|Original review author: Azroverde|
|Webcomic name: Love Not Found|
|Author: Gina Biggs|
|Start Date: June 1, 2014|
|End Date: Ongoing|
|Genre: Romance, Sci/Fi|
|Defining Flaws: Awful world building, contrived drama, and shallow, moronic characters|
I started reading Love Not Found after finishing Gina's previous works: Red String and Demon Aid. Red String was an amazing shoujo-style comic, but the final stretch ruined everything that made it great. Two months after Red String ended, Gina launched Demon Aid, claiming she'd been working on the idea for years. After the first chapter, she cancelled the comic due to low readership and hefty criticism from people close to her. She posted a large apology about the cancellation, stating it was for the best; she'd made far too many mistakes with the story, and really had no idea what she was doing with it. She assured fans she'd learned from these mistakes, though, and that Love Not Found would be more in line with her usual work. I believed this, and thought it would be a good read.
Well...here we are!
Love Not Found takes place in the distant future on the tropical planet, Monotropa. People have super fancy technology to make their lives easy. Despite this, humanity regressed and physical contact became outdated.
While heading home from work, Abeille crashes into a man named Miel. After getting home, she finds herself aroused by the encounter and tries to shake the feeling with her sex machine. Unsatisfied, she tries to figure out what was missing from her session with the machine. After thinking everything over, she decides to try exploring touch; however, most people are happy and comfortable with machines that replace it, so she struggles to find someone who shares her desire. After spending some time with her, Miel also finds himself wanting to know more about touch, and the two of them start experimenting with it.
The art is the one thing in this comic I can't complain about. It's beautiful, from the first page to later pages. Even the title pages are nice to look at. The art style itself sits somewhere between shoujo and western-style art, and has a muted palette with softer colors. It might sound strange, but it works very well, especially with the focus on plants and flowers in the setting. Even better, there's no snoutface, lens flare abuse, or copy and pasted facial expressions. Anatomy is fairly consistent, and the minor details and backgrounds never look rushed or thrown together.
The author keeps improving her artwork, too. She's even redone entire pages in her previous comics when something didn't sit right with her readers, or just wasn't coming across to them. A+ for that!
Unfortunately, the high quality art can't save this comic. Love Not Found claims to be a story, but I have yet to find a story after sixteen chapters. All I see is incompetent writing mixed with bits of cheesecake, and a romance as forced and shitty as Twilight's.
Yeah, it couldn't even manage to be better than Twilight.
Love Not Found doesn't bother having engaging or morally ambiguous characters. It settles for bland "representation" characters, nameless assholes, and author pets.
The do nothing protagonist with nonsensical motives. She bumps into a guy once, then comes to the conclusion that sex and touch equate to true love. She moves to the "nature lover's paradise" of Monotropa to grow a garden to honor her sister's memory. Yet, she's not a nature person, and can't even take care of houseplants. But, it's alright! She's handed everything she wants and needs, from a new job that benefits her, to her own personal mini garden. Any problems she faces are quickly resolved, either through her kindness melting someone's heart, or someone doing all the hard work for her. Readers are expected to empathize with her, even when she acts like a dipshit.
The hot, super-nice man who goes out of his way for the girl he doesn't know he loves. He's very rarely bothered by Abeille's antics. Even when they knew each other for all of ten minutes, her forceful begging for a kiss didn't faze him. Because, you know, most guys really DO enjoy being sexually harassed by strong, empowered women! But, why does he love Abeille? Well, once they get past all the uncertainty and find out they have very little in common, it's obvious: he just does, okay?
They show up to insult or take advantage of Abeille, then disappear until she needs more reader sympathy. Quality characters you can find in most Mary Sue fanfics.
The smart scientist friend of Abeille who can't keep her stories straight. She'll say one thing, but then we see the exact opposite later on. The quick and easy breakup she goes through? She calls it awkward next chapter. She's pretty pissed off when her ex tries to get back together with her, but later claims she didn't get angry about it. At the very least, she learns to appreciate touch without acting like a lust-crazed idiot.
A smart, workaholic scientist who either doesn't know or is in denial about what he wants in a relationship. He's Ivy's ex, but also her best friend. They're super best friends. They're best friends who will stick together, even when it leads to really awkward situations. He'll most likely be in a poly relationship with Ivy and Aster, since Ivy and Holly stick together and won't move the fuck on. Should this happen, it'll be rainbows and roses for the three of them, because that's just how LNF works.
Ivy's new, non-binary datemate. Everyone knows Aster is non-binary and prefers gender-neutral pronouns, even complete strangers! How? I have no idea, because it's never shown. What has been shown, though, is that Aster is a counselor who researches touch and knows how important it is. Wow! A valid reason for exploring touch! And zir relationship with Ivy is actually interesting and believable! But, for some reason, he doesn't get shit on nearly as much as Abeille and Miel. Then again, Aster isn't the
author pet main character.
Clove & Botan:
These two are introduced looking like they'll be super interesting characters. And they are...until they hook up. Then they're nigh constantly together, and their only mutual focus is their relationship. Clove worries his speech impediment will make him look stupid; Botan is worried that he's talking too much and killing their relationship. After overcoming that with a super mature discussion, the rest is sunshine and roses!
Ivy's jealous, womanchild sister. Acts like a spiteful brat one minute, then incredibly mature the next. She likes to annoy Ivy, and that's her sole purpose.
Abeille's pushy and demanding ex. She has emotional baggage and projects onto Abeille. She overcomes her problems with Abeille's help. Then she leaves.
Two smart scientists who didn't seem to understand that a tropical planet would be warm and humid. Mom's an uppity snoot, and dad's a kind pushover.
The author doesn't have an actual plan here. Half-baked ideas and contrived drama are the backbone of this comic's plot, and conflicts (if you can call them that) never last more than a chapter. Seriously, here are the biggest moments in this comic:
Shortly after release, the author decided "outdated" was a better word than "obsolete," and made edits to the comic and site. And it was a glorious waste of time! The main characters end up accidentally colliding, then willingly touch each other while getting up. Then readers are told that touch is outdated. Later on, people are shown dancing with each other, standing in close quarters, and catching people who've fallen out of trees.
So, touching is only outdated when it needs to be. Beats having competent writing and a well-planned theme, I guess!
Planet Shock Citizen:
This guy could be dangerous, and has already hurt some people in his panic! And after hearing about him, Abeille is scared of running into him. Is this foreshadowing? No. The new character helps the PSC super easily with a comforting touch!
The Bugs Attack:
Bugs get into a greenhouse and Ivy tries to get them off a valuable plant. Her eyes get burned by the bugs, leaving her blind. The damage is so bad she needs to have new eyes implanted! She says her parents will be annoyed, since they designed her original eyes. So, do any struggles or issues result from this? Nope. She gets new eyes within a day. Her mom doesn't even notice until someone tells her, and only has minor complaints. Her mom is also the sole designer of the Ivy Eyes. Gee, it's almost like the author forgot what she wrote over three chapters!
We Make the Sex Now:
After twelve chapters of denial and learning nothing important about each other, the main couple gets to old fashioned fucking. WITHOUT MACHINES! And it's perfect each and every time they do it over the course of the night! They're now truly in love and in a healthy relationship because they had real sex. So what if Abeille's dealing with emotional baggage, and Miel has 0 experience in a relationship? They lust after each other and have almost nothing in common, so it's true love! THE PLOT SAYS SO!
Evette dies because she and Abeille act like total morons in a place with god-awful security: no lanyards for keycards, no emergency panels or intercoms, and doors that remain open until someone goes through. And somehow, Abeille couldn't find anyone to open the door before her sister froze to death. They have communicators capable of texting and high quality holographic chat, for cripes sake! And they've done this shit many times without issues! Bah, whatever! THE PLOT DEMANDS YOU FEEL SORRY FOR THE POOR PROTAGONIST!
The Reason Touch Is Outdated:
Maybe it's disease, or mental issues from reliance on machines. Actually...nah! "Society teaches us to break away from that as adults." Why? Because "humankind regressed," as we were told. I don't know what I was expecting here. This shitwreck of a theme never made any sense to begin with!
Patching Things Up With the Ex:
Abeille and Poppy were in a fairly decent relationship; however, they had a falling out over Abeille's coping mechanism. Poppy continues to be pissy over Abeille's choices, and won't mind her own fucking business. But, after Abeille learns about Poppy's past, everything is sorted with a hug and diabetes. That's right! Repressed childhood trauma and deep-seated issues can be fixed with a quick talk, a hug, and a good cry!
THE PARENTS ARE COMING:
Abeille didn't respond to messages or a monthly check in call from her parents. Now they have to visit Abeille to--wait. WHAT messages and check-in calls? Abeille said she got monthly care packages, but we're never shown any messages or calls! This is supposed to be a big deal, but there's been no build up to it. All we got was two panels of "lol, I'm a black sheep, and my parents are smart scientists, lol." And in just two pages, Abeille goes from worried and upset about the visit, to treating it like a non-issue.
The more pressing matter is that she needs to have a proper date with Miel. They went to a festival, but that doesn't count. So, the solution is (wait for it)...GO TO ANOTHER FESTIVAL! Man, aren't these two fucking brilliant?!
Ah, the distant future on a tropical planet with fancy technology! Sound like fun? Well...don't get your hopes up. The setting is prone to imploding upon itself just as much as the plot is.
Touch Is...Outdated? Icky? Uhm...
The people in this comic treat touch as something gross, perverted, or even taboo. Kids are raised with touch because it's an essential part of their development, but are taught to give it up as they get older. Yet, people get SUPER close to each other, and even do air kiss greetings. You'd think everyone would be required to wear dance bracelets that form barriers to prevent contact. But, they don't really work. At all.
Then there's the Touching Club, a place where people can meet up and touch each other. Abeille finds a public posting about it. And despite most people's attitudes towards touch, no one seems to care that this place exists!
Meat Is Scarce Here:
If you move to or visit the tropical planet of Monotropa, you must eat a vegan diet, because meat is expensive and scarce. So, did hunting and fishing get banned? Is there no technology to grow meat in labs? We do this shit in 2018, but not in the distant future? Oh, wait. Author headcanon makes it all work, so there's no point in complicating things with proper fucking world building!
People Still Have Natural Babies:
Yep, NATURAL babies. So, what does that even mean? It can't be gene combination in a lab. It can't be sex, because that involves touch and no one does that. So...artificial insemination? Looks like some more author headcanon is needed, because this hasn't been explained at all!
The Insects Destroy Earth Plants:
Miel says Earth plants have no defenses against Monotropa's insects. And the company is close to having successful Earth harvests. Yet, the planet's open to the public, meaning a growing population. Sub-par harvests mean food shortages. Oh, never mind! We can all go pick apples from apple trees! You know, one of those poor, defenseless Earth plants that get wrecked by Monotropa's insects!
Researchers Know Nothing:
Before a human population was settled, researchers studied Monotropa for some time. Buildings would be set up to endure weather such as hurricanes, heavy rain, and humidity, right? Nah! Fuck that! New residents are expected to prepare for rainy season themselves! And even "old" government buildings have design flaws! So, how are these buildings still standing if EVERYONE fucks up this much? LA LA LA, NEVER MIND. NOT IMPORTANT AT ALL.
Inclusive, Politically Correct Holidays:
Cornucopia, Jollytide. Festivals for everything! Humans must've decided all their old holidays sucked ass, so they celebrate new ones. Cornucopia is the new Thanksgiving, and is based on a fairy tale about two female lovers. But, it's also a story of the seasons, and not tied to any Earth religion or traditions. I bring up Earth since LNF said humans originated on Earth. So, where did this holiday come from? Did some new religion pop up, and humans decided to roll with it? Did humans steal this holiday story from another race and adapt it?
Wait. This comic is called Love Not Found. Most people don't marry for love and most relationships are based on how good the sex is. Yet, the Thanksgiving knock-off holiday is based on the profound love two fictional people shared? What was wrong with just having a harvest celebration? Can it go back to being Thanksgiving? I miss Thanksgiving!
While LNF's About Page makes Gina sound like quite the professional artist, she's been slipping for the past few years. Gina's lied repeatedly to herself and her fans, and frequently makes excuses for her growing lack of professionalism. Instead of putting on the big girl pants and fixing things, she continues to fumble around, hoping no one will notice while she asks for more money.
Well, people have noticed, and are rightly upset. Here's why:
At the end of 2015, Gina said she'd possibly work on a buffer for LNF during a two week break. Of course, this never happened. Come November 2017, she had to switch to a Mon-Fri schedule to catch up with work and deal with stress. She still hasn't caught up with all her work, continues to delay or miss updates, and keeps taking on more projects. While she's had some valid reasons (family emergencies, illness) for missed and late updates, she usually blames her workload and stress. Seeing as she's self-employed, she could easily fix these issues by doing something fans have suggested: put LNF on hiatus in order to take a break and build a buffer. Instead, she continues to make excuses and pretend things are fine, until someone dares criticize her behavior.
No, Gina does not like criticism of her behavior, or her work. She'll either hand-wave it away, get super defensive or passive aggressive, or just outright ignore it. Meanwhile, she'll like and respond to Facebook comments that kiss her ass, or support her choice to pretend she's got things under control.
Gina is not capable of writing by the seat of her pants, as she supposedly learned with the Demon Aid fiasco. But, an interview with her revealed she's doing the same damned thing with Love Not Found. When the comic launched, she had only a general idea of what she wanted to do. Then she waited three fucking years to edit and rework some parts to make them "better" for the pace of web publishing. She also seems to write the comic's script one chapter at time without consulting previous chapters. So much for learning from mistakes!
The piss icing on this shit cake is how she left her best free projects to rot. The websites for Erstwhile and Red String broke during the summer of 2017. No reason was given as to what caused this. Gina said she'd try getting to them by the end of September. Then she said there was a new web technician, and things would be ready in early 2018. As of November 2018, the Erstwhile site is still inaccessible; the Red String site is up, but not the comic itself. Readers who asked about the comics were told they could pay for print or PDF editions.
That's right. Just keep giving her more money and maybe she'll get around to fixing problems she's been ignoring for over a year.
Love Not Found has the potential to be a great story. There are some interesting ideas, and the artwork is of a quality more webcomic creators should strive for. But, pretty art and a handful of good ideas can't support god-awful writing. Gina needs to stop making everything up as she goes, and take a serious look at the plot, setting, and characters. She also needs to set limits for herself, and listen to constructive criticism.
But, with the number of ass-kisser fans she has, and the excuses they'll accept, this won't happen any time soon. And with the comic still running after 4 years, she's not likely to restart it.
The webcomic, should you like to see a slow-mo train wreck.
Author's Twitter account
Author's Deviantart page
asskissing Facebook page, where even the author refers to her characters as cinnamon buns
Author's Tumblr page