Basin Vale

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Original review author: Senior Salvador
Webcomic names: Basin Vale
Author: Paige Paz
Start Date: January 1, 2014
End Date: The last update was on September 20, 2015. However, Paz claims the comic is on hiatus and she wants to continued the comic.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Defining Flaw: The writing fails to properly explain things while basically nothing meaningful happens in the plot.

Rating Summary

Art: Wiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.png

The art style is fine, but panel layouts can be confusing at times.

Storyline: Wiki.png

The entire story feels like build-up that never pays off.

Characters: Wiki.png

The main characters are rather one-note and underdeveloped.

Overall: Wiki.pngWiki.png

Decent art, but ultimately let by the story and writing.



Background

I used to frequent Hiveworks Comics, a hosting site for webcomics. I would go there to find new webcomics to read. The majority were terrible with the comics being all style and no substance. One of these was Basin Vale. I forgot about it for a while.

Upon joining Bad Webcomic Wiki, I started to think if there were any webcomics I thought deserved a page. Most of the comics that I thought of were bad, but were either not bad or interesting enough to warrant a page. However, I eventually remembered Basin Vale, hence this review.

Writing

An example of how wordy the comic can get

The story is extremely bad at explaining things. The most egregious example is our main character’s motivation. According to the “About” page, Alessa wants to find her coven. This is not at all apparent in the comic, where she just wanders around some random backwater town. While this is the most blatant example, other key aspects are never explained such as the rules of vampirism and what time period the story takes place in among other things.

The dialogue is terrible. It is very stilted and feels unnatural. At first, I thought this was deliberate because Alessa mentions how she forgot to interact with people, so it would make sense for her dialogue to come off as strange. However, the other characters also have unnatural dialogue. As a result, it seems like Alessa’s dialogue was an attempt to sound olde timey rather than strange and unnatural.

Not helping is how wordy and redundant the dialogue can get. The most egregious example comes from the first fight between Alessa and Jade. Out of the eight dialogue balloons here, there is only one that is actually necessary: the one where Alessa explains she has mind control powers. While this is one of the most extreme examples, this is a recurring problem.

Art

Maybe not the "IT" of Stephen King, but definitely not a benign "it" either.

The art is very stylized. It goes a very cartoony aesthetic. Most of the time, the style is serviceable but not terribly great.

Paige seems to struggle to use color effectively. At first, it was just fine. Earlier pages effectively combined dull and bright colors. However as the comic goes on, the bright colors tend to be abused . This can make certain pages a pain to look at.

An issue that arises is the panel layout. Generally, the panel layout is competent, if nothing to write home about. However, in the complex pages such as this one, it can be hard to follow what is going on, thus requiring rereading the page several times to properly understand the sequence of events.

This might be something odd to focus on but I couldn't help notice how Alessa's nose keeps changing. Most of the time it has a weird, exaggerated upturned hook look. Other times, the upward turn is more subtle. On at least one occasion, the tip of nose is pointing straight forward instead of up.

Story

The story starts with our protagonist, Alessa Wolfe, escaping from a tower. She accidentally drops a locket and stops to pick it up back up. This gives her pursuers enough time to catch up with her. However, she manages to escape by turning into a bat. After returning to her human form, she boards a ship.

This beginning raises a lot of questions. Who is Alessa? Why is she running away? Who are the people pursuing her? What is the significance of the locket? Having read the entire comic, I can confidently say that none of these questions are answered.

We get a confusing transition that makes it look the like the boat turned into a train. The train reaches the last stop in the middle of the night. As such, Alessa gets off at a station and notices a sign identifying the location as "Basin" (not Basin Vale).

After wandering a bit, she decides to hide in a school. An unnamed blonde girl wanders by the school and hears strange noises inside. She enters the building thinking that someone is injured. Alessa then murders the blonde for her coat. Alessa wakes up later to find the dead body of the girl.

Here's where I started to get confused. Alessa claims that she lost control due to a lack of drinking blood. However, when this trope is usually used, the vampire becomes feral until they drink more blood. Alessa, on the other hand, manages to talk coherently and has clear malice in her eye. In addition, Alessa later turns out to have an evil alternate personality. So, is the evil personality connected to Alessa's blood intake, or something separate?

Alessa feels guilty for five seconds and steals the girl's coat. She never mentions or thinks about this again. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

Deciding to search for supplies, Alessa leaves the room, only to be noticed by a teacher. The teacher thinks that Alessa is a new student and introduces to her the class. However, a goth girl recognizes her and then storms out angrily. Before you ask, no: we are never told how the goth knows Alessa despite the goth later adressing her by name.

After school, Alessa tries (and fails) to befriend some of the fellow kids. While this is going on, she notices the goth spying on her. So given the circumstances, Alessa literally asks the goth why the goth is spying on her.

The goth responds by trying to kill her. Suddenly, Alessa's other personality takes over. It happens without any clear indication beyond Alessa switching from shy and nervous to smug and confident. Alessa uses her never-mentioned-before mind control to paralyze the goth and drink the goth's blood. However, this activates the goth's bracelet, which generates a glow that knocks out Alessa. The goth passes out (presumably due to blood loss). We enter a dream sequence, where an evil dark purple woman is whispering temptation to Alessa.

The goth wakes up before Alessa. Given how she is supposed to be an expert vampire hunter, she doesn't make sure that Alessa is dead. Naturally, Alessa gets up, leading to another fight. The fight ends when the goth sprays Alessa with holy water, then clonks her on the head. We have a dream sequence / flashback, which goes on for several pages. All it really establishes is that Alessa's parents died during the "eradication of" their home town (whatever that means).

Was the second fight and the flashback necessary? We already had a fight that Alessa was knocked out in. The flashback didn’t reveal any important information aside from her parents being dead, which could have been revealed later. So, why couldn't we have skipped that? If the flashback was foreshadowing of future events, why not have that be the dream while skipping the purple woman dream and the second fight?

Alessa wakes up in a visual novel. No, seriously. The comic turns into a visual novel briefly. I have no idea why. It’s like the author saw the video game sections from Homestuck and decided to do something similar. However, Homestuck was all about video game tropes. As such, the video game segments had a thematic throughline. Meanwhile, Basin Vale has nothing to do with visual novels so this comes straight out of nowhere.

The visual novel goes on for much longer than it should so here is the short version. Alessa wakes up to find herself tied to a pole. The goth reveals herself to be the vampire hunter Jade Speckle. She thinks that Alessa is responsible for the rash of murders in Basin. However, this cannot be the case since the murders started before Alessa arrived.

Jade hears a plot-convenient crash and decides to investigate. This crash will never be mentioned again. Despite having the ability to turn into a bat (thus making herself too small for the restraints), Alessa just sits there and bemoans her fate. Fortunately, some glowing magic frees her. Unsurprisingly for this comic, this is never explained. We get another visual novel sequence, which can be skipped.

Alessa walks up to a building and peaks inside via a window. She sees Jade talking to some townsfolk. Inside, Jade reveals she was sent by "Everglade" (whoever they are) to investigate the murders. This begs the questions of why Jade didn't immediately tell anyone about this when she arrived.

Jade learns from the villagers that someone survived a murder attempt. In another bloody visual novel sequence, the man reveals that the townsfolk are feeding people to a wendigo. Jade instantly believes this for some reason (despite no proof and the man acting stereotypically crazy) and angrily berates the the villagers for this. The chief appears and threatens her.

Are the general population in on this plan or not? If they are, why did they tell Jade about the survivor and let her talk to him? If they aren't, why is the chief openly threatening Jade in full public view?

Alessa's peeking is interrupted by Lei. Lei tries to befriend Alessa. However, Alessa is trying to hide her right eye, which is completely black. The significance of the eye is another thing alluded to but never explained. As of time of writing, there has not been another update.

So in eighty-nine pages (not including the chapter pages and mini-comics), not much has happened. The story managed to introduce us to the two main characters. Even then, we barely know anything about Alessa. In addition, the entire comic is a setup that never pays off. Consider how the comic hasn’t updated in three years, it most likely will never pay off.

Characters

Alessa herself

The comic has two main characters in the form of Alessa Wolfe and Jade Speckle. However, the “About” section alludes to a third character: a witch named “Taira”. Presumably, she was responsible for the magic that saved Alessa, but the comic ended before she could be properly introduced.

Alessa is a terrible protagonist. Why? She is utterly passive in what is ostentatiously her story. More often than not, it feels like the plot is happening to her than her moving the plot. Meanwhile, her causal disregard of blonde's life paints Alessa in a negative light.

The only thing she actually has going for her is the whole evil(er) personality shtick. This could have created an interesting Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde dynamic. Instead, the evil personality is completely pointless. It seems like this personality takes over whenever the Paz got tired of writing Alessa. In addition, evil Alessa never actually does anything important, much like her good counterpart.

Meanwhile, Jade is more of a protagonist than our actual protagonist. She has a clear motive (to stop the murders) and actively pursues the goal. Jade actually drives the plot forward.

With that said, she is rather one-note. Jade spends most of her time being angry. While I get she is supposed to be temperamental, it would have been nice to see another side of her character.

Author

So, this is the part of the review where we need to get serious. The comic was created by Paige Paz. She is better known as “Zamii070”. Some of you might be wondering why that username sounds familiar, while others might be wondering what the big deal is.

You see, Paige Paz used to post fan art on Tumblr under the username "Zamii070". Among her various works, she posted a drawing of Rose Quartz (a character from Steven Universe) as skinny (whereas Rose is fat in the show proper). Certain members of the Steven Universe fanbase took offense and harassed Paige for making the fan art. The harassment got so bad that Paz tried to commit suicide! Fortunately, she managed to survive, albeit ending up hospitalized.

Given the circumstances, I want to emphasize that this review is not intended as an attack on Paz. I hold no ill will against her. The point of this review is to express an opinion while entertaining the readership of the Bad Webcomic Wiki.

Conclusion

Overall, the webcomic has some decent ideas and good art. However, it is ultimately let down by the writing and story. The writing has trouble conveying the important information. Meanwhile, the story has basically nothing happen in order to set up a payoff that will never happen.