solve his situation? Will Brain ever cope the loss of her mother (if he hasn't forgotten yet)? Oh this is so sad... Boo-hoo-hoo THE END. __Click to Donate!
The story begins quite slowly, with our main characters doing boring shit in a mall. Right there, many people could be turned off, but there is something much worse that happens about then. You can be sure this comic is terrible when the artist quit after less than seven strips. Seriously, this comic was so bad that five artists and a couple of colorists didn't think it was worth sticking their name to. They all came and left, and they regularly did in the middle of important events. Characters came in one way, and came out different. It all just went downhill there.
The unstable art killed this comic quickly. There was also the flip flop between drama and comedy, the irritating personality of Ryan, the glacial story plot, and the incredibly irregular update schedule. But really, art cast the first stone, it's a freaking puzzle. I mean, count the number of webcomics still out there who went through 4 artists and a few colorists in just a few years. And it's not like Abstract Gender was trying to uphold a similar style. Whenever the artist changed, the entire thing just transformed. Two of the artists even mutated a couple of times during their own tenures. And then there's the fanart. Never before has a comic's archive consisted of so many different representations of a small set of characters. Ryan may as well get a lesson from Jenny Everywhere about trying to maintain his identity through the edge of two dozen different pencils.
You might think I'm just exaggerating with this, but try to understand: there is no way you can identify or even care for a character if half of the time you're trying to be sure if it's really him. All comics were written by the same guy, but Ryan is still such a nebulous, boring concept. There must be something in him that lets us know who he is. Chuck Jones felt this way with the short "Duck Amuck" (the one where Daffy Duck is constantly altered by an unseen artist):
Jones (the director) is speaking to the audience directly, asking "Who is Daffy Duck anyway? Would you recognize him if I did this to him? What if he didn't live in the woods? Didn't live anywhere? What if he had no voice? No face? What if he wasn't even a duck anymore?" In all cases, it is obvious that Daffy is still Daffy; not all cartoon characters can claim such distinctive personality. Source: Wikipedia - "Duck Amuck"
Is Ryan/Rachel any like Daffy Duck? Of course not, Ryan's dessspicable...
Art, no matter how many hands touched it, was always bad. First, it was very basic, the kind you can't believe someone had to draw by hand to get done. Inane black-to-white gradients were mistaken for backgrounds. Then, the next guy switched wholesale to sketchy, computer-thin lines. His is the style I liked the best, because it was good for comedy (not that it was inherently comedic), but it sucked endlessly when the tone needed to be serious or correct anatomy was required.
The third guy, Moore, limited his style to the point he was too handicapped to manage any movement beyond red ovals for open mouths and bent sticks for moving limbs. It was all fail except, you know, for the BEWBS. That's just fetish comics for you: Keep sellin' it. Then build the whole card house around it.
Asuka, the last breath of the comic, took a turn to animu style. A kind of style that results from 2 days of training and about 38 episodes of DBZ or Inuyasha. Ted David from YWiBaYSFB said animu made the characters look too young. I'll take an extra step and say neither of the artists could help it anyway. However, Asuka messes up any illusion of continuity with an overall lack of proportions and unstable character designs. Look at the figure below and think: what's the age of Ryan's brother?
Did this really happen in a few seconds of conversation? Was there no time vortex floating around the house? A wizard did it? I'll stop here, since I don't want to get me started, but seriously! That image speaks books about incompetence. Asuka would never get anything out of a publishing house but huge laughs if this were in her portfolio. But I feel it, the burning desire to draw. Not comics, manga. TOKYOPOP's mailbox is about to get a heavy e-mail. Any day now.
The writing in this webcomic is just something else. As Ted David from Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad said, it is astonishingly cliché and standard. It practically goes through each of the basic steps in the Transgender Manual, but when the time comes to make any meaningful decision, the comic just backs away screaming. "No!! Not yet!! Please, give some more time to mope around with a group of underage chicks!! CLICK TO DONATE!!"
Seriously, this comic must be allergic to plot advancement. It'd rather just revisit all those things you've loved about teen fiction over the years, like the chapter about going to school and meeting all the wacky stereotype teachers, like the creepy science teacher, the control freak, and the hippy free spirit. Or the spa trip. Or the wacky mishaps of dating.
It's sad. The author can't handle any serious development of characters or important situations properly. Cause when he tried to, like when he attempted to explain Ryan's parents divorce, it was bullshit condensed. Parents here are amazing. They go from totally oblivious, to unfocused, to complete bullshit. Plus, who the hell knows if adults really exist? Please, dear reader, tell me that the kid with an ink smudge around his nose is supposed to be an adult!
Characters aren't worth a cry. Ryan is a self-centered asshole who we are supposed to emphasize with because he has suffered a BOO-HOO-HOO terrible transformation and is now a girl against his will . He spends all day moping and bitching; he's impossible to hang with. Hey Ryan! If your situation is so intolerable, fucking grow a pair (again) and get to the bottom of the issue yourself. We know your mother doesn't care. Geez, this guy...
Brian is also a complete moron. He has no consideration for anyone, and since he got the good end of the bargain, he immediately enjoyed life without restrain selling his female body (figuratively) and cheating around with stuff, and nobody calls him for shit. But hey, her mother died, that ougtha be justice, right? No. Her mother never cared for him and let him go over with everything. She deserved punishment. Plus, Brian forgets her in a second. FUCK!
The story is relatively shorter to other comics in this site, but it just couldn't go any slower. By the time you get to the first dozen strips, you're bored out of your mind, and with every passing filler and fanart, it gets harder to go on. There are no redeemable comic or dramatic moments, and some scenes are just irritating for the way they unravel. It literally takes books of talking to do the simplest things, and its shockingly easy to walk past the most obvious plot holes.
Seriously, there's some deep "deus ex machina" going here. You can practically make no real world sense out of some plot points in this comic. How can Ryan pose as a girl wearing the exact same clothes as his former self? How can she enter school without any type of ID? Or a sports team? Or go on a trip? How can Ryan disappear and she appear? How can Brianna model without papers? Are we to suppose modeling agencies work like whorehouses? Why would Ryan's mother not care if her sons were around their deadbeat father? What kind of "choice" is that? Why don't Ryan's teammates do anything about her assholish behavior?
I could go on, but this should keep you guessing until next year. Or maybe just stick to Stewart's bullshit mantra: "Things happen and that's it! Move along! CLICK TO DONATE!" And the ending? Why would you even think there would be one? The author has not even guessed where his story is supposed to go, and is just stalling for time to reap the goods of Paypal. Admit it, Rayne. You never want to change them back. How could you profit from that?
A year has gone since I made this review originally, and I still don't know jack shit about Aaron Stewart. In retrospect, I prefer it that way. Perhaps the biggest mistake "Rayne" ever made was the ultimate delusion that images don't matter. After losing his last artist for the comic, he struggled to keep the ball going by posting the scripts to the next pages on his dA account. Are they good? Well, despite showing how little regard he has for writing and invention, the story kind of started to pick up, but he gave up on it. He gave up on it like teenagers give up on shit everyday, only he made some quick cash out of it, the bastard.
After sensing that all hope was lost with Abstract Gender, Stewart tried to prepare reboot of the comic called "Abstract Gender University" and got shot down by a bunch of other artists. He then left the internet for a while until he finally stuck his head out to announce that Abstract Gender was no more. He will instead dedicate to other forms of writing, like Naruto fanfictions. Yeah, you've come a long way, man. Cheers.
This webcomic sucks at a level that doesn't enrage you, or make you sad, or depressed. You're probably just laughing at it for the wrong reasons, or are simply exhausted from the Buckley-esque walls of text that don't say anything. This comic can't possibly be taken for serious. It's just a waste of... everything. And you can't help but wonder if the author will ever spin his way back into action, and run this TG train wreck to the limits of his horrible imagination. My call is a mixture of soap opera and random pairing between our gender-challenged friends and everybody else. Wait, isn't that what we already had? You sure know Rayne can't do much better than that.
There is only one appropriate fate for this badly constructed math problem of a webcomic: ERASE THE BOARD AT ONCE. SUMMER SCHOOL FOR YOUR ASS!