Band vs. Band
|Original review author:||Lt. Art Major|
|Webcomic name:||Band vs. Band|
|Start Date:||November 28, 2010|
|Genre:||Slice of Life|
|Defining Flaw:||As much as I really want to say the archive, the dialogue takes the cake in this field. In some bizarre attempt to be quirky, the dialogue is peppered with slang and padding that would give even the most basic airhead a migraine.|
|Things that are fucking terrible about this webcomic:||It's a chore to read this webcomic on an artistic level: The word bubbles don't always indicate who is saying what, the writing is prolonged dribble which doesn't go anywhere, and the paneling is a clusterfuck to navigate; compounded with how this webcomic is a chore to read on a technical level, the pages are not numbered or even labeled so finding your spot involves a lot of guesswork.|
|Things that aren't terrible but could use improvement:||There is some really weird shit in this comic, along the lines of getting a spirit quest from a tape worm. Things like this make me think that this webcomic should have been an absurd psychedelic journey as opposed to a slice of life about two bands.|
|Summary:||Two sets of four incredibly boring freeloaders accomplish absolutely nothing and make the worst music ever.|
I found this webcomic while snooping around the internet. I was taken aback by the first page by how unbelievably awful this comic is. The first page was so terrible I decided to read the next two hundred pages just to make sure "bad" was in my best judgement. I didn't think it was possible to take a plot such as two bands fight each other and run it into a brick wall.
I sent this webcomic over to the forums to figure out if the webcomic was as stupid as I thought it was. What I got back from it was that "The webcomic was bad, but it's not really that bad, but it's also bad." I also learned that the webcomic is an amalgam of Scott Pilgrim, Steven Universe, Ghost World, Jem, and Archie's comics. I have no idea what any of these things are, but if this means anything to you, more power to you.
I think it should be noted that not the whole webcomic is a webcomic. For example, at some point you can play Where's Waldo. But it doesn't actually have a Waldo so it's really lame. More on absurd filler later.
The first page, and by extension the first chapter, pretty much set up every cardinal sin the webcomic will continue to commit to.
It is not required that you read the webcomic to understand what I am critiquing, but I do encourage you to read the first chapter of this webcomic if you are planning to write your own webcomic, or just a writer in general. This is a near textbook example of how not to start a story. The only thing that was missing was a pan in space and a zoom into the earth.
The art got better over time, evolving from very flat looking scenes with solid colors to flat looking scenes with proportions with colors that overlap each other in an object. The most that I can say about the art is that everything looks like what it's supposed to be. It's hard to tell where some things are as there is very minimal shading. If there is any shading, it is usually used to indicate negative space. This is an odd visual factor, as everything in this webcomic is shiny, even if the environment is dark.
An interesting aspect of the art is how some panels are painted entirely in shades of red and blue. I would like this, if it actually meant anything in the way of tone or mood. Sometimes it makes the story more surreal, but it's not a very surreal story. I like to think that this is done to make the panels look separate from each other. If this is the case, then I would recommend instead dividing the panels up with lines. Because there is nothing separating the panels, every shot clumps and runs into each other, making some pages an adventure to read. To further compound the issue, it isn't always obvious if the page is meant to be read up to down or left to right.
While the scenery and the coloring get better over time; the way characters are drawn do not. The anatomy of the characters are a little sketchy, but I will give it a pass because I don't care enough. What does bother me is when the characters emote to anything stronger than an elated smile, their faces look deformed or like they're sliding of their head. This could be fixed by not having the few characters who impact the plot in anyway over-emote ever. That would fix the writing too.
Another note: If you are making a story in a visual medium and are going to exaggerate where the light hits an object, also shade the other side of that object so the object doesn't doesn't look like it's made of plastic and absorbing all the light.
I want to start out by saying that the title is a frothing lie. Not only do the bands never battle each other, but they tend to work together more often than not. That's fine, but then why is it called Band vs Band? There is no band versing. Actually, nevermind, there is versing, but in the sense of singing verses. Occasionally, there are pages where one of the characters sing, and I would really rather they didn't.
Some other things that show up for no reason are interviews, a bizarre sub-plot that involves two characters that don't show up in the main plot at all, and Bob Evans children's menu pages. All of these things are recurring themes until about half way into the comics run where it becomes more plot heavy. The inclusion of these make me think, who is this webcomic for? With what of the comic having adult themes juxtaposed with childish filler, it makes me think that this entire webcomic was really just nostalgia fuel that I was missing out on. If that is the case, shame on her for being niche.
The main webcomic itself is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to writing. Everything that is said to too excited and spastic. It's too heavy-handed for it's own good. What really sets back the dialogue is this strange inclusion of anachronistic slang. Some words are spelled phonetically, other words are misspelled on accident. The worst case for this issue would be the use of the word fink. The author really likes that word. If you can get past how ham-fisted the dialogue is, there are some parts of this webcomic that are kind of interesting. There is a really weird plot line starting here that takes all kinds of odd and stupid turns.
So the drummer of the vaguely metal/noise/post band thinks it would be a great idea if they all did some kick-ass shrooms. Everyone objects because their bassist says that she (?) has to write a thesis for her gender studies course (bear in mind that this page was published before that class was a meme) and must be completely sober for that class. Already this plot line doesn't make any sense, because the bassist is calling all the shots. Later, the relevant members of the vaguely pop/baroque/synth band show up and tell them that they are a bunch of douchebags. They all eat popcorn and satan shows up. Satan kidnaps the tambourine player from the second band because she is just way too good. To find her, the bassist from the second band hatches a thrilling scheme to use magic to venture into hell. This is two different bassists they have taken advice from so far. Without explanation, they descend into hell to fight Satan. They find Satan and Satan turns into a chick and the two leads get extremely flustered. Then they battle, but manage to get chumped by Satan's solo career because they're not very good at musicing. Satan kicks their asses, and as the victor, makes a compromise: If one of them offers to be his bitch for the rest of time, he will exchange for the tambourine player. The drummer and the lead guitarist from the first band both offer to be his bitch, and then get into a fight as to who is the bitchiest of them all. The guitarist wins and he is really excited about it. Satan banishes the remaining five from hell. Except they never really left, because they were actually on some dank fucking shrooms THE WHOLE TIME! But the dude who is now Satan's bitch is still missing. So some of the people go back to hell, without the shrooms this time for some reason. The two hatch another thrilling scheme to get that dude back by having one of them show her butt to distract Satan and then they all escape. They appear in a bathroom and some weird shit happens and then the first band watches Sharknado.
If the entire comic was like that, I would have given it a so bad it's good rating. But the comic isn't so bad it's good. The webcomic improves, and that's kind of sad. In getting better it loses it's camp and becomes generically bad. The following vignettes are fairly mundane consisting of things like, "there is a new member in the band," or, "I need a job," or, "oh no I'm late." The closest the webcomic gets to being that weird again is when one of the characters gets a spirit quest about self discovery and embracing her sexuality from a tape worm, but that doesn't last because it's a dream. The comic now consists of hackneyed rom-com tromps. This does not work at all because the none of the characters have any personality whatsoever.
No one actually does anything on screen, things just happen to the characters, and that's boring. All I want is for one of them to have an idea, follow through with it on screen, and see how it affects other things, and how that affects them in return. One of the characters is so bland and forgettable even the characters forget his nickname. There is even a page where the tambourine player in their band takes up his instrument and then they remark on how they sound like a complete band. I'm sure this was played upon, but in this case why have him in the comic at all? The fact that his name is Zero is also a little on the nose, don't you think?
Addendum: I wrote this review about a year ago, and I want to write an update. I checked back at the webcomic to see if anything changed. Maybe she saw my review, and the thing I said a few paragraphs ago inspired her to make something more interesting. This is not only not the case, but the webcomic has become even more boring within the past year. When I read through the the archive, I stopped mid arc when The Pink One and The Goth One started hanging out. A moment after the review was posted, this hanging out turned to a budding romance. That's fine, but that's all the webcomic is about now. None of the characters matter, the webcomic is now about these two trying to find excuses to kiss each other. Their band mates have been reduced to literal background characters. I wanted to bump the scores down a peg, but I can't because the only score that doesn't have a one already is the art, and it improved. :(
The Archive Section
I'm not kidding when the archive sections is one of the worst things ever. The page loads in chunks, for one thing. None of the pages are titled, or even numbered. Due to the nature of the paneling of the comics, it's hard to tell where one page ends and another begins. The least she could have done was break the pages into chunks and sorted into chapters.
Kathleen Jacques made this comic because it was the kind of thing that she wanted to read, but couldn't find. According to the about section, in 2014 a print version of this comic was nominated a Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Graphic Novels in 2015. It's the thought that counts.
After existing for six years the comic still doesn't have a definitive genre. It isn't even about anything. That's a shame, it could have been good too. If it were about the goth chick and a rotating cast of friends going on a stupid adventure like in the sections I piped to, that would be choice. If the author could be consistent in her writing, and not be so corny with it, there might just be a great webcomic on our hands. Oh well. I wouldn't put it past you if you think that a bunch of people just standing around having first world problems is more interesting than, I don't know, plot.
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