Shades Of A
|Original review author:||webkilla around October 2020|
|Forum Discussion Threads:||linky dink|
|Webcomic name:||Shades of A|
|Start Date:||January 1 2013|
|End Date:||August 31, 2015|
|Genre:||LGBT slice of life|
|Defining Flaw:||Confusing at best and misleading at worst. What is the point of this webcomic?|
The introduction text that Tab wrote for the comic doomed it from the get-go:
So... ya, it's a comic where the primary characteristic for all main characters are their sexual orientations and kinks. As far as the reviewer is aware, then no good webcomic has ever come out of that kind of scenario.
Story and Plot
The introduction covers the comic pretty well. It starts out with an awkward normie-looking brown dude, who gets roped into coming along with his tumblr-gendered friend to a "kink club", where he meets a broad-shouldered, heavy-set, very bearded and gay transvestite. Then we learn that normie is asexual - but has apparently dated tumblr-gender at some point in the past. Since the comic itself is only 113 pages long, we'll go over pretty much everything, so brace yourself for some super cringy bullshit:
Oh and did we mention that normie is Muslim?. And his mother is apparently a lol-random geek. And then we learn that normie is a "flirty drunk" which looks toe-curlingly cringe. He then gets picked up by the transvestite who of course is a Star Wars nerd, and normie (being piss-ass drunk) thinks this means it is time for teh sex0ringz. Of course that doesn't happen, instead we learn that transvestite came out to his family at his sister's wedding by drunkenly stating that her wedding dress would look better on him than it did on her. Funny how the asexual thought he was about to have sex? Its almost as if... he's not a asexual, just a shy, neurotic gay or bi man?
Basically, this comic is quite confused about its messaging, featuring a supposedly asexual main character who... seems to be just a run of the mill gay or bisexual man?
Anywho, once sober normie leaves after giving transvestite a kiss.
Then suddenly the plot grinds screechingly to a halt and we get a flashback! This is where we see normie and his then pre-tumblr-gendered girlfriend have a go at teh sex... but that flashback stops as fast as it started, leading to normie meeting with transvestite again to talk. First up transvestite notes that being asexual and Muslim is a strange mix, but that's just skipped over. Transvestite in turn is apparently straight?
It's at this point that anyone with half a jellied shitknuckle for a brain can see where things are going: They'll both come out as either bi-sexual or gay - because they both admit that they they have a "thing" going on. So of course they agree to date, though then we get the amazing line "So, what do you want to do about my kinky fuckery?" which the cartoonist notes in the description under the comic is meant to mirror the "contract" scene in fifty shades of grey.
...did I mention that this comic is supposed to be some kind of LGBT version of shades of grey?
Anywho, transvestite asks permission from normie to keep seeing his spank-buddies. Now, normie being a complete moron of course though that transvestite wanted to get kinky with him, but transvestite doesn't want any of that newbie dom shit. Normie throws a fit because apparently normie doesn't like being reminded that he's not into sexuality, because he is a pussy ass bitch whose reactions make no sense what so ever.
It's at this point that the comic completely jumps the shark, in wanting us to believe that normie doesn't really like sex. Pressing F to doubt on that.
Then they watch Mean Girls and transvestite feels its really gay. This also results in makeouts. Ok, time passes. Turns out that of course normie has what looks like homophobic co-workers, because SJW-comic main characters are always oppressed and shit. Later back at the kink club normie meets tumblr-gender again, but when transvestite shows up dressed as a school girl and normie ends up meeting the spank buddy which of course is super awkward.
But this is a kink club - things can always get more awkward, like spotting his ex spanking two people in view of everyone!. This of course makes him moody. For some magical reason this makes normie suggest to transvestite, back at his place, that they try to have sex. In some of the most awkward and cringy dialogue you can imagine, normie whines that he's effectively envious of people having fun having sex and he's upset that he isn't having the sex.
Also because ex-girlfriend apparently liked having sex at the drop of a hat, normie can strip down in an instant, but transvestite likes it slow and is a lot more timid about getting naked - doesn't help that normie apparently doesn't know about foreplay. This just results in him getting a Goblins-tier case of the sads over not being into sex. Transvestite can of course empathize with the idea of thinking that there is something wrong with one self. It's also implied that normie's previous relationship was mostly just about sex, which isn't transvestite's game, because he's been enjoying normie trying to seduce him.
This nets up a another flashback, confirming that normie's previous relationship with his then girlfriend was very sex-centric. It's during this flashback that the shoe dropped for the then girlfriend that normie supposedly is asexual, with normie straight up saying that if they stop having sex, they have nothing left in their relationship. Then we jump ahead and apparently they had a fight but we don't get to see that, and they settle with being just friends via text messages.
Later, with tumblr-gendered ex-girlfriend at a mall, tumblr-gender accuses normie of being sex-negative, with normie simply saying that he doesn't like see sex right in front of him, explaining that his problem is seeing his ex-girlfriend doing things with other people in front of him. This leads to the second part of the story, opening up with showing how totally oppressive the world seems to an asexual. Normie is just being mopey that the only other asexuals he know are people he has talked to online. Later, at his college graduation, normie gets caught with his boyfriend and comes out to his family.
This of course leads to a flashback of him being super mopey for some reason. Turns out that its the aftermath of the breakup with his now ex-girlfriend, and his mother thinks that its because of his faith that he doesn't want to have sex. Normie doesn't take that well.
Cut right back to the graduation/coming out ceremony, and normie's mother is not happy that normie is dating a man old enough to be his father. She doesn't want to talk about it. Oh and mother dearest thinks that normie is prostituting himself to transvestite and refuses to believe that they aren't having sex. Hilarious. Mommy dearest thinks that men only want one thing and that he's having low standards for dating a guy like that. Later it turns out that tumblr-gender has given up on trying to come out to her parents. Oh and some rando on the internet says mean things to him on the internet.
Later normie meets transvestite at his place and they start getting touchy but apparently transvestite freaks out, to which end normie offers to cuddle transvestite while transvestite faps, in the most robotic and awkward way imaginable. Yes they end up doing that. Behold the glory that is the "oww I broke my leg/this is my O-face" in all its glory:
Later, normie asks tumblr-gender if he'd still be asexual if he has sex with transvestite, basically confirming this reviewer's notion that asexuality is bullshit to begin with, meaning that normie is basically just a gay or bisexual dude to begin with, who was really fucking shy, and from the writing possibly traumatized from having had a nympho girlfriend. Anywho, tumblr-gender thinks that transvestite forced normie to have sex, which leads to cringe, which leads to them concluding that he's still asexual, because what would the point of the comic be if he wasn't, amirite?
Later, normie is encouraged to attend Friday prayer by his mother, which he does, and on the way home his mother tries to get him to date a woman, with normie complaining that he can't be fixed. It couldn't be any more obvious that normie is simply gay and in denial about it... fuck this writing is atrocious!
At one point mother dearest asks how normie met transvestite, which he answers 100% truthfully. Next point of drama is when transvestite gives normie a laptop as a three-month anniversary present, but normie thinks that way too much. Normie wants to be equals. They work it out almost instantly, though it seems to trigger transvestite somehow.
Next up, a rando hits on tumblr-gender, and tumblr-gender gets upset that the guy doesn't seem to be interested in her custom pronouns, her responding as if it was a tumblr post. This leads to a whiny rant from tumblr-gender that he/she/it doesn't like what the mirror reflects when standing in front of one... but come on, tumblr-gender is a fat ugly-haired bull-dyke-looking joker, what's not to love? Oh right, we're supposed to feel sorry for this character... hmm... might have been an idea to show that BEFORE the part she bites the head off the person hitting on her. And of course tumblr-gender complains that the doctors wont believe that he/she/it is "gender-queer". This character would have been a lot more sympathetic if not for the flashbacks showing her as a possessive and controlling nympho.
...and snap back to normie with transvestite, with transvestite talking about wearing women's clothes and whatnot in public, or at work. Next up, normie shows up one day when transvestite has his kids staying over, and the kids don't know that daddy is into dudes. There's dinner talk, and its revealed that transvestite supposedly cheated on his now ex-wife, as the kids ask if normie's father did that too since we are told that normie's father isn't there anymore. No, normie's daddy was a taxi driver who got stabbed. Later, while alone with the kids, kids ask if normie is the reason why his parents are divorcing. Normie dodges the question, but the younger of the kids had seen normie and transvestite hug earlier. They instantly figure out that normie and their father are dating.
Later, while about to do some intimate stuff, normie sees bruises from last round transvestite was at his dom getting whipped. This upsets normie, even more so when transvestite mentions "Blood play", and we learn that it was these scars that initiated the divorce because transvestite had become too much of a pain junkie. Tensions arise from this, but they work it out instantly, because this comic can't seem to have any long-running conflicts at all.
Later at a gym, we get the bomb dropped that normie has tried dating someone else at some point... but... she apparently didn't like religion - not that normie comes off as a devout Muslim mind you, being sort of into dudes. So much for that being a potential plot hook.
oh, and this is hilarious: later at dinner with his mom and some friend of hers, normie's mom thinks that normie is prostituting himself to transvestite! This actually comes off as pretty funny. However, as a result of this normie also gets a job offer and wants to talk to transvestite, but finds him mid-spanking just as he's being nussled by his spanker. Transvestite then has the strangest of dialogue, because apparently being spanked makes him into a bitch or something??? The term "sub drop" is thrown around, but I guess you have to be in on the lingo to get that (Way to make your comic non-sensical to non-BDSM people?)
Anywho, normie ends up taking the job, moving to London, and the comic ends with what looks like transvestite having moved in with him. Similarly his kids at one point ask if transvestite seeing normie is why daddy is leaving mommy. Now that's a lot more depth! We see this character anguish that what he desires clashes with his family life - plus he also comes off as way too gay to be comfortable married to a woman
So... ya. As explained in the plot section, then the comic is really confused about its messaging. This is best shown on the filler page where the artist shows the back cover of the print version of the comic. Here it quite plainly states that Anwar the normie is an asexual. Just, straight up. Because that is his only true defining characteristic. This character is shallow as a puddle, with just that label being slapped on him as if that's enough, but its like this is the first webcomic that's basically opened with "hi, i'm NAME, i'm SEXUALITY and I'm OPPRESSED". The webcomic Validation pretty much started the same way, but at least it had actual characters!
Now, the transvestite character has a similar problem - but he is fleshed out a lot more throughout the comic. He's into BDSM, mainly the M part - masochism - so he likes to get spanked, whipped, that sort of thing. This is also what is getting him divorced when we first meet him. That's depth, that's character development - we actually get to learn stuff about him that somewhat properly explains his behavior.
The only real character development normie gets actually goes against the very loudly proclaimed asexuality he's supposed to feature, namely that his first and only girlfriend is basically written as a nympho. Imagine that college student girl you know, who just wants to try every damn kink in the book. In the several flashbacks shown in the comic, we see her being very fixated on sex, to the point that it ends up freaking normie out. Now, this reviewer is male and heterosexual, but he can actually relate to the experience of having had a girlfriend who just wanted more sex that he was interested in. It happens, and it can be really fucking annoying - especially if the girl is pushy enough. Now, the comic never covers this that much, but its basically inferred that it was through her that normie became asexual. Hell, its the girlfriend (who is a tumblr-gender mind you) who labels him asexual, and he just shrugs and goes along with it.
The problem is that the way its written, then it looks a lot more as if he just couldn't deal with her... and perhaps it was much more a question of him eventually finding out that he's gay, much less that he's being mislabeled asexual? Because that is seriously what it looks like. This is backed up, sort of, by normie being Muslim. Now he's never portrayed as super religious, but it is touched upon a few times in the comic with some drama about transvestite and normie meeting at normie's college graduation and basically being outed there. Never mind that friends and family think he's actually prostituting himself to this older man transvestite. But with all of these bits of drama, a common problem quickly arises: none of the conflicts last more than a few pages. Every argument and scene with dramatic tension almost instantly defuses, every single time. Its like the comic is in a hurry to just get shit over with so we can get to the juicy sort-of sex scene.
To sum up: The writing in this comic would make a lot more sense if it got its story straight. Because what's advertised and what's delivered doesn't really add up. First up normie is shown to be super cringe around people doing sex acts in front of him... ok... that's actually not an entirely abnormal reaction, especially when its during HIS FIRST TIME IN A BDSM CLUB. Secondly, the comic itself is called Shades of A, borrowing heavily, if not stealing outright from 50 Shades of Grey, which promises something far more sexy and juicy content-wise which is never delivered. Third up, if the comic had been simply marketed as the story of two gay or bisexual guys coming to terms with their sexualities, then it would actually be... good, because then shit would have actually made sense.
Ok, so the art is... ok? Some of it anyway, but it has that tumblr-grade "super blushing fem-boy" aesthetic to it, where pretty much none of the women in the comic are traditionally pretty, while most of the male characters look like they could probably all star in gay porn. Considering the amount of just barely covered up BDSM content in the comic (not that much, but enough) then... well... draw your own conclusions.
Also, the tumblr-gendered ex-girlfriend is very much so not drawn as if she is... well... a she. Look at this picture here!
Tab Kimpton's website features a ton of other webcomics, all mushed together in the same archive stack so its really difficult to figure out how long a given comic is before starting - but the number of such comics says all this reviewer needs to know. From Sir, Butler & Boy, to Minority Monster, and several others - its basically all just gay erotica comics. You get no props for guessing this guy's sexual orientation.
Oh, and if we're to believe his twitter then this is also him:
To conclude, this comic is a confusing mess of what looks like the cartoonist wanting some hot boy on boy fap-bait, but also wanting to check off all the extra bonus tags to get maximum SJW cred. If it was simply advertised and labeled properly, it would actually be pretty passable - but because it clings so damn hard to this asexual bullshit (which doesn't even make sense as the main character's first impulse when with the other dude is sex...) then it falls apart completely.
- Shades of A: Page 1 of the comic (notice that its in an archive with multiple other LGBT-themed webcomics by the same cartoonist)