|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|
|Defining Flaw:||The character doesn't just behave illogically, he behaves illogically illogical.|
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. It's remarkably easy to summarise in that sense.
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 (Historical reference, Brian got a picture of Suzie of myspace.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 myself.) 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 thrust upon him 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.
I would say the immediate downfall is the section that runs from Image 97 to Image 108. It runs through a remarkable number of stereotypes as well as stopping the main storyline dead. It's a weird gag that finds our main character suddenly thinking that now he turns into a woman once a month, he's got to start wearing distinctly female attire when that happens. This whole sequence 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. It really should have been discarded.
There's also the overall problem with the story which as said before, is Linus behaves in an illogically illogical fashion. It could be basically summed up as saying his attempts to convince people of his predicament are obviously completely back to front. It stands to reason even before the event that you're much more likely to succeed if you show people then tell them than the other way around. The story really gets this back to front and there's no credible explanation as to why he does things this way.
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.
Starting with the obvious problem, even though we don't always perform optimally over pressure but even taking that into account, for this particular story, telling people that you turn into a woman every full moon is just going to have everyone think you're mad. You could predictably predict that in advance. You could equally predict that the obvious solution is to show them what happens to you and then talk about it.
As a writer, that does leave you with the problem that it would be a very short story once that happens. Simple workaround specific to this case? Just a brief scene where our newly inflicted main protagonist is told by the primary antagonist that if he tells anyone, he'll be stuck as a woman forever. Then at the end, tell him you were lying.
Maybe not the greatest solution possible but in the context of the story, it would work, especially given what the main character has already experienced, he wouldn't find that hard to believe at all. The point is in any story, there has to be some sort of obstacle to the main character just immediately doing the obvious solution that ends the story in 5 minutes if it's a movie or 10 pages if it's a book and the fact remains that this story just didn't do that.
As it currently stands, the story just dodges this blazingly obvious potential solution with no good excuses as to why and then does go ahead and do just that right at the very end. Minus marks for that.
Other than that issue which is both major and yet easily could have been fixed, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Given where stories in the gender-bending genre can end up, it's neither exploitative nor visibly gratuitous. There's even plausible 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 that this one also has an actual ending. You can go into this one knowing it's both a quick read and a complete story and for the latter especially, credit is definitely due.
So, all things considered, it actually is greater than the sum of its dissected parts. It's just that it could have been even better than how it turned out with as little as one more draft.