The Chronicles of Loth
|here in the "Reactions" section.|
|Original review author(s):||Aristocles.|
|Webcomic Name:||The Chronicles of Loth|
|Author:||Eric Flint "Eflint"|
|Start Date:||August 25, 2009|
|End Date:||June 10, 2015; the author has announced he will continue the story, but not in webcomic format.|
|Genre:||Fantasy with "scaly" elements in it.|
|Defining Flaw:||Generic beyond all reason, features every stereotype that can be expected, and many more than cannot be, but they put them in anyway, bad drawing, cardboard characters.|
-- The Author's own words quoted verbatim describing this comic (Once on the Deviantart page for the comic, but since removed, because people were "taking the journal posts out of context" and it just got annoying for him to keep screening the account).
Imagine a tale so bland and so badly written, it would make the ghosts of all the late fantasy writers of the world rise from their graves and exact bloody vengeance on those who would dare profane the name of the genre. Now imagine something twice as bad and you begin to understand the depths of how low this excuse for a comic really sinks.
I started reading this comic when it linked from infinitely superior Goblins comic in the form of a banner on the page on which one can vote for it. I thought, what's the harm? At worst, one might find a story that is cheesy, silly, badly written, or just plain boring. Instead, we have the adventures of a whiny dragon-bitch, her cut-and paste adventuring party that she happened to bump into, no real plot, badly defined motivations, and pacing that isn't even worthy of the name, all depicted in the ugliest form of misshapen manga-style "art" one can imagine.
The short of it is this; The Chronicles of Loth is a manga-style comic about a busty dragon girl (yes, it's that kind of manga) who goes on a poorly defined adventure, meets a bunch of other walking stereotypes, is rarely able to do anything on her own except when the plot absolutely requires it, and is tossed around from scene to scene, usually with little transition or explanation.
The comic started to fail as soon as the protagonist was assigned her "quest." Like we haven't seen that a million and a half times before. Better yet, she gets it from a mysterious teacher who cannot be bothered to go out and do it himself (complete with glowing eyes), a vague background concerning a war in the distant past that was fought between... I think you all know where this is going. Every generic plot ever written since Tolkien by hacks who couldn't even come close to his consummate skill.
Don't get me wrong; going on a quest is a part of countless stories, and it isn't necessarily bad. It is just that when details as to what they quest are are scant, the person assigning the quest looking like every other "mysterious" character who ever existed (glowing eyes in the dark, vague details as to everything the quest is supposed to be about, so-called "cool" name), and the protagonist is flatter than cardboard in every way save her breasts, the effect of an "epic quest" is decidedly lost. It's as if the creators were using a formula to set up the premise and forgot to flesh it out in any realistic way, so they gave the dragon-girl huge tits and a bitchy attitude, pass her perpetual bad mood off as character development and decided to call it a day.
Perhaps the most grating thing about the comic, if not the worst, is the sense that everything is downgraded and lacks a sense of grandeur. The comic features or mentions a wide variety of creatures, including elves, dwarves, halflings, dragons, ghosts, mages, a cyclops, humans (well, obviously), and plenty of allegedly powerful magical beings. Is there any real set-up to most of these? NO. We get a whole menagerie of fantasy creatures stumbling over each other, packed into a tiny amount of narrative space, appearing from out of the blue and disappearing from the story just as fast. At one point, the halfling gets a rich townsman angry, which "naturally" leads to a lynch mob consisting of a cyclops, a man with revolvers, some insect-ninja, and a lot of other stuff which would otherwise be interesting if not for being misused. It's like using a dragon to lick floors clean, or having superman fix windows instead of fighting supervillians. Now, it might be funny if this comic were purely a well-written satire designed to make fun of these things, but it isn't, and if it was a satire, it would be doing a pretty terrible job of it. And for the record, very rarely calling out the cliched nature of the comic in its own pages doesn't make it any better.
Story and Plot
As you can probably figure out by now, the plot is really generic, but what is less obvious at first is how badly put together it is. Events don't proceed neatly from one scene to another, things just... happen! It's as if the author realized every scene was full of crap, so they decided to move on to the next one in the vain hopes that it would be better and that he would finally get it right after 20 tries. Seriously, there is little explanation given as to why the characters are moving from place to place, or how they got there, or why they got there, and whatever they need is somehow magically available to them at a moment's notice, be it gold, magic, or skimpy slave costumes for the females. Yes, it's THAT kinda comic. Made all the more odd considering that at least two of the females in question are dragon people. I'll let that one sink in.
The story basically goes like this: There is a heroine named Loth who is assigned a quest by her mysterious teacher. Loth starts her quest by going to some Faux-middle eastern city but she is soon captured by unknown masked enemies and meets some other adventurers in the prison she is taken to. The characters she meets are Kinuko Cade and Ral. They escape the dungeon when Loth kills the guards with a huge burst of fire breath that she didn't bother to use when she was captured in the first place. Later, Loth is naked in a room at an inn, for some reason, and Ral and the others dress her and Kinuko in skimpy slave clothes. They proceed to escape the city by means of fighting their way out when sneaking doesn't work and they run off to a small settlement in the middle of the desert for no real reason. At this new settlement, they run into a ghost that can stop Loth without effort, but it can itself be stopped by the other girl in the party using martial arts and some gobbledygook not worth mentioning. After stumbling to another new town, they get a mob angry at them for a stupid reason and get in a fight with powerful combatants that come out of nowhere and seem to hate them despite never having met them, when another dragon-girl shows up. They escape entirely because of a convenient magic portal that just happened to be there for them, waiting for Ral to activate it. At the new location, they are attacked by a tentacle monster (yes, tentacles in a manga; do I have to explain this one?) who hurts Kinuko. They then run into Ral's jerk of a rapist father (so cliched in his evil, it hurts. He even looks like his face was frozen in an evil grin). The party then traveled to an elven forest in hopes of finding someone to heal Kinuko. And then, Ral holds the idiot ball once again after finding a powerful mage who looks like something ripped out of a 90s Japanese video game. More recently, the adventurers have angered a mob which threatens to drive them out of town... for the third time, only to be saved by a character using magic and scaring the crowd. Then, there is a monochrome flashback or two, as if that hadn't been done 1,000,000 times before.
Later, after some pointless talking, they suddenly end up in another boss battle, in which the makers of the comic even reference video games, and Loth suffers damage to her clothing in the fight. And later, they meet at an inn, followed by a shower scene. After that, Loth hears part of a conversation out of context, assumes it was about her, and she gets angry. Then it cuts to some ridiculously convoluted political dealings by characters no one cares about because they never do anything but talk. Then, they are suddenly in some city again, where they just happen to walk by a character they had previously met, by sheer coincidence. This character set a mob on them earlier with the intent to kill them, but now claims them as his "team", and they go along with it for no reason, with the "justification" for this idiotic behavior being yet another contrived coincidence. After that, Loth saves some guy from being beaten by a badly-dressed raccoon-person and his thugs. Then, they participate in an inevitable tournament, during which they have an argument in which their speech bubbles overlap each other.
That's right; we have a plot SO generic, it can be expressed solely by means of links to TVtropes.com. I admit you could probably do the same to a few other stories, possibly some good ones, but this follows every trope to such a T, that it makes you wonder if the author wrote it using nothing but pages from TV Tropes that he selected at random. But wait, it gets worse! Aggravating this is that for the most part, the characters are able to get out of every mess they get into because they either are able to find a plot coupon or other contrivance ,were always able to escape from the problem all along but they just didn't bother to do so for some reason (like when Loth was able to break her chains in prision and kill the guards with a single blast of fiery breath), or they just happen to have whatever the hell they need to get out of any situation (like disguises, cash, and whatever magic the plot calls for). It's as if this were a video game and the player decided to unlock cheat codes for unlimited money, health, and power. It isn't dramatic when a character is able to overcome obstacles when such cheats are used, and it isn't dramatic here. It may be that the author is aware of this, so he resorts to what so many other hacks do when they are fresh out of ideas; blatant sex appeal (although given that these are usually dragon-girls, the word "appeal" is used quite loosely.)
Before anyone asks, it is not the fact that it is dragon-people that "ruins the comic forever", nor that it is dragon-girls with large breasts. It is the fact that the comic is about almost nothing BUT such a thing. The other characters and the rest of the plot are superfluous and only exist to give the makers an excuse to make more scenes with the "lizard-boobs". Were this comic about something better, like friendship, heroism, acceptance of other people even though one disagrees with them, or maybe just a straight-up heroic fantasy story about someone who believably overcomes fantastic obstacles, it would be okay no matter what species the character was. But it isn't that and likely never will be. Seriously, a quick look over the comic will show scene after scene with nothing but empty dialogue and large boobies. Many, many webcomics suffer from this flaw, such as Las Lindas. It would be as if the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had large-boobied and scantily-clad women in just about every scene, and the plot, combat, and dialogue aspects of the game were of extreme sub-par quality. It would be enough to make one think that the game really wasn't about the action or the story, but about "something else." I'll give you all one guess as to what.
The art has no style to it. At first glance, it looks like the same boring manga crap one has seen a million times before, but when one works up the courage to look closer at it, it becomes obvious that even this already childish style is done poorly. The faces are badly-drawn, the art seems to have no sense of proportion, and instead of believable expressions, we get the same exaggerated manga expressions that can't accurately depict the outward manifestations of emotion. And yes, while you have all probably come to expect it by now, the females look like fanservice pin-ups, with bland art to match their flat personalities. To top it off, the design of the dragon-people in this comic was almost certainly ripped off from the "Gargoyles" cartoon. Seriously. Just look at Sevkira (the red dragon girl who doesn't appear until much later), then compare her to Demona, minus the wings and the believable dimensions. While it isn't a total copy, it is still pretty unoriginal.
Another thing that must be mentioned is that Loth (the golden dragon girl and main character) and Sevkira are both drawn like someone who never exercises or eats much, yet are both given allegedly superhuman strength. This is probably done to make them attractive (to people who like flat-faced humanoid dragons) and yet still have enough strength to hold their own in a fight. The problem is it really doesn't work. There are ways to make a woman look fit and yet still remain beautiful; the appearance of strength and beauty in a female are not contradictory. The picture of Sevkira and Cade is pretty much the art and writing quality of the comic in a nutshell.
Want to improve the comic? Learn to draw better. Drop the manga crap. Draw faces with smaller eyes and larger noses. And above all, don't show us balloon breasts on withered bodies. While this won't fix everything, it will make people who read this crap feel much less of a need to vomit. And on a minor note, why are the dragon-people's claws clearly made of the same material as their skin? I know this is also a problem in the Gargoyles cartoon this comic copied some of its style from, but it was wrong there and it is wrong here. It's weird enough seeing them with sharp bits of skin where claws should be, even if it is just icing on the cake compared to the other distortions in the art. At least Gargoyles didn't give us misshapen balloons on Demona's chest.
This is cliched to an extreme. The writing is boring and generic, the setting looks like yet another ripoff from Tolkien, the characters seem to have every cliched line memorized, and they repeat these lines in such a manner that they seem to have studied how to make a language out of nothing BUT those cliched phrases, so they never have to say anything original.
The dialogue is simplistic, predicable, and stupid. Loth is almost always pissed off, Cade is a pervert half the time and clueless the other half, Ral usually has some emo crap going or else spouts out whatever is needed to move the plot forward, Kinuko speaks mostly in stereotyped faux-eastern "zen" phrases, and when Sevkira (red dragon girl) was introduced, she comes in with a stereotyped fake "sexy and confident" attitude, which means she just says stuff to please the fans. It's grating to read at best, and the story contains such "fine morals" like "people who are educated are emos", "perverts are funny", "It's not what you know, it's who you know", "women can't be sexy unless they have skimpy clothes and unrealistically exaggerated dimensions", and "spouting off nonsense makes you an eastern mystic." Let's face it; this comic is little more than a crappy template on which to deliver fanservice, often of a very odd kind. Sure, there is a plot somewhere in it, but that's a distant second or third to the dragonboobs, now in red and gold varieties. The other loathsome thing this comic does is burning strawmen. What is that? A straw man, in the terms of modern arguments, is a fake or exaggerated version of something someone doesn't like, which is then attacked and burned. The flaw in that comes from attacking the fake or exaggerated argument rather than the real one. In literary terms, something similar happens when a character who is one-dimensional, exaggerated, and ridiculously evil is inserted into the plot, then cut down by the characters, either by hitting him or killing him. Ral's father is an evil general rapist brute with a comically evil expression. Were this a comedy comic, it might have been played for laughs, but Flint plays it up seriously. Much as I hate to say it, the mentally ill love this crap, as they are often unable to process complex thoughts and motivations. Good villains can be simplistic in their evil, but to pin every sort of seeming badness into one character and all but screaming to the audience that "you should hate this guy" is just blunt and stupid. Even children's comic books from the 1960s have more sophisticated bad guys, many of who are interesting in their own right and have a halfway believable set of goals and motivations. Instead of giving us a complex villain, we've been given a guy so stereotypically bad that no one could fail to miss him as such. I suppose that makes the villain "idiot-proof", but it makes everyone else roll their eyes in disgust.
If there was a saving grace, it might have come from the background which sets the story up. It's the same "war in ancient times" story all over again, which is not bad in itself, but the fact that the world was shaped by the events taking place in, and the aftermath of, a great war is something that has been beaten to death since the time of Tolkien, who had the idea first and to this day has done it better than any other. That yet another aspiring idiot who thinks he can be the next Tolkien copies it is understandable yet depressing. A great literary work like The Lord of the Rings was never meant to crowd out new and original ideas, nor was it supposed to force countless other works to be like it in some way. Furthermore, a story with grand, sweeping themes such as LOTR demands good writing, deep characters, exciting events, or at a minimum, good dialogue; this comic features absolutely none of those. Instead, we have a parade of cliched lines, badly-placed and unfunny sex jokes, random events happening without a clear explanation as to why they happen, villains so boring they might actually be more interesting if they were literally cardboard cutouts, and heroes so unlikable that it makes us wish the author just killed them all, ended the comic, and tried again with a bit more originality and fewer lizard-boobs. It is important to note in this review that "lizard-boobs" are not what is killing the comic by itself. Similar non-mammalian mammaries are found in very good and influential media, such as the Elder Scrolls series and Dungeons and Dragons. What ruins this in the comic is that the comic seems based in no small part around a fetish for Dragon-girls with boobs. If a video game or RPG were based around the same thing, it would crash and burn.
The Author, Eric Flint (EFlint) is one of those rare people who comes clean on the quality of his crap. I'll give him points for honesty, but that's just about it. The man admits to making his work as cliched as possible because he thinks that will make it more attractive to publishers. I can't say I know the man personally, nor that I can understand what goes on in his head, but if he thinks that intentionally making a piece of garbage that is just BEGGING to be put on this wiki is somehow going to impress publishers who have to risk their money in the hopes of selling a product, he is gravely mistaken. He honestly thinks that reviews like this mean there are some people who "dedicate their lives" to hating him.
That Flint admits to making crap is not a sign of humility; he is proud of it. To him, a piece of garbage like this is the ticket to fame, fortune, and a lot of other things he will never enjoy until he stops making this comic. His reasoning is that publishers want to play it safe with things that have been done before, garbage has been done before, so therefore garbage is safe, therefore making garbage will get his comic published. It makes me wonder which is more a fantasy, the comic or his hopes for it. If he had tried his very best and this was the result, it might be forgivable; many comics start out bad and improve over time, and many a great artist or author has had a rough start. BUT, we see here the corrosive effects of other bad webcomics, namely those that inspired him. Eflint even specifically mentions Sabrina Online has being one of the inspirations for The Chronicles of Loth. You all know what this means, right? It means that bad webcomics are begetting more of their own! The undeserved success of a few hacks is inspiring other hacks! Soon, we will have more of the same crap when many aspiring comic authors decide it is "better" to make garbage than to put any effort, thought, or time into their works! To be totally fair, Eflint has some other comics online that, while not well-written, are at least barely passable. He can make a joke if he tries (although not a very good one) and not everything he writes has the literary quality of nuclear waste to it.
And it is this last point that makes the comic truly unforgivable. Society can let it slide when a child who doesn't know any better knocks over a delicate vase in another person's house by accident; society isn't as forgiving when a grown man knocks that same vase over on purpose just to get attention. Flint, if you are reading this, please stop what you are doing. Stop it now. When it comes to your ability to write, you are better than most of the authors on this wiki, but unlike them, you intentionally dumb your material down, and in a very real way, that makes you worse than them, because at least they put some effort into their crap. Flint is not the worst webcomic maker of all time by any stretch of the imagination, but he could be so much better than he is right now.
One valid criticism of criticism itself is that critics often say what is wrong about a comic, but not how to fix it. To remedy this, I shall give a list of what should be done to improve the comic, directed to its creators. I'm probably wasting my time, but maybe it will make a difference before hell freezes over:
- Cut back on the dragonboobs, and learn how to actually draw a female body. You can have females with large breasts, but you don't need them bulging out in almost every scene in which they appear.
- Write dialogue that is believable, not infested with more cliches than a rotten corpse has maggots. Examine why the characters do what they do, and don't copy every trope, cliche, and overused plot device that ever existed.
- Drop the manga style. Seriously, manga is popular with webcomics makers because it requires very little skill to use. It is lazy, ugly, misshapen, and unrealistic. It's also a major reason why so many comics are on this wiki in the first place; the use of manga style makes everything ugly and drags the standards of art back to before the Renaissance. For those of you who don't know, the Renaissance was when when realistic depictions of humans and proper proportion and perspective were used. You need to draw things relatively realistically for the art to be considered good. Taking shortcuts and disguising a lack of skill with "but it's manga style, so it has to look that way" is lazy and stupid.
- Have the course of the plot flow logically from one place to the next, without sudden cuts from one location to another. Seriously, the characters have left a settlement at least twice now because a mob or an enemy has chased them out. They can leave of their own free will; you don't need to have them run for their lives if they have to leave.
- Develop a more original premise or put a new spin on a pre-existing one. In this case, it is probably too late to change it, but keep this in mind if you ever make a new comic.
- Give characters more personality. It's fine that they have a dominant character trait, but don't make them so cardboard-like that we can sum up their personality in one word, like Loth = Bitch, Sevkira = Slut, Ral = Emo, Cade = Perv, and so on. An example of depth would be showing another trait, for example.
- Make the villains into believable characters, as opposed to the walking cliches with evil smiles you have now. Maybe a villain is not universally considered evil by everyone, maybe he does good things as well as bad, perhaps he is capable of non-evil acts to at least a few people, or maybe there is some sort of conflict in the villain over his actions.
- On a side note, stop with the misleading and borderline NSFW advertising. It only confirms the widely-held view on this wiki that you are purveyors of sleaze.
- And above all else stop trying to make crap.
This sorta tripe deserves a verbal or literary lashing that I don't believe I am as of yet qualified to give. To properly castigate this comic, we would need someone of the Nostalgia Critic's caliber. Until then, I will have to put it in the most concise terms I can. This comic is a horrible pastiche of fantasy played straight, and it hurts my eyes to read it. The fan-base is brain-dead, the art looks like it is copied from the cheapest manga in the world, and the writer admits to being a hack in the name of getting this crap published. It is a testament that we here at the Bad Webcomics Wiki are not working hard enough to dissuade people from inflicting comics like this on the public, as some people clearly think crap ought to be emulated, which leads to more crap. Think about that, and try not to have nightmares.
- The first page of the comic. It gets much worse when the characters start doing things.
- TV Tropes Page which that does not treat the comic harshly enough. Please edit it to give it the treatment it deserves. Some of the fans of this comic have posted what they see as tropes there, and last I checked the page, they cannot format the links properly or even spell them correctly.
- Comic Fury the site on which TCoL is hosted. Just a warning; the admins don't tolerate criticism of the comics posted there, or most other kinds of free speech. It's a place where bad webcomics are often posted, but there are a couple of decent ones there too.
- Eric Flint's DeviantArt account