Some faggot from Denmark who has a massive hate-boner for self-rightous webcomic artists who shit up what could otherwise be good comics, with their personal politics.
For the review of the Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger & Probability Bomb comics
|Original review author:||webkilla in mid 2017|
|Webcomic names:||Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger & Probability Bomb|
|Author:||Ralph E. Hayes Jr. AKA RHJ|
|Start Date:||Main space ranger comic: Late 2008. Probability Bomb: Jan. 3. 2015|
|End Date:||Both still ongoing, updating maybe once per year (if you're lucky) at the time of the review|
|Genre:||Science Fiction, politics, religion|
|Defining Flaw:||See the genre(s). This is big L Libertarian young earth creationist science fiction.|
RHJ has been cranking out webcomics since early 2000. On his website you can find about thirteen different webcomics, depending on how you count them. To boot, RHJ is well known for injecting his personal politics into his comics with various degrees of success and subtlety.
In late 2008 RHJ started up a sci-fi spin-off based on his fantasy webcomic Tales of the Questor but unlike his other comics, then he hid the comic behind a rather novel paywall: For ever 200$ total that were donated to him, he would post three new pages. He also offered cameos if you paid him 50$.
He later abandoned this pay-to-comic/cameo model after switching to Patreon, where - at the time of this review - earns about 500$ a month, which results in much less than one comic update in total among all his comics per month. Great deal for him, not so much for his audience.
In early 2014 he tried to milk that cashcow a little more, starting a kickstarter where he offered character slots (including the role of the villain) to those who paid the most, which would be a cross-over between the sci-fi comic and the fantasy comic, set in the sci-fi comic. He asked for 2000$, got a little over 5000$, which speaks to a small but dedicated fan-base - in 2017 the comic has 53 pages, is maybe halfway done - and you have to wonder what those kickstarter backers are thinking.
It is for that reason that both of these comics are being reviewed at once here - since one is basically just a side-arc to the main one.
It should be noted that at time of this review, June 2017, the space ranger comic is updating at roughly once every year, and the Probability Bomb comic once every 3 or so months, maybe. This is par for the course of all of RHJ's "active" comics - and this is despite his 500$ per month on patreon.
Around 2014 the "court room" arc rolled around in the main comic, and the kickstarter for the side-comic took off. For the main sci-fi comic this marked a notable turn for the worse when it came to the quality of the writing, and the probability bomb comic jumped the shark pretty early on, well beyond what any amount of reasonable suspension of disbelief can compensate for.
Story and Plot
Since the main comic has covered several arcs, while the crossover comic is a single arc story, then they will be covered separately:
For the main comic
The story-arcs of the main comic can more or less be instantly summarized based on what RHJ focused his ire on during each arc: 1) Introduction, space pirates & giant alien bugs. RHJ does not like space pirates. 2) The star trek parody arc. RHJ does not like Star Trek 3) The Cloning (of mind and body) arc and the RIAA. RHJ does not like the RIAA 4) Space Hitchhikers and government bureaucrats in a courtroom drama. RHJ does not like government bureaucrats 5) Replicator drama. RHJ does not like fiat currency 6) The Warhammer 40K arc. RHJ doesn't like warhammer 40K (unfinished at the time of the review)
Basically: Aside from the introduction arc, then every single story arc in the main comic focused on some kind of pet peeve that RHJ had.
How much this conflicts with your enjoyment of the comic as a reader depends very heavily on how much you agree with his politics. By the fourth arc RHJ more or less abandoned all pretenses and wove his politics into the comic openly - and again, that might not be an issue to some, but unless you're his specific kind of christian, republican, libertarian gun-lover, then it can be an issue. Your millage may vary.
For a slightly more detailed rundown of the story arcs and their plots:
The star trek arc was servicable in that ripped on all the common and occasionally rather silly Star Trek tropes, but at the same time the Picard character was made out to be a childish fool sucking his thumb, while the Wesley character (who became a reoccurring character in later arcs) is actually presented as the lone voice of reason on the ship full of morons. It is advised that any Star Trek fans stay well away from this arc, as it skirts the line between parody and plain ridicule very closely, with every star trek crewman a strawman of some sort aside from the Wesley.
The cloning arc contains the first example of truly original and very interesting story-telling, including a novel spin on the effects of FTL travel and time dilation, but at the same time it also features first examples of the author's politics being directly name-dropped in the comic. The arc itself revolves around an old defunct space corporation un-ironically called the RIAA which went around hoarding intellectual property rights, to the point that they began "brain stripping" artists and creators, to hold on to the stuff they own the rights to until stopped and the company was dissolved. Two aliens trading in stuff scavenged from the RIAA ruins end up in trouble, the hero saves the day, and good sci-fi writing is (almost) all around.
The courtroom drama arc very quickly skips all pretenses and goes straight into very poorly [http://www.rhjunior.com/quentyn-quinn-space-ranger-0124/strawmaned politics, revolving around a space hitchhiker who was mistaken for a space hijacker/pirate. This arc contains enough straw to run a farm, and little else.
The replicator arc somehow manages to be even worse. It starts out with some interesting and novel bits of sci-fi related to how replicator technology works, even if it conflicts with the comic's previously established lore on how replicator cloning and mind-scans work. It then jumps off the deep when someone tries to sabotage the hero's lunch replicator to produce dynamite hotdogs in what is retro-actively a hilariously ironic assassination attempt.
It turns out that the would-be assassin was from an alien race that the hero previously all but annihilated, by accident. The hero had come across the aliens, found their economy quite offensive to his tastes (an oligarchy in control, using fiat currency, how dare they) and then dumped a bunch of free replicator tech on the population, allowing them to create their own bartering economy with stuff they made themselves. This turns out to include nukes as there were no limits to what could be replicated, which ends rather predictably, but the main character remaining adamant that he is still the good guy despite having caused the death of billions - because they had the wrong monetary policy.
The current arc is a riff on Warhammer 40K, which - considering the 'quality' of the star trek arc - is somehow even less subtle in how much RHJ doesn't seem to like that franchise.
for the Probability Bomb
The story of the probability bomb is quite simple, it being a single arc 'bonus comic' of sorts: Evil militant anti-theist scientists have stolen a spaceship with an experimental reality twisting hyperdrive. Their goal? They want to prove all the young earth creationist good guys wrong about how life came to be, by twisting reality enough that life comes about without the help of god. Oh and the evil scientists are backed by strangely powerful and militant nihilists who also want to disprove the existence of god, because then there will be no good and evil and they just run around blowing shit up because nihilism.
Anyone who does not subscribe to young earth creationism may find this story a lot more humorous or insulting than the cartoonist intended.
RHJ's handdrawn style has evolved and improved fairly well since the early 2000s when he first began. This becomes especially obvious if you look at his early work compared to his current work, but what can also be seen in his comics, especially in these two comics, is his love of using really low quality 90s-era photoshop effects. These parts look atrocious.
Case in point, behold the "epic" battle pose to the right, complete with amazing glowy laser and magic sword effects!
He also just loves to use copy paste and really low quality effects - and that's not even mentioning how little effort he occationally puts into his backgrounds, as seen here which is strange because he can do good backgrounds in the comics.
That said, one of the most annoying and consistent aspect of the Space Ranger and Probability Bomb comics is that they're all around 2450 × 3675 in resolution. Holy compression issues batman. Loads of the comics suffer from having tiny details that look ok at full res come up squished because the actual website page only displays the comics at a reduced size. The sad thing is that the comics don't even look better up close. It comes off chiefly as if RHJ just forgets to resize the comics before uploading them.
The biggest issue with RHJ's writing can be boiled down to three issues:
First of all then RHJ doesn't seem to write any actual villain/antagonist characters who aren't borderline retarded strawmen, unless its an unwitting foe as was the case in the cloning arc in the main comic, which strangely enough is also the only case of the hero finding it just a little difficult to defeat his foe.
The space pirates in the introduction arc, the star trek crew in the second arc, the government' and its representatives in the court room arc, the the assassin in the replicator arc and the "hyooman Empyah" in the 40K arc - all of them are written as antagonists so flat and full of various shades of straw that their only use is for the hero to wipe his feet on them.
The hero and the space ranger organization never has any real trouble taken down these foes, because the writing would have it that the titular space ranger and the civilization he runs around as fronter judge, jury and executioner for, is so technologically advanced that nobody can match them - and boy does RHJ love to remind us of that, usually by comparing existing sci-fi franchises such as Star Trek, Star Wars and Warhammer 40K to his own creation and then basically going "Look at how much cooler my furry OC is!"
Suffice to say that the writing during these parts of the comics, which is most of it, simply sucks.
Is the hero trapped in a star trek force-field jail cell? No problem - of course his captors are stupid enough to let him replicate a can of water he can splash on the force field, shorting it out.
Massive 40K style invasion fleet baring down on you? No problem - the good guys have a station called "God's shotgun" with a mega-gun that shoots through wormholes to anywhere in the galaxy, so you barely even get to see the bullets coming. (This super-weapon is strangely enough missing or not mentioned in the Probability Bomb comic)
Someone made your lunch replicator crank out a grenade instead of a cheeseburger? No problem - your AI-controled self-deploying space armor suit catches that effortlessly.
Aside from the arc with the blatant riffs on the RIAA and the alien cloning, where the hero fights some alien clones, then the main character of the space ranger comic effectively never comes up against any kind of real opposition in the comic. The strawmen simply line up to be toppled, in some of the poorest writing you will ever find. The main character barely ever gets hurt, and he is always right, even when his actions result in the deaths of millions like in the replicator arc. This might remind you of another racoon-centric comic.
And that's what so annoying by all of this: Arcs like the cloning arc, or even the replicator arc, show that RHJ can produce interesting and original science fiction. A story revolving around first contact with a lesser civilization and its economic and culture shock to receiving free replicator technology could be really interesting, or a story about lost alien species being revived through cloning - great concepts - but its all mired in RHJ's need to jam his politics into the comic, usually in the form of one or two pages of walls of text and crude exposition dumping, halting the flow of the comic completely because boy howdy does he have a message you need to hear! Like how much young earth creationism is correct, how fiat currency is bad, how bad star trek is bad at everything, how the RIAA is bad and then some.
The writing in these situations is atrocious, since the plot basically takes a full stop while the RHJ goes into wall of text mode. Pretty much all of these pages could be removed from their respective arcs and you would barely even know they had been there. That's how useless they are to the actual plot of the stories.
In the probability bomb he tries things a little differently, but it all comes back to his usual style: Instead of weak and pathetic strawmen, we get strangely overpowered 'nihilsts' who somehow - we are never really shown how - have thousands of temple-cruiser, all gloriously copy-pasted - who are just in it for the evulz to destroy the universe. Oh sure, we're told that they somehow "sell and convert" entire planets that have yet to develop space travel to their "nihilistic ways", leaving them to destroy themselves, but how does that even make sense?
That is of course when the story doesn't take a two page break to tell us how wrong those stupid evolutionists are for thinking that the universe is billions of years old or for thinking that life wasn't created by god because evolution is stupid.
Also it is very important to factor in, that while such writing makes for very abrupt and jaring breaks in the storytelling, then it is even more pronounced when the comics might only update once a month, or quarter, or year depending on whims of the cartoonist. A comic that uploads daily can drown out the odd bad page in numbers, but you can't do that if you only update once every 3 or 6 or 12 months.
Thus, the probability bomb's writing still boils down to the heroes so far facing no real fights that are of any great challenge or consequence. The only real opponents so far seem happy to stand out in the open to get shot or similarly just run out into to get blasted. Sure, a big showdown with the bad guys is hinted of - but with the update rate of the comic then that will likely first show up some time in the next century.
Oh, and then there was the random alien in the cloning arc which appeared to be there purely as an excuse to cram in racist stereotypes such as rasta-jamaicans, buck-toothed chinamen or jive-talking 70s black people, complete with afros - because those aliens specialize in shape-shifting that looks like shitty racist knockoffs - and they're never heard from again after that arc - making one wonder why the hell they were written into that arc to begin with.
The arguably worst bit of writing in all of it can be found int the replicator arc of the main comic, where the hero effectively tells us that he absolutely had to give the primitive access to replicators that could churn out nukes because if not, their - in his opinion - bad economic policies would have resulted in their extinction. He goes so far as to claim that in all the scenarios and simulations he couldn't find any other solution, but he still holds that he was totally in the right. Really? No middle ground? It was free nukes for everyone, or no help at all?
At this point RHJ might as well just have written "The hero did it because the hero is always right, and you have no right to be upset about it, even if it was your people that got nuked because of what I did" - only the Probability Broach and maybe a few other comics can match this when it comes to an comic authors choosing right politics over good and believable storytelling in comics that aren't just gag-a-day comics.
An oldschool furry, RHJ is one of the rare right wing libertarian furries - and he is not afraid of reminding you of that, since he does so in nearly every one of his comics. He was part of the original Burned Furs crew, an organization of furries that wanted to purge the furry fandom of degeneracy - the similarities between the Burned Furs MO and how RHJ writes his antagonists, or when he 'parodies' material, are easy to see. He apparently left them again due to a falling out with the leader of the Burned Furs. Source: wikifur
RHJ has a great business set up. 500$ for doing next to nothing - and when he does post an update for these comics, he can wait another year or so before having to touch it again. From a pure business standpoint, this is amazing.
As comics, they're like rough gems thoroughly coated in increasingly thick layers shit. The original sci-fi bits are really good, and could no doubt lead to very interesting comics. Too bad that the focus shifts more and more to ensuring that a message is being broadcast on all hailing frequencies, instead of a captivating story.
The space ranger comic is the sort that you can start reading, and only slowly will it dawn on you that you're reading sci-fi that has more in common with chick tracts than Schlock Mercenary, while the second comic demands that you accept that the creationists are the good guys, and the atheist "evolutionists" are the insane genocidal bad guys hellbent on destroying the universe because they don't have any god-given morals. Oh sure, if you can ignore that then its just pretty explosions and shitty art, but it is really hard to miss, and that's what makes these two comics bad: They display criminal amounts of wasted potential.
The fantasy comic that the two are somewhat based on: Tales of the Questor
Camp Calomine - another comic that RHJ has made, just as preachy as these two comics, but not nearly as far out in the things RHJ tries to push.