Monday, September 14, 2015

Critic Corner: Homestuck

The cover to a printed collection of the series
Homestuck is easily the most famous of all the MS Paint Adventure comics. It is also one of the most divisive. What do I think of it? Let's take a look.
What's the plot? John Egbert and his friends obtain a beta for the upcoming game Sburb. However, it turns out the game is able to affect reality. Soon, our heroes find themselves on an epic quest to defeat monsters so they can create a new universe. Unfortunately, things don't proves so simple.
What's good? The humor can be very funny. John Egbert's mental breakdown when he realizes Betty Crocker owns Fruit Gushers is a good example. Act 5 Act 2 manages to take several of the trolls and make them likable particularly Terezi and Karkat. The series is very addicting and gave me a lot to talk about to the point I had trouble stopping until I got to the point the author stopped for a hiatus. The art is simple but elegant.
What's bad? The author doesn't seem to know what he wants to do with the series. Is it a comedy? A dark epic? A post-modern examination of video game tropes? Because of this, the tone is constantly shifting and the plot schizophrenic. It gets to the point I can't figure what the main conflict it is. For the first 5 acts, it seems to be to win the game, but suddenly the focus changes to stopping Lord English with everyone ignoring the game. This is not helped by the fact multiple subplots run at the same time forcing the story to constantly cut between them. The plot moves at a snails pace. For example, it takes three acts to introduce all four main characters. Speaking of characters, the characterization is pretty poor. The characters tend to be defined by one characteristic (Rose is the smart one, Dave is the stoic cool kid, John is the goofball and Jane the quirky one). A lot of the characters are too similar even when it makes no sense. Why are the kids from Universe A-2 similar to the main kids from Universe A-1 when the A-2 kids are the alternate counterparts to the A-1 kids' guardians? On a related note, this series has some pretty boring villains. For example, Doc Scratch does nothing but gives exposition; Vriska is annoying to read because she is never punished for the evil she does and is suddenly made the leaders of the good guys for real reason; and Lord English has unclear motivations and a backstory that boils down to he was born evil. The comic uses a script format for the dialogue. This is annoying because every character has a stupid typing gimmick (which applies to their speech for some reason) and color for their dialogue, which makes it especially annoying to read when we have two characters with similar text colors talking to each other. The dialogue can last for several pages when it would be easier to just summarize it. The troll characters, when introduced in Act 5 Act 1, are unlikable despite being the protagonists of that arc. For example, they include a jerk that goes berserk over everything (Karkat), two doomsday villains (Vriska and Aradia), a social elitist (Equius) and genocidal social elitist (Edrian). To be fair though, some of them become more likable in Act 5 Act 2. Also, why are the sub-acts also called "Acts"? Why not "Part", "Scene" or anything but "Act" since you already used that word? The comic has trouble mixing the comedy and drama. For example, the horrific massacre of innocent people is caused by a guy not wanting to wear his lame uniform. The videos usually have no pause button which can be annoying if I need to leave for some reason. The games (especially the longer ones) aren't intuitive and lack a clear end. There is a recurring gag about how Caliborn sucks at art. This joke is not and never will be funny because it never goes beyond "Ha. Ha. He sucks at art.", which isn't really a joke in it of itself. The timeline is extremely confusing. The constant uses of flashbacks or subplots taking place earlier in the story make the narrative non-linear. There are also plot holes. For example, why is Dad Egbert's computer (which is made to look like singer and actor Bing Crosby) in Act 5 Act 1, which takes place before humanity or even the Earth existed? The mechanics of the world are poorly explained or flat-out confusing. For example, how death works seems to change on the fly with Sollux getting two dream selves (which serve as extra lives) where as everyone else gets one with no explanation. There are interesting ideas in the series, but they are either ignored or handled poor. For an example of the former, the Felt are interesting due to their unique time powers, but are killed shortly (relatively speaking) after their proper introduction. For an example of the latter, the awesome-sounding story of the Condense taking over the Earth and the heroes that opposed her is told to us by Dirk instead of it being shown us as part of the story. The use of real-life images can be jarring compared to the more cartoony art.
Overall, Homestuck is mediocre series. I will admit it has good humor and interesting ideas. However, the writing is terrible being both confusing and taking forever to accomplish anything. I give the series 4 out of 10. 

No comments:

Post a Comment