Grrl Power

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CODE YELLOW: CHEESECAKE
(MODERATE NSFW WARNING)

The following comic desperately wants to be porn without actually being porn. Contains more fanservice and fetish fuel than any actual sex, usually patterned off of bad harem comedy anime. It may not even have full nudity (at most may contain exposed boobs), but your teacher/parents/coworkers will surely give you some odd glances if they catch you seeing this. View with caution.

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Original review author: BigBurkhart
Webcomic name: Grrl Power
Author: David Barrack
Start Date: August 23, 2010
End Date: Ongoing
Genre: Superhero
Defining Flaw: Relentless exposition, poorly drawn fap/schlick bait
Things that are fucking terrible about this webcomic: Pacing, characters, failure to engage the reader, lack of focus, everything is an innuendo, shifting art style
Things that aren't terrible but could use improvement: Scenery in the later parts of the comic is the only thing consistently drawn well, some of the dialogue is good
Summary: The author wants to tell a Marvel/DC story with none of the history, no interesting characters, and a tiny fraction of the drawing talent backing it up.

Rating Summary
Art: Wiki.pngWiki.png

The art is passable to a degree, although it looks like 5 people with varying levels of skill and different drawing styles were assigned to draw this and they weren't allowed to communicate with each other.

Storyline: Wiki.pngWiki.png

I'll let you know when they get to something that can pass on its own as a storyline. So far it's mostly being told that things exist and Seinfeld with superpowers.

Characters: Wiki.png

All of the characters are obnoxious, perverted, undeveloped, stupid, or vessels to deliver one-liners. Often more than one of the above.

Miscellaneous Details: Wiki.pngWiki.png

I'll admit that the webcomic has some good moments, but for every good scene or piece of dialogue, there are two that are brain-numbingly stupid.

Overall: Wiki.pngWiki.png

I still cringe every time I have to write the title.



Background

Let me start off by saying that this is not the worst webcomic in history. It's still bad, but I don't believe it is beyond redemption. In fact, I even have some nice things to say. However, at the end of the day, this webcomic is still pretty bad, and is deserving of a spot here on the wiki.

Looking back, I think I stumbled upon Grrl Power by randomly clicking an ad at the bottom of some other webcomic. I don't know why I kept reading through the whole thing, since the first pages are awful, but the quality of the art keeps going up as the comic progresses. Maybe that's what made me stick around. Maybe it was morbid curiosity. Maybe I'm just stubborn and I forced myself to sit through it like a parent forces their kid to eat their vegetables. I don't know, but I did it, and now I get to share the pain that I had to inflict on my eyeballs. Everything about this comic just tries too damn hard, and doesn't really succeed at anything.

Downfall

It's hard to place any specific time that I realized that the comic was terrible. There seems to be an everlasting cycle of getting the reader's hopes up with the occasional good bit of dialogue or the thought that something interesting is going to happen, then dashing those hopes to the ground, then thoroughly grinding them up into a fine white powder to be snorted off the ass of a Colombian hooker with a rolled-up $100 bill, all while explaining to you how you got there.

And it won't stop explaining. Ever.

Characters

Honestly, out of the dozens upon dozens of characters that this webcomic throws at you, there's really only a handful of them worth mentioning. I would say that about 80% of the introduced cast could be completely cut from the story and it would have no noticeable effect on the plot synopsis. All of the male protagonists are just there to pose shirtless for the girl viewers, while all of the women except for two of the main characters are blatant cheesecake, (even more so than most superhero comics) and it's not even well-drawn cheesecake, but there will be more on that later.

Character Summaries

Sydney:

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Annoying hyperactive idiot who really has no idea how to function in real life and acts like an Invader Zim reject, yet somehow is not murdered tolerated accepted by the rest of the cast. I mean, this is the kind of person who thinks just yelling "BADGERS" is funny. She gets a god-like assortment of superpowers, and it's been shown that she has a "level-up" grid where she'll get more powerful. Powers include a force field so strong the comic's strongest super couldn't punch through it, a death beam, tentacles, flight, telepresence, and pretty much anything the author needs to do an ass-pull to save the day. She's violent, hyperactive, foul-mouthed, irresponsible, the center of attention wherever she goes, rude, distracted by shiny objects, and all-around someone you would not want to spend any amount of time with in real life. Why anyone in the story puts up with her, or even likes her, I haven't the slightest idea.

Basically, she has more plot armor than Batman, and people put up with more of her bullshit than anyone ever reasonably would.

Maxima:

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A giant golden militant feminist who is supposed to be a colonel in the military. Hugely overpowered to the point where I was hoping she would get killed in the only major fight in the webcomic. She's essentially Superman, but replace the eye lasers with finger nukes, and she doesn't have all of the secondary abilities (ice breath, x-ray vision, etc.) that Superman has except for flight. Most of the time she plays the straight man in the webcomic, but due to shoddy writing she occasionally does screwy stuff which ruins the role, just making her an uptight prude that can barely keep the "soldiers" under her command from goofing off. The "feminism" bit doesn't come up too much, thankfully. She has some "I hate men" moments, but I can't remember any point where she gets preachy, so at least there's that.

Basically, she's the comic's second overpowered hero character, but the one we're supposed to take seriously. However, that's ruined when she joins in with the rest of the screwballs and does stupid shit.

Dabbler:

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Oh boy. Better sit down for this one. A cybernetically-enhanced genius, inventor, adventurer, half-alien, half-succubus with magic powers, eyes that are different colors, the ability to harness the powers of lust, space technology weapons including a pistol-sized railgun, an IQ that can't be measured on a human scale, can fight on par with the previously mentioned giant golden feminist, and teleportation. Massive pervert.

Basically half of the comic's poorly drawn cheesecake. The comic's designated SPESHUL.

Harem:

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Super confusing. Somehow teleportation gives you the ability to split into 5 bodies? Her power set is so confusing that not even people in the webcomic can make any sense of it. Another massive pervert. Perverts? Also likes mischief.

Basically, she has powers so complicated they require an explanation comic. Seeing a trend here?

Peggy:

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The "normal" member of the group. She's a sniper with rainbow tattoos, pink hair, and a mohawk. Remember how this was supposed to be the U.S. Military?

Basically, lesbian (Sorry, bisexual) Bullseye. I'd say Hawkeye but she doesn't use a bow and arrows.

The Male Cast:

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There is not a single male character that is worthy of being considered part of the main cast. You have winners such as Kung-Fu Pervert, Asian Superboy, Young Bruce Willis, Tech Geek, Duke Nukem, and some of the assorted bad guys that kind of stand out, but really, none of them get enough face time to be worth a mention. They're really only here for the female characters to drool over. Sometimes literally.

Story and Plot

The comic starts out with the main character playing some kind of superhero tabletop RPG, and being generally the kind of person that nobody ever wants to play a campaign with twice. We are introduced to her rules lawyering and throwing a teammate under the bus to get a cheap shot at the game master. Lovely. Turns out that's just the prologue.

The story starts with Sydney as the co-owner of a failing comic shop. After dealing with a few customers and some expository banter, she is sent to take the store's earnings to the bank. On the way, she stops for lunch where we find out that the only food that she really likes is so ridiculously hot that if you were to eat it you would have to treat your tongue for chemical burns. It's around this point that you notice that everything, EVERYTHING Sydney does is trying to be funny, but none of it really is. You start to wonder if the world runs on Looney Tunes physics, or if it's just Sydney. Anyway, she finally arrives at the bank, and after letting her Tourette's fly free in front of some nuns (I wish I was making this up), she makes it inside. A bank robbery occurs, and she actually manages to escape a hostage situation by throwing a guy by his tongue. As I type this, I realize just how stupid it sounds, and yes, it is just as stupid on paper.

Fortunately for her, the whole thing is a setup for some PR, because Maxima was in line to make a deposit. The whys and hows of this are simply handwaved away, because plot. Moving on, after the failed heist, Maxima notices something weird about Sydney other than her lack of self control and whisks her away to her HQ, called Archon. It's there that Sydney shows her balls to a panel of undoubtedly super-important people. The balls that give her superpowers. After a demonstration of what superpowers that Ball-girl now holds (Spoiler: All of them) and some WHACKY HI-JINKS from the rest of the super-powered cast, everyone is shuttled off to a press conference where some genuinely deep thought is put into the socio-political ramifications of what super powered humans could do to international conflicts, then they take turns beating up an empty tank.

As an aside, it's also worth noting that as the main character, Sydney manages to get invited to and involved with events that she has no business whatsoever even being remotely close to. Like the aforementioned press conference. She was accepted to the team NOT EVEN HOURS before this press conference, and yet she is invited to have a seat at the table with a goddamn military General and cameras from news outlets all over the world, even with her penchant for WHACKY HI-JINKS and foul language. She should not be ANYWHERE near large scale events like this and yet somehow, the top brass sees fit to give her free rein and risks everything on her stupidity. The problem is made even worse when it's revealed that THERE ARE OTHER TRAINEES. None of which get the preferential treatment that Sydney gets, because main character.

The cast then is shuffled off to a celebration dinner at some random fancy steakhouse, they converse for a bit, and then, FINALLY, the first thing resembling an antagonist shows up. Let me say that again. AFTER 200 PAGES OF THIS COMIC, A BAD GUY FINALLY SHOWS UP. After 200 pages of awful jokes, pop-culture references, WHACKY HI-JINKS, cheesecake, a small amount of genuinely well-thought out dialogue, screaming, and a metric fuckton of innuendo, we finally get a chance to see what makes superheroes what they are.

And it's disappointing.

The fight is a massive curbstomp in favor of Archon. Save for one fighter, who is basically on par with the Incredible Hulk, everyone is taken out with ease.

That last guy is the only really notable fight in the entire comic. He actually beats Maxima in a 1-on-1, and it takes the whole team to stop him. I'd say this one fight is easily one of, if not the best, parts of the comic to actually look at. The pacing picks up, THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPEN, the number of word bubbles is drastically decreased, and most of the slapstick is put on hold. Too bad the scrub fight plus the big bad is over in a little less than 100 pages.

After the fight we're back to the same old formula of tons of word bubbles and lots of exposition while going nowhere. More characters are added but they aren't really interesting or noteworthy until we get to Deus, whom is one of the two or possibly three actually interesting characters in this whole webcomic. (More on him later.) We're shown a scene where Deus is being interviewed on an economic-themed talk show, where he recalls how he basically owns a country in Africa. The scene has its faults, but far and away it's more interesting than anything the comic has shown so far.

Everything else up until the time of this writing is just more exposition and faffing about. Currently there is this big secret meeting of all the magical creatures like vampires, werewolves, faeries, elves, constructs, etc., with more useless exposition other than "THESE THINGS EXIST."

In short, the comic just needs to get on with it.

Writing review

WHAT?!? WHY?! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?! No, wait... Don't answer that.

If I had to sum up half of this comic's problems in three words, it would be "Show, don't tell."

I would love to leave it at that, but I'm afraid I have to explain myself. As I've mentioned before, the comic has tons of pointless scenes and filler dialogue. This is a no-no, especially for something that's supposed to be primarily a visual medium. In fact, in comics, the fewer word bubbles you have, the better. This comic has multiple pages and scenes where text takes up half the page or more. It drowns the reader in words, when the same message could be told much more simply.

That said, even if the pacing and filler disappeared, the writing is still bad. The entirety of the webcomic doesn't really know what it wants to be. Does it want to be taken seriously? Does it want to have WHACKY HI-JINKS and be goofy? Does it want to be a comedy? Does it want to try and sell itself as low-quality spank-bait for the sad and lonely? (OK, that's more of an art gripe.) Point is, you can't do everything.

There was some debate over the unfocused nature of the webcomic, when this little nugget of insight surfaced.

This webcomic is three comics in one.

The first comic is a lampooning of comics. A spastic, ADHD-addled geek suffering from Tourette's syndrome finds something that nearly turns her into God Mode Sue, forcing a team of superheroes to take her in despite being wildly unqualified. Maxima serves as a combination Straight Man to a team of Screwballs, with Sydney as Queen Screwball, while the comic repeatedly breaks one of comedy's few rules by having the Straight Man occasionally do wacky shit. This comic also sometimes has Maxima as the Only Sane Man, except sometimes she isn't, with the same undermining effect. It's also packed to the brim with cheesecake.

The second comic is a "Hey, here's how shit would REALLY work if supers were REAL" comic. Naturally this clashes horribly with the first comic. You have some reasonable, sometimes extremely well-thought out explanations for things in the same comic as zany bullshit. Tremendous amounts of thought get put into getting across ideas with words in a visual medium, and sometimes it's startling how much explanation the author thinks is needed. Instead of cheesecake, this one is packed with geek culture references that almost everyone in-comic gets, undermining the whole "geek isolated by geekiness" thing for Sydney.

The third comic, which is the shortest one, is a comedy set in a superhero setting that may as well be called "Deus and Friends". It doesn't try to explain things but it is well-thought out, it's funny without trying to mock its own genre, and Deus' personality appears to be a cross between Duke Philips from The Critic with Chairface Chippendale from The Tick, and he is the only character I genuinely like. I kind of like his posse but they haven't been on enough to make a strong impression. This comic is actually very good, and it's a shame it's buried under two other comics that don't work on their own very well, let alone together.

(Credit to SmashLampjaw)

I agree about Deus. He got some minor facetime early on in the comic before his interview segment, and definitely has a campy, gleeful, maniacally dastardly vibe to him, which is fun. Deus shows himself to be competent, even if he's a gigantic ham. He revels in his image of being the business-tycoon supervillain in a trinity knot-tied necktie, but seems benevolent enough that it keeps the reader guessing.

If the comic was just "Deus and Friends" with the idiots at Archon taking a backseat, I probably wouldn't even be writing this review.

Mmmmm... Ham.

It occurs to me that while I've been going on and on about the ceaseless exposition that this comic forces its reader to suffer through, I haven't really gone in depth about the whys or hows of what makes this so awful. For one thing, all this spoon-feeding of information and backstory is dreadfully boring, and makes the story move along at a snail's pace. You get to your destination a lot quicker when you don't stop to look at every single thing you see. What's worse, is that this is insulting to the reader's intelligence as well. By not letting the reader figure anything out on their own, you are actively assuming they're idiots, and really ruins any entertainment value that the comic actually has. On top of that, much of the information being shoved at the reader is completely irrelevant to what's going on in the story. The press conference, explaining Harem, Varia, or anyone else's powers, really, the gun safety explanation, or any of the background sociopolitical bullshit that's running in the background are all great examples of times where the reader is assaulted with walls of text that ultimately prove to be completely useless. Yes, it's nice that you thought this out and have the answers on hand, but unless someone actually asks you, most people, if not everyone, don't care. It's just filler, and the comic could certainly use a trim. There are pages that are filled 2/3rds of the way with speech bubbles. That's bad writing. That's bad design. That's bad pacing. That's bad storytelling. IT'S JUST PLAIN BAD ALL AROUND.

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Most of what the comic wants to explain can be resolved in 4-5 sentences, when this comic takes 4-6 pages to explain. It's nothing but padding the whole time accentuated with stupid gag panels. Varia's 3 PAGES of expository bullshit could have been replaced by a single text bubble filled with "I get superpowers when I touch people, and it's a different one for each person I touch." 3 pages, easily replaced by a single panel. This happens all the time here.

All too often, this comic wants to explain things to you. It wants to explain all these super special powers, crazy scenarios, political climate, and everything else when it's completely unnecessary to do so. I would say that about a third of the comic could be trimmed and tell the same story with better pacing. In this page you could remove ALL of Harem's dialogue in panels 3, 4, and 5, and nothing would be lost. Even better...


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Compare left and right. (Click to read full size.) Which one flows better? If the comic stopped trying to explain every little thing that happens at every step, the pacing AND the dialogue would improve. As it stands now, though, it's just BAD.

Art review

This is not what I meant by "Show, don't tell."

Put simply, the art is even more schizophrenic than the writing. The comic seems to switch styles on the fly, never seeming to settle on anything. Styles range from pseudo-anime to hyper-realistic to 90's comic book quality, and it's jarring. You can see this easily enough from the top of the page, where it will display a randomly selected picture of each of the cast members. In one panel you'll see characters painstakingly detailed and in the next you'll see the laziest of chibi drawings. Sometimes even in the same panel. The coloring seems to be well-done, but that doesn't really save the comic. The artist needs to pick a drawing style and stick with it. I don't know how many people actually draw this comic, but it feels like there's at least 4 who work on it and they don't communicate with each other whatsoever. Also, I don't know if this actually counts as bad art, but the Adam West Batman sound effects are annoying as well. I really hate it when non-onomatopoeia words are used to convey sound.

Also, there are scenes that have a dire need of an anatomy drawing lesson. There have been a few instances where someone would be drawn with an open mouth and their facial expression would be impossible for someone to pull off unless their jaw was unhinged on one side. There are other times where I have said "Bodies don’t DO that!" out loud, but the worst offender in my mind is Vehemence's "Haymaker to the face." Make a fist. Notice how the tips of your fingers are digging into your palm? All of them?


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Now look at his fist. His hand is drawn not like a fist. His hand is like he hit her with the first joint on his fingers.


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THAT WOULD BREAK YOUR GODDAMNED HAND. ESPECIALLY IF YOU WERE SWINGING WITH TONS OF FORCE.


Now, I could take this opportunity and go find more examples of really shitty body poses, but I've read through this comic enough times at this point.

Oh yeah, lest I forget, the complete overload of cheesecake bordering on soft-core porn. How could I ever forget? There's no fewer than 2 shower scenes, innuendo everywhere, and almost everyone is a massive pervert. Including the women. ESPECIALLY the women. But don't worry, ladies! There's plenty of shirtless guys here too! There are more shower scenes than fight scenes in this comic, and for some reason Super Hiro is shirtless in every goddamn scene that he makes an appearance. There was a point when I was going through the comic to find examples that I just said "You know what? Screw it." It was a Sisyphean task. There's a lot.

Author biography

I don't really know anything about the guy but I looked at his DeviantArt page, and yes, pretty much all of his characters are nude on there. Make your own judgment based on his self-insert in a non-canon page.

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Conclusion

Overall, there's a lot of faults with Grrl Power. (The title being one of them.) For every little bit that I find good about it, there are two things that rub me the wrong way. It's far from the best webcomic you'll ever read, but it's VERY far from being the worst. The worst thing about it is that the whole thing just seems mediocre. The art has faults but it's not a COMPLETE shitstorm. The writing and jokes are bad but on a handful of occasions I laughed. (Imprisoning Vehemence, for example.) It's sexually charged but it's not actually porn. So on and so forth.

With some tweaks, this comic could be good, even great. (Fuck you, I'm an optimist.) As it stands right now, though, it's just bad.

Links