One Punch Reviews #39: The Nerds of Paradise
If one were to put together a list of Hall of Fame webcomics, A Lesson Is Learned But the Damage Is Irreversible would easily be a first ballot inductee. It was surreal and dreamlike, pessimistic and funny. After a two year run, though, creator Dale Beran put the comic on hiatus. It was the Buddy Holly to Perry Bible Fellowship‘s Elvis, blazing the trail before the whole genre of surreal webcomics really caught on.
Dale Beran never really disappeared, though. His work went on in The Nerds of Paradise, which is a lot like A Lesson Is Learned only that it sometimes updates instead of never updates.
The first two stories of The Nerds of Paradise break into a new territory: telling A Lesson Is Learned gag but in short story form. Scratch that: I’m not entirely sure there is a joke. Rather, it’s more of a stream if consciousness thing.
Beran channels his inner Vonnegut with his first story, “Richmond Virginia in MUST I?”, where a rich boy and his butler walk the grounds and encounter the remains of a Milkshake-Making Robot. This prompts our boy to recall the incident that caused the robot’s demise: he and a playmate wanted to make a milkshake that was one of everything. When our butler asks how the milkshake turned out, the boy is of two minds: “One is that such an accident mixes the sublime with the profane — invites the pig in the parlor, so to speak — and without any way to exclude those bitter tastes (or those sweet but of contrasting qualities) we get an abomination, an unrefined grotesque sludge. The other view, which I am wont to favor, is that the collisions of so many sensations at once drift over the body like light through a kaleidoscope, beautiful because it is simplified.” All told, it’s actually a pretty good short comic.
I can take or leave the rest of The Nerds of Paradise. The next is another short story called “The Raisins d’Etre,” which seems to rely on the visual gag that a bunch of raisins are mopey, whiny emos. We finish up with a couple of amusing single panel gags. I liked the first one, an instruction manual on how to turn a fighting machine into a hamster, mainly because it’s an old school A Lesson Is Learned-type comic that subverts your expectations and makes you smile at the same time. The second one, about mice who live in dollhouses, crosses over into New Yorker territory, where flat punchlines get brushed off as sophistication. Or maybe that was the point?
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).