User:Shan

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Original review author: Shan
Webcomic name: The Werewif
Author: Michael Wakcher, Ellen Schuler (panels 193-408), and Gwydhar Bratton (also referred to as A. Gwydhar Bratton on the site)
Start Date: Earliest date I could find was the last panel of Episode 2 (Image 24 of 408) which says to be continued June 18th, 2008.
End Date: 19th January 2011
Genre: Transformation/Transgender
Defining Flaw: The character doesn't just behave illogically, he behaves illogically illogical.

Rating Summary
Art: Wiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.png

The black and white art really works well for this.

Storyline: Wiki.pngWiki.png

A quick read in 408 separate panels and yet for the story as it is, there's nothing stopping the story from jumping from panel 217 to panel 384 where the main character finally does what he should have done in the first place. From a narrative point of view, some better obstacles were needed. On the plus side, the world building lets us discover the universe created for this story gradually at the same pace as the characters and only as much as they encounter which is really all that is needed.

Characters: Wiki.pngWiki.png

The characters can be overly dominated by one personality trait at the expense of a more rounded characterization.

Miscellaneous Details: Wiki.png

The interface to read the comic is a weird one and far from the easiest to use. There's always been better choices available.

Overall: Wiki.pngWiki.pngWiki.png

The elements were there were promising but frustratingly, the way they were assembled produced a far from optimal result.



Background

After I first found my way here, I stumbled across 910cmx (there's been a relatively recent systems crash so all the old forum content is presently lost) and when you pull on a thread like that, all sorts of things fall out. Now this isn't part of 910cmx but things adjacent to the chasm can also fall in when you dig a hole in the first place.

Story and Plot

The main character, Linus gets bitten by a mysterious woman in bar and then finds himself turning into a woman every full moon. As you could imagine, that can prove to be awkward under certain circumstances. That's the story in a nutshell.

Presumably, you expect a bit more detail from us here in general. OK, then. In the beginning, we find Linus bemoaning the state of his love life to his bro-tastic best friend Brian who is actually genuinely well-meaning despite being a walking mass of dudebro stereotypes as evidenced by his arranging a date for Linus behind his back with Suzie, a girl he'd been infatuated with for a long time but never had the courage to ask out.

To be fair to Brian, we've already seen enough of Linus to know he was never going to do this himself. We've all either known people like that or been there ourselves, right? (Historical reference, Brian got a picture of Suzie of myspace. Whenever myspace is referenced, you know you can date a work with more precision than an archaeologist working with sediment levels. I automatically think 2006.) Also, it mercifully saves us a lot of hanging around that some stories are wont to do by setting the main plot into motion as soon as possible.

This does set off an unexpected chain of events thanks to Brian pushing him, results in Linus bumping into a mysterious attractive woman who takes an instant shine to him. To Linus's credit, he's already adjusted to the unexpected new situation he's found himself in thanks to Brian and begs off a very brazen pass made at him (which I guess is preferable to the expected reaction you'd get from a stranger you'd bumped into and whose drink you've spilled) by saying he has a date. At which point, the mystery woman bites him.

Still, all things considered, Linus seems to have come out of the whole experience ahead on the deal as he's come away with a date with a woman he's liked for a long time and didn't come down with rabies or tetanus or anything like that. Well, at least until the night of his much-anticipated date when he finds himself turning into a woman. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

From this point, it's basically Linus trying to juggle not losing the girl of his dreams during the times he's not quite the man he usually is but is expected to be on a date with her, fending off his best friend Brian's interest in Linus's "cousin Lindsay" that's just appeared on the scene and disappears just as mysteriously when there isn't a full moon and trying to find the mystery woman who bit him and hopefully a permanent solution to his problem.

Downfall

This is panel 384 of 408. As the story was written, there is literally no reason given why he couldn't have shown everyone he needed to convince well before the end. The story needed an obstacle to this obvious solution.

I would pick two key points for this section. One is structurally baked into the entire narrative as per image which I'll come to in a bit. The other at a more basic level could have been cut out of the narrative altogether and runs from image 97 to 108 and runs through a remarkable number of stereotypes as well as stopping the main storyline dead.

Obviously it's a cheap gag that he's suddenly taking an interest in clothes only women wear but it causes some serious tonal whiplash as it doesn't fit with this ongoing increasing desperation to find a cure at all.

Seriously, there's such a thing as unisex clothing or you can actually still keep wearing guy stuff, you know. Just do better in future, regardless of whether you're male or female (like dress more neatly) and run a comb through your hair for once.

It's totally unnecessary to the main story and never comes up again in any meaningful or useful sense again and it really could have been tossed.

We all have not behaved in the most logical fashion in a crisis at some point or other in our lives but as said in the introductory summary, Linus behaves in an illogically illogical fashion.

Telling someone getting increasingly angry that you're missing their dates because you turn into something quite different once a month and just expecting to believe you because you say so and expecting that to work ... well it should be self-evident that's not going to fail in advance even to the most easily confused among us. He then tries the same thing with Brian to equally predictable results.

Basically, Linus stumbles around far too long when the solution's right in front of him which is just show someone what happens when it happens - which is what eventually happens with Brian. In Suzie's case, as you can tell from the image caption, it gets stretched out even further.

It's a structural flaw that permeates the story from this point and that's compounded by the fact that there's no obstacle ever put forward as to why Linus can't show Suzie what happens. I mean even something like just telling Linus he'll be stuck as a woman forever if he ever tells anyone and later admitting that's not true will do the trick. It's not usually the most satisfying of obstructions to the hero's quest (technically Linus qualifies) to this but stories like this have used it all the time.

The point is, there has to be some reason to extend this story past an obvious solution and they don't give it to us, so we're left wondering why it doesn't happen until it does ... at which point if anyone was still wondering, we find there really was no reason why not. It's not terribly satisfying as journeys go, all things considered.

Art review

The art gets the job done with a minimum of fuss ...
... and it's educational too! (the panel before this one says this phenomenon is called Syzygy. Handy extra weapon for Scrabble at the very least.)

The art is credited to A. Gwydhar Bratton. This atmosphere of this webcomic I think really does benefit from being done in black in white. It also concentrates on the action it wants you to focus on as opposed to excessive background detail, I think it benefits from the relatively minimalist approach.

Inexplicably, there also occasionally crops up the easily avoidable problem of facial features being needlessly displaced, though. An easily avoidable problem and yet here it is ... and many other places too.

The main characters features are clearly differentiated from each other and recognisable for the best part and such things as Linus's neurotic nature and even more so his understandable awkwardness as 'Lindsay' come across in the way the postures of the characters are illustrated, Suzie's near perpetual annoyance and Morgan's confidence at the start when first encountering Linus and the contrast seen when their earlier confident persona is thoroughly broken at the end. Each character is clearly identifiable and for the best part, consistently so.

Except, that is, mystifyingly for Linus's best friend Brian. Who looks like several different people, sometimes from one panel to the next. He definitely doesn't look like he did at the bar scene at the start once that sequence is over. A real puzzle especially when compared to the other characters, that one is.

I mean does this guy on panel 2 and panel 4 look anything like this guy or this guy or this guy?. How about this guy?. That's just some of the highlights along the way. There's more where those came from too. Maybe the artist was bored and figured as a walking stereotype, this might make him more interesting? As it is, he undergoes more changes in appearance than the main character or anyone else we see with the actual transformative condition.

Writing review

We'll already covered the overall structural flaw where we're left wondering what's stopping Linus from telling and showing anyone his transformative condition in order to convince them he's telling the truth until we reach the end and realise beyond doubt that there wasn't anything.

However bar some really duff moments like this one - really Suzie? (people were much more enlightened about the range of behaviour across gender lines even back in the now archaic historical era of myspace than this), things don't obviously fly of the handle until the home stretch. Up to the point where Linus finally gets let into the secret world he's been unexpectedly thrust into, things outside the audacious central conceit of the story aren't too much of a train wreck. It's when the background behind Linus's circumstances are revealed that the writing starts to most obviously derail itself at first.

The start of this when the fun and games abruptly end for Morgan when the others who'd like to put a stop to the indiscriminate bitings catch up. Finally, someone gets around to the simple act of showing to convince someone of what's going on.

Stands to reason that something needs to be done about Morgan. Usually the transformative condition inflicted on Linus is inherited. Somehow it's also transmissible (as we had to have already known). OK, up to this point, a bit out there but seems to be within the rules set up and implied to be some sort of biological process to now.

Turns out there's a cure ... and that it's Linus and only Linus who can do it by killing Morgan, returning all people bitten by Morgan (who are not pleased) back to normal. So suddenly it goes from what was sort of implied maybe science (but not as we know it) to a sudden lurch into a mix with what could only be magic. Why would this even work? We have to assume it's been done before as we're not even given a hint as to why this (and only this) would work.

It's understandable Linus can't go through with it. Most people aren't killers and can't just turn into one on the spot even under extreme circumstances. But then this happens. Followed by this.

From someone who was just telling Linus this was his only chance to go back to how he was and if anything, seemed to be encouraging him to go ahead. And what is Morgan being congratulated for? Not being shot? Something that really wasn't up to Morgan in the first place? Now add to the mix that it was the same person who said all those things - and was Morgan's dad on top of all that. And what about the other people who supposedly now won't be cured of the Werewif-ery? That plot point is never mentioned again even though we'd just been told they were still so angry, they beat Morgan quite badly. They were going to be cured! But now they're not!

The end result is all up a bit of a discordant mess as a result. Rules are revealed to the reader and then just as quickly their seeming intent discarded. It's a series of dizzying changes of direction in quick succession and it's not a good look to have your reader think things are one way and then flat out contradict yourself a few panels later, not to mention tonally jarring too. Basically, in the absence of more background being revealed, pick one theme and run with it.

Characters

There's four main characters in this story and they're reasonably well delineated for the best part but there is the problem that their representation does tend to be overpowered by their dominant characteristic as follows: Linus - insecurity, Brian - cluelessness, Suzie - irritability, and Morgan - hedonism.

Linus: Incredibly nervous, anxious, and terribly insecure. Not exactly quick on his feet, either as he demonstrates over and over again. It would have been nice to have seen more sides to him that his being perpetually on the edge of a nervous breakdown but that doesn't really come until the end when everything's about as resolved as it's ever going to be.

Also a colossal dork best summed up as seen when he first finds he's changed here (if you'd like to see how that scene might play out in live action from this unrelated but thematically similar TV show from the first few minutes of this episode ...)

Brian: Means well but spectacularly clueless. Best summed up by even if it's unintentional when he knocks on Suzie for not being the first person to believe Linus even though she was the first person he told. As opposed to him who was the first person who did believe him. But prior to this, Brian had also just said words to the effect that you had to have seen it in order to believe it and that's precisely why he believed Linus in the first place. Well, I guess it's consistent with the expectations of that character. So, good job, I guess?

Suzie: Frequently seems to be angry about one thing or another. Understandable in retrospect given the run-around by everyone including some terrible excuses by Linus due to his disappearances and ludicrous on face value explanations from Linus-as-Lindsay. Turns out there's another side to her that probably actually what she's normally like when things aren't weird but we only really get to see that at the end. Would have been nice to have seen more of that sooner.

Morgan: Basically rebelling against their society which is to keep quiet and out of sight. How Morgan's situation is helped by repeatedly biting people is never really explained and we don't really see but of the character outside their wanting to find ways to entertain themselves. How this behaviour helps with even that isn't really all that clear, either. Flips from confident to broken after a group beating but doesn't really show much more than these two settings until the end.

The Werewives: Entering spoiler territory here but it is actually refreshing to find that even though there's ultimately a secret society of many such people, some born into it and some in the same boat as Linus, all trying to find the renegade indiscriminately biting them, said secret society's goal is not to plot taking over the world or any other nefarious schemes but simply to keep a low profile and not attract attention to themselves.

Joe the Barman is the most prominently featured of them as someone whose no-nonsense approach propels the story forward as needed and funnily enough, despite having inherited what's presumably the genetics for the condition, doesn't change due to some "hormonal thing" as this story straddles an uneasy divide between science and magic (and not always successfully.)

We see very little of the rest but that's OK. Even though it's about how Linus's world is turned upside down when he's unexpectedly thrust into their society, it's still his story, not theirs. We see just what we need to that's relevant to Linus. It's a good way to do it, revealing what we need to know as the main character needs to as well. We also see enough to clearly understand they run things with confidence.

Author biography

I didn't find anything personally about two of the authors listed other than the index page saying that Ellen Schuler joined the writing team as of Episode 15 (panel 193). I don't know if that meant Michael Wakcher left at that point or not. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that A. Gwydhar Bratton (the artist) is the same person as the credit of "Gwydhar Bratton" as the third of the people named as a writer. You can read about her here.

The website itself, though still working does not appear to have been updated in some time as even the most recently displayed dates for news items and the likes are closing on ten years ago as of writing this.

Conclusion

Given where stories in the gender-bending genre can end up, it's neither exploitative nor visibly displaying smut. There's even actual character growth by the conclusion, even if it's unfortunately compressed far too much at the end. Also, given how many stories litter cyberspace forever incomplete, it has to be noted to it's credit that this one also has an actual ending.

So, all things considered, it actually is greater than the sum of its dissected parts. It's just a shame that there wasn't at least one more pass over the material as there is a better execution of the story in there when you read between the lines if even only the most obvious and overt problems had been made something different.

Links