|here in the "Reactions" section.|
|Original review author:||Bertbot|
|Webcomic name:||bridges (Yes, the author spells the name with a lower case "b")|
|Start Date:||September 17, 2010|
|End Date:||March 24, 2013|
|Defining Flaw:||A character-driven narrative with flat, poorly-written characters|
This webcomic was featured on the Wiki’s to-do list for a long time because when it was first discovered by us it was only about 4 months old and as a general rule we try to wait at least 8 months before reviewing anything. On top of that, it was already mildly offensive with little "WTF?" moments that made us believe that if we wait long enough it'll become even worse.
Sadly, after that we all sort of forgot about it and didn't even notice it had stopped updating. Recently, a review was started by Long Tom, before it was abandoned, sparse and unfinished. It’s not difficult to see why, as when taken at its basic level it’s simply boring and very arduous to both read and write about, so I’m here to take a shot.
(Actually, other people said they wanted to review bridges, and it is just as well I didn't because I've tortured myself reviewing other long, crappy webcomics anyway. Long Tom.)
Let’s get into it.
The webcomic has never been particularly good, but I like to view the downfall of a webcomic being when it fails the expectations it sets up. The first few pages are fairly awful, but the story seems to be going for some sort of realistic drama. Thus the downfall would be on page 7, where we’re told in an exposition dump that the main character is pulled from a gymnastics team before she can go to the Olympics because her congressman father thinks it’s bad for his image.
Story and Plot
According to the webcomic’s "about" page- “bridges is about a group of friends that grow up around an ex-cheerleader, Quinn, and her unexpected relationship with another girl which forces her to reexamine and ultimately give up her old life. At the core of the story, it’s really just different kinds of misfits who've given up trying to fit in, but have formed bonds because of it. The story starts at the beginning of their junior year of high school and will follow them until the story is done.” It's an LGBT slice-of-life with heavy emphasis on the LGBT. The entire spectrum is in this webcomic, how representative! If only the characters were three dimensional.
(Another thing. I can tell from lifelong observations that social outcasts don't all necessarily like each other, and even feud among themselves. LGBT people included. Long Tom.)
The art isn't eye-bleedingly awful copy-paste fodder, but it’s still a major pitfall of the webcomic. In fact, the only genuinely good things I can say about the art are always counteracted by shitty direction. Kris does a decent job of giving everyone their own nose, which is admirable, especially considering this is usually the hardest part for most anime-derivative art styles, but the rest of the anatomy is nothing short of fucked. The artwork starts out blotchy, badly laid out and with large heads on marionettes. As it goes on, things get a bit cleaner, but the problems with anatomy and placement show no sign of improvement.
I get the impression that the artist is a big girl. Not because I want to be mean to this person I've never met, but because she has no idea how to draw thinner bodies. All of them end up looking uncomfortably stretched. Their shoulders jut out and, if it weren't for their fleshy faces, you’d think they were long time sufferers of anorexia. But this isn't limited to just thin characters, anatomy is a problem in this webcomic across the board. The twins have goddamn HUGE MONKEY EARS that are pretty distracting, the ‘goth’ boy looks like he spent time in a taffy stretcher and everyone with a body type that isn't average just looks out of scale. It's as if the artist thought drawing taller people just means drawing everything longer, drawing fat people just means drawing them wider, and neither of those things require a change in proportions. So for much of the start of the webcomic, the tallest character looked like Slenderman and had his waist at face level compared to all the other characters, and the fattest character still looks like a lumpy giant who's also standing too close to the camera. Facial features tend to look the same despite that special treatment given to the noses, and there is almost no expression beyond a brief change of eyebrows and mouths. There is some effort that was put into giving the characters motion, but it’s once again hampered by the shitty direction. Characters end up looking awkward and stiff, and sometimes manage to aggressively disrupt the continuity.
Kris uses cel shading for the first three pages of the story (though one of those is hand drawn), but afterwards switches to a smoother gradient, and that’s unfortunate. The original shading, while over-saturated and a bit of a mess, had a charm I must say I wanted to see go somewhere. Kris at least knew how to give a face some structure in cel shading. Starting on page four we get gross play-dough faces with no clearly defined light source, and this never gets any better. The soft shading at least becomes competent later on, but clashes with the line work in an ugly way. Some of this may be the result of "reboots" wherein the artist went back a few years after starting the webcomic and redrew some of the first few pages, but not all of them. I get the impression she redid the first and the third, but for some reason skipped the second. This gives the early art an erratic feel to it, but that's still better than the original first few pages, which I still vaguely remember. It's also somewhat annoying that she went back to redo those pages before she finished improving, because pages that were drawn later still look considerably better than the "improved" first few pages that she went back to upgrade.
Kris actually drew backgrounds from the beginning of the webcomic on! A+! Tragically, I have to deduct points because the background is soulless. This is another example that started off flawed, but then improved in all the wrong areas. The first few pages have background characters, giving the impression that people are actually at camp! Unfortunately this is quickly dropped and don’t show up again for over 100 pages. Holy shit, people go to school there? The high school and in fact ENTIRE TOWN feel empty. The backgrounds also only serve for the scene they’re in, such as establishing ‘we are in the hallway’ or ‘we are at lunch’ or ‘we are now at home,’ which sounds like what it’s supposed to do, but there’s very little connectivity between it. I found myself wanting a map of the school or town to figure out where everyone lives or where they go for fun. This disconnect between characters and their location becomes literal every time someone interacts with a background element.
In reading the FAQ, apparently this webcomic was written ten years ago and then rebooted, because Kris felt they could vastly improve the story they had written. If that’s the case, then I can’t even imagine how that story could have been worse unless it contained some sort of rape scene that was portrayed as romantic, or a cartoon character being responsible for 9/11. The writing is a cancerous mass that brings up countless questions, but seems to push them all aside with half baked explanations and shallow caricatures in order to move on to our pointless romantic subplots of self-discovery.
By far the largest malignant lobe that hovers over the entirety of the story is the brutal lack of pacing. It starts at a breakneck speed, with Quinn (Rachael? This name is never mentioned again, so I have no idea), or “Q” as she is called later in the story, being a huge bitch on page one and two, admitting she's lonely on page three before her characteristics have even been properly established, and telling her entire back story as to why she’s such a massive bitch to Maddie without any buildup or going through any character growth. Why? Because Maddie asked. Aww.
Maddie and Quinn have some time to talk where they slowly fall in love, and by slowly, I mean in about five pages. And then we find out, Gasp! Quinn’s bitch mom is Muslim! Or is she? Why is she wearing a headscarf if a few pages ago she had her cleavage out? Did she recently convert? These seem like interesting questions, but fuck you and your desire for depth, we’re going to have a ‘sexy’ dream sequence (link NSFW). It should be mentioned that these characters are both in high school, making this simulated child porn. From here we jump to Q realizing she's a lesbian (how can this be the first time she noticed she's gay? years of hanging out in a locker room with other naked cheerleaders did nothing for her but a weekend with a fat chick got her juices flowing? does she have a fatty fetish?), cover the introduction of a goth best friend, Quinn confessing her love and then becoming a Lesbian couple, quitting the bitch cliché cheerleaders group, attempts to set up her goth friend with an Asian femme boy because if she's gay I guess she thinks she can turn her male friends gay by force, lucky for goth-boy he starts dating literally the next girl he meets when he goes home and she shows up at his door to ask for a cup of sugar and makes out with him, then the Asian androgyny is caught trying to kill himself in the girls' bathroom and saved by a Jew chick who also quits the cheerleaders and is also apparently a transsexual (Do you think him having a gun at school will be mentioned again? Don’t count on it), then there’s the ginger bitch's (the one who made out with the goth) twin who she wants to get a date for before she will agree to hook up with that goth guy so they get some Hispanic dude to pretend to be his boyfriend, and then we meet two other characters who don’t seem to be important except for the shallow plot conveniences they serve. If you’re concerned I’m racing through the webcomic with my summary, keep in mind this is all within the first 50 pages. It also doesn't help that there is no indication how much time has passed since the only way I know the entire webcomic doesn't happen in one school day is that the characters are sometimes seen at home, and I can't be sure every single page is not a new day because every time I click "next" everyone is wearing new clothes and I'm not sure it's not a continuity error. In fact, it wasn't until chapter six that I became aware that there even are chapters. The point is that pacing is a difficult thing to write but a lack of focus such as this gives me the impression that Kris didn't really plan out her comic ahead of time, thinking how it would feel to reread, instead focusing on the following she would acquire and then keeping them full of ‘feels’ for each slow update.
What this means for you, dear wiki reader, is that a 133 page comic drags on for what feels like forever. This is exacerbated by the fact that Kris didn't bother making clear endings or beginnings of her chapters until chapter 6. If you want some very nice examples of great pacing, read Paranatural. Go ahead and read about fifteen pages
of that. Then read fifteen pages of bridges, should you even get that far. Paranatural has great writing and funny moments and makes you want to see more of it. Bridges, by contrast, wants you to know that these characters are DEEP and have COMPLEX LIVES with UNIQUE HISTORIES, which leads us into our next vestigial mass pumping poison into the story.
In making the tragedy of the characters the main focus, Kris loses an ability to even identify who these characters are beyond whatever problems they have faced. Considering this is a character-driven story, it’s a pretty big problem to have. At best they have no personality and at worst they’re contradictory and unlikable. In fact, a whole lot of this writing starts to get offensive once we start getting thrown more and more tragedy. The goal of this webcomic seems to be to assemble a rainbow coalition of people with different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions, but Kris has no idea what to do with them.
For example, we have that Jewish girl named Sarah who is transgender; a very hot topic these days, but not so much in 2011. I hope to see how we look into how this makes her life different from others and get some good representation. Oh! How about her relationship with her mom? This is the first time we see Sarah’s mom. Pretty bitch material, but not uncommon. It’s actually incredibly common, and often ends with parents disowning their own children or causing a rift in the relationship that can last for years. Most recently, a transgender teen was driven to suicide by intolerant parents. Are we going to see how Sarah interacts with her Mom? Are we going to watch them grow to learn and understand more about each other? Perhaps we can talk about how they both hated her dad for what he did to the marriage? And how he helped Sarah come to terms with herself? Luckily we see Sarah’s mom again twenty pages later!
The comments on this page are very touchy-feely, but as a trans individual myself, I just feel insulted. One comment I want to immortalize is the creator’s reply to some pandering
Note that in the first page Sarah is also having an emotional moment her mother walks in on. Good. I’m glad her mother suddenly changed her mind. I enjoy my characters being interchangeable, inconsistent, and pointless. I can just pretend their character was replaced by a body snatching alien. Mostly she changed her mind to give some sort of emotional backboard to another insultingly under researched character, Graev.
Graev is the Asian who likes to wear dresses that we were hastily introduced to earlier (the one with the gun in school what’s never mentioned again). Has has, no kidding, fetal alcohol syndrome. Sarah asks if he has Asperger's (which would have also been incredibly asinine, but at least made sense) but no, it’s fetal alcohol syndrome, despite having no other symptoms. What about the physical deformities, nervous problems and growth deficiencies? Graev is one of the tallest characters in the comic and walks and talks just as well as anyone else. Oh, he doesn't know how to read and failed school twice? Obviously it must be FAS. How did he get into high school again?
Perhaps the biggest well meaning clusterfuck is the main character herself. Quinn is Arabic and Muslim. Her mother is Muslim, and they practice Ramadan and their heritage seems important to them. Unfortunately this is all immediately stamped on by the fact that Q’s father is a congressman. He insists that Arabic is an ugly language and they not speak it, they have to bleach their hair, get plastic surgery, and he made his wife become a pageant queen to help his image. I also glossed over this before, but I’d like to draw a whole fucking lot of attention to it, HE KEPT HIS DAUGHTER FROM GOING TO THE OLYMPICS BECAUSE HE DIDN'T THINK IT’D HELP HIS IMAGE.
This makes it seem like her father has absolute control over both their lives, but I don’t get that impression from the story. We see this guy once and he’s basically just being a dick about Quinn quitting the cheerleaders and not bleaching her hair.
He makes some vague threats before disappearing. Even her mom never seems to be home, since the characters are constantly over each other’s houses and no one seems to give a damn.
It is this major problem that finally breaks off the cancerous mass and causes the aneurysm that kills the webcomic. Reading through all of this makes it painfully obvious that Kris doesn't know how to write complex people. She wants these characters to be complex, and there are a whole bunch of complex stories that are thrown right in our face, but we’re always told these things. Graev has no symptoms of his very major disability, Sarah’s relationship with her mom is developed off screen in a hurry, Quinn’s home life seems dangerous and she can’t be herself, except not really. Maddie is in trouble of being sent away by her dangerous foster parents, except we never see these people. The writing is by far the worst offender of Tell-don’t-show that I have seen in a very long time, because characters never seem to interact with each other. Of course they talk. They hang out. They do things together, but none of it increases our understanding of these characters as people and always seems to serve as a platform for a character to exposit a whole bunch of depressing shit at us.
I can’t imagine a future for these characters. I don’t like them. They’re shallow and don’t shut the fuck up.
As mentioned before, I've never met Kris. Their "about" section says they’re 25 and a college graduate. Their Tumblr and twitter makes them seem like nice enough people, and I've not seen any real drama outside of the webcomic (and in fact had never heard of it before I saw it on the BWW forum). While I had the option to contact them on multiple platforms to inquire or complain about the comic or even get to know them, I decided against it. Kris, while being largely inconsequential as a creator, already seems like the kind of person I just wouldn't get along with, and not just because they made a shitty webcomic and I wrote a long review bitching about it. Mostly because in their FAQ, the very first question they answer is:
This answer goes on far longer than it needs to (and those actual FAQ you have about the webcomic are further down, like why the hell is this called bridges), but this first part was enough to turn me cold to Kris. They’re not a pretty good artist. The webcomic’s art isn't the worst I've seen, but it’s not anything that could be called ‘pretty good.’ And since I spent a good four paragraphs tearing into the art and many more tearing into the story, I think it’s safe to assume that I don’t agree with them that baseless declarations of your own skills are ‘all you need.’
I’m not sure if she meant this as she doesn't see a need to improve, but if she wants to have a webcomic on the internet without insensitive critics like me tearing into it, then she’s going to have to get a lot better.
On an unrelated note, I have some issues with them currently trying to solicit donations by peddling porn. The current fundraising initiative offers an extra comic to anyone who donates more than $10. They try to pass it off as something deep or classy by describing it as: "a canon Bridges side story that shows how Sarah overcomes her fear of intimacy", but the preview of the first page has a censored picture of their genitals so the implication is pretty obviously "pay us money to see them fuck".
Bridges hasn't been updated since March of 2013, but the author updates their Tumblr with future character designs enough to imply that they will return to bridges at some point. This is a mistake. Don’t do it. Get someone else to read and peer edit your story, then start all over again. That is my recommendation if they really can’t just leave this corpse dead and buried. The characters are shallow with little to no personality and constant tragedy is injected to keep the drama going, but doesn't define the characters in any way. While I was reading it, I couldn't help but feel the same way I feel when going through misguided SJW Tumblr posts. Every character seems incredibly token as if going down a representation checklist without a single thought to who the characters are beyond what they are. The characters are left either being awful or empty.
I’d recommend this webcomic only to those Tumblr SJW who think shallow diversity is equivalent to quality.
- There's a clothed version on the site but I found this gem on her twitter. My guess is she draws a lot more porn then she uploads. So if you want to see a drawing of a fat chick and a dick girl naked, we're not judging (yes we are), just assuming you're here from /b/
- Which, according to the edit history, was partially made by the author