The End Of Things
|Original review author:||Long Tom|
|Webcomic name:||The End Of Things|
|Author:||Believe it or not, the author never identifies himself, though he's very probably a guy.|
|Start Date:||April 19, 2004|
|End Date:||March 10, 2012|
|Defining Flaw:||Fails both as a story and as a depiction of college life.|
The title of the webcomic might give the impression that this is an apocalyptic story, but it is not. It's simply a slice-of-life comic about furry college undergraduates. As the author himself says:
When the story got too ridiculous.
Story and Plot
There are five storylines (not including gag strips and fan art):
"A Foolish Maneuver": The first strip, perhaps appropriately, is about...smelly underwear. (The roommates Evan and Ryan share underwear?!? I didn't think even gay couples did that.) But never mind that, they plan to visit a bar, joining some friends there. But at the bar, Evan is left alone and is met by a cheetah girl, and they talk, though the meeting ends unhappily. Evan does not enjoy the bar, but Teri and Ashley do. Evan confesses to Ryan his lack of romantic interests, with a possible exception, but then everyone leaves, and Evan and Ryan encounter Maynard, their fellow-roommate, who was trying to enjoy a campus play, except some audience members were talking loudly. (Evidently nobody simply thought to ask these people to leave.)
"The Soap Incident": Evan tries to borrow Ryan's soap, but Ryan refuses because it has a story behind it. In his college freshman year, Ryan had gone to bathe in the men's washroom, only to encounter a Peeping Tom...or rather, a drunken classmate who forced his way inside the building. (Huh? I've been in various college dormitories and none of them had washroom windows you could see through, let alone those which could be opened from the outside. Where did the author go to school?) Anyhow, the drunk got belligerent, and Ryan fled the washroom, only to find his dorm room door locked. So when the drunk caught up, Ryan, disregarding his own personal safety, got into a fight with the drunk rather than let him go with the soap. Afterward, Ryan made a major discovery about himself. Roommate Matt had earlier left the room, but upon returning, took care of the drunk, who then fled. The story does, however, have a rewarding ending. (Evidently nobody else in the dorm overheard anything, and nobody thought to simply call campus security when someone broke into the dorm.)
"The 'Ass' In Assassin": Maynard and other members of the theater department have set up an "assassination" game among themselves...but it seems to have gotten to the participants' heads. Whoops, scratch the "seems to". Maynard goes out to continue his hunt while Evan goes to bed, only to have his beauty sleep ruined by a phone call. Thus, Evan decides to go and find Ryan, but en route runs into Ashley, and they briefly converse and part. Teri encounters Ryan, and they have a meeting before they find Evan, who informs them that Maynard is in the library.
Meanwhile, hunting in the library, Maynard literally runs into his intended victim. After a bit of chasing around, Maynard manages to shoot his target, but it doesn't count due to a technicality. No matter, the hunt continues. And it starts going to an extreme. Maynard tries to call everything off, but his target has a one-track mind. Luckily, Maynard is able to bring the game to a conclusion. With that, Maynard and his roommates have a celebration. (Okay, the comic itself is getting ridiculous. A library table gets smashed in front of witnesses, someone nearly gets killed over a stupid water gun game...and nobody gets into trouble? They're not even called to the dean's office? Is this story supposed to be realistic, or silly entertainment?)
"Pseudo-Serenity": The story involves Ryan making a phone call to Teri. In the midst of it, he has a brief conversation with Evan on the fact that the latter might be anorexic. Then Ryan talks with Teri about their mutual problems in art class. Including being very behind on schoolwork. (Is Ryan supposed to be based on Bluto Blutarski?) After a sharp admonishment by Teri, the conversation ends. Teri then talks with Ashley, who explains why she calls Evan "Fig", and the story arc ends suggesting possible future trouble, as well as noting that roommates Teri and Ashley don't live in a dorm.
"Severed Ties": The longest story arc which begins by Maynard and Ryan admonishing Evan for not eating enough. Then the trio finds someone who hasn't parked their car correctly, and Evan sends the person a message. Evan dismisses his roommates' concerns about his possible anorexia, but then he goes on a run the next morning, which turns out poorly. And other people besides Evan's roommates are noticing his thinness-including Evan's class professor. But even then, Evan refuses to seek medical attention, so Ryan decides to get Evan's family involved. Soon after, Evan finally contacts the high school friend who had tried to get through to him before. Ashley also getsinvolved, and has a different way of dealing with Evan's problems. Finally she tells Evan how much he had changed over the past two years, and afterward there is a flashback sequence about Ashley becoming an art major. Then we're back to the present.
Meanwhile, Ryan finds his art project from before, and decides to make a few changes. Soon afterwards, life imitates art...or not. Now we suddenly learn that Evan has asthma? (Rather suspiciously seems to be a "made up as he went along" plot element.) But now, Evan has a new obligation. So one sword fight with Maynard later, Ted, the high school friend mentioned earlier, arrives to pick up Evan. While Evan prepares to leave, Ted tells Maynard about how Evan had used to be chubby, and acted to lose weight, but then got to the point of going overboard with the idea. Finally Ted takes Evan home.
But whither Ryan? Oh. Anyway, Ryan admits to Teri that he had been wrong to change his painting the way he did because he had been mad at Evan. Teri, however, does agree with Evan on one issue. Question is, is there an actual romance between Ryan and Teri?
Evan and Ted stop to eat at a "Ruby Doomsday" restaurant (hilarious), and their discussion continues. (And character J. T. Tigerclaw from another webcomic makes an appearance as the server. Presumably why the author has chosen to use furries for this webcomic.) Evan drinks a glass of beer at Ted's urging...but it leads to an embarrassing disaster.
(Unfortunately. just when you thought the author had abandoned the ridiculous plotlines of before...the whole webcomic jumps the shark. Even the craziest drunk wouldn't suddenly try to take off anybody's clothes in public. This might be acceptable for a screwball comedy, but since the rest of the comic is not supposed to be a screwball comedy, it just throws everything off kilter and makes the webcomic impossible to take seriously anymore.)
Anyway, Evan tells Ted about his last encounter with Cynthia. First, they have a bit of conversation, and then...whoa! (Um, first the story hints that Evan might be homosexual, and yet he has great physical lust for a female? And by the way, what about contraception, pregnancy, etc.?) But never mind, at least Evan still feels guilty about the whole thing.
Then Evan is finally dropped off at his house. Hello, Dad, hello, Mom, hello, Sis. And then comes the long-awaited blood test. After that comes parental regrets over Evan's choice of college major. And after that, Evan decides to meet up with his high school buddies. Unfortunately, they haven't exactly aged well. Then the reunion starts going downhill, and it ends on a sour note, though Evan at least politely hides how disgusted he had become with them.
But what is going on with Maynard and Ryan? Well, Ryan has taken a course which requires a really weird assignment. (When I went to college, there was such an establishment in town...and visitors were charged a fifty cents browsing fee to look around...and the store proprietor didn't talk like that to his customers. I could never imagine a college course of any sort that would require one to patronize such a place, so either this is an example of craziness, or college has changed a lot since the days I attended.) It also turns out that Ryan's old roommate has just patronized that establishment...for different reasons. Meanwhile, Maynard learns by chance who owned the car that Evan had earlier wrote upon...the same man who had broken into the dorm during "The Soap Incident". (Small world.) Ryan also encounters him. Will Ryan's prediction about him prove to be true?
Originally crude and scribbly line art, but as the webcomic continues, things become smoother and cleaner.
The later art is line art with high black and white contrast, with minimal grays, and lacking in shadows and shading, which has the unfortunate effect of making the pictures flat-looking. To the author's credit, however, proportions of the characters are realistic and consistent, and the "animal" faces are reasonably realistic. It is refreshing to see a furry comic that doesn't resort to animu or exaggerated expressions.
The backgrounds are good, too, not over cluttered or underdone, and perspective and proportion are consistent there. Sadly, no shading on those either.
Edit: Though it was previously stated in this review that the "scribble" art is bad, it must be noticed the former is a more traditional technique. Yes, they're drawings over paper scanned through. But what can be saved from them, is the effort put into details like scenery, not only details, but aspects such as stable proportions, perspective, etc. It's true it isn't top-notch stuff, however, this might have been the proof the author had actual talent. Now, the later might look appealing by having been digitally inked. Still, the lack of "traditional craftsmanship" might give this a bit of a dull and boring feeling to the whole thing.
The End Of Things tries to cover several genres, but never really fits into any one of them. On the one hand, it tries to be a mild comedy, on the other hand, it tries to be a screwball comedy, and on the third hand it tries to be a narrative. Okay, this is a funny animal comic, so it cannot be expected to be completely realistic. But we should be able to have some idea what to expect-and instead, the author seems to be making up random things as he goes along, (e. g. Evan's having asthma and needing an inhaler, or Evan and Maynard having a spontaneous sword fight).
Also, the story is too slow-paced and repetitive. The joke about Evan eating the bagel goes on for far too long, not to mentioned repeated scenes of everybody and his brother and sister telling Evan about his being too skinny. (Yo, some people are naturally very skinny-ever heard of Twiggy?)
It should be also noted that the author had been consistent in updating the strips over the first several years, but his output severely slackened in the last several. He did tell us that he had injuries and other health problems at the time; but the author left the impression that he would resume it in the future. Just as well he did not.
The author doesn't even name himself. All we know (from having seen the old website) is that the author has traveled to Ireland, does running and other sports, attends furry conventions, and has done himself some serious injuries.
As the author admits, The End Of Things originated as a college gag strip, and later he would use his characters and story in a webcomic. So how does it work as mass audience entertainment?
Well, for those who have lived at college, there are some laughs, limited by the fact that all the main characters are taking artistic-related majors. (I cannot help but think of an old Non Sequitur cartoon where a professor smiles as he writes out his final exam question: "What sort of job do you expect to get with a philosophy degree?".) And truth be told, it doesn't say very much about college itself. Yes, there are assignments and worries about grades, but we never find out about things like sports or other college activities. But worst of all is the fact that things happen in this fictional university that would never happen at a real-life college, such as the assignment to do research at an adult entertainment store.
Ridiculousness and unrealism sink what could have been a decent webcomic about college.