Crabcake Confidential: Never Mind The Bullets

Windows Internet Explorer 9 — which all the cool kids call IE9 — debuted April of this year triumphantly with exciting previews and press releases and parades and a strong undercurrent that, yes, everything had finally changed!

OK, not really.

I have a hard time remembering when Internet Explorer was still relevant. The IE/Netscape Wars of the late 90’s, maybe? That was a war that Microsoft won. By bundling Explorer for free with Windows while Navigator was still something you had to buy at the local CompUSA, IE jumped to something like 90% of the browser market. It was David vs. Goliath, and Goliath not only beat David, he put on a fancy hat and coat and did a little jig on David’s dead body.

In recent years, though, IE’s been slipping due to increased competition from Mozilla, Google, Apple, and other smaller players. At the time IE9 debuted, it had slipped drastically to 46%. IE9 was designed in part to reverse the trend with exciting new features like … I don’t know … pinned sites? Whatever that is?

Perhaps I’m being blase because IE9 is only available for Windows Vista and Windows 7. All my computers at home are Macs. Thus, I pretty much run all web applications on either Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. No IE9 for me, though not by choice.

To show off the capabilities of IE9, Microsoft produced a webcomic in collaboration with Parisian studio Steaw Web Design. The comic was a short Wild West vignette called Never Mind the Bullets. It was directed by François Le Pichon and Jeremy Thomas, illustrated by Kevin Hamon, coded in HTML5 by Sebastien Doncker, and written by Antoine Laroche.

Again, there’s no way I can view this using the clearly mind-blowing capabilities of IE9, so I’m going to use Google Chrome instead. The comic worked for the most part, but I am going to point out some areas where, I imagine, IE9 was supposed to excel. Let’s take a look, shall we?

First, though, let’s talk about the art. My God is it ugly. (Which is ironic, since IE9’s ad pitch is called “Beauty of the Web.“) If you were going to showcase the capabilities of IE9, shouldn’t you have gotten a better artist for the job? Like, say, Alex Maleev? The guy did a “cover” for The Cape Online Graphic Novel, after all. Unless he’s a hardcore Apple user, I’ll be he’d be game for it if you threw in a few bucks of change and a ham sandwich. I know budgets are tight these days, Microsoft, but geez… you’re in the browser wars here. Make it look like you spent some money on this.

I know what you’re saying, pod-nuh. “El Santo, how can you complain about ugly art when just one review ago you were taking anime to task for not being ugly enough?” Let me explain to you friend: sometimes the ugliness of characters do a lot to add to the personality — The Guns of Shadow Valley, for example. And then there’s bad art where everyone, even the supposedly attractive characters, look like hulking cave trolls as drawn by Napoleon Dynamite.

Are those tables really sliding across the floor? I must really be sloshed. Everything makes you feel like you’re drunk. There are some parts where you put your cursor to the left, and somebody’s huge body is in front of you. Move to the cursor to the right, and they slide off the screen as of they’re running away. Move the cursor to the top of the screen, and sometimes people pop up from the bottom of the page.

It’s supposed to create a sense of depth like in 3D movies … and Never Mind the Bullets pretty much fails in this regard. What it does, instead, is create a sense of vertigo. Things slide everywhere as if the floors were covered in a thick layer of bacon grease. Actions invade other panels, creating a confusing mess of ambient debris and word balloons. It doesn’t match the genre at all. Never Mind the Bullets is a straight forward western, which are defined by long stretches of zen-like calm punctuated by short bursts of action — not a crazy peyote-fueled dream sequence or a Paul Greengrass style shaky-cam thriller. The Wild West genre and the off-putting overuse of motion effects just do not go hand in hand.

At one point, there’s a serious slowdown in the chair smashing scene. I imagine that this is where the magic of IE9 comes in. I feel slightly saddened that I will never feel the full sensory effect of a chair fragmenting into a bunch of little pieces. Can some of you IE9 users fill me in here? Can you also smell the earthiness and the faint hint of dust? Do you wince as tiny splinters whiz by your head, then pat your head instinctively to reassure yourself that, no, it did not break your skin? Did you feel a profound sense of loss, but then a creeping sense of triumph and elation as IE9 touched your heart while also shattering your sense?

Why, Microsoft? Why must us Mac users be denied the majesty of your healing light?!?!?

The story is a bout as standard as you can get for a Western, with card games, shoot outs, and dancing girls. Which makes sense… this is basically a giant ad for IE9, after all. But it’s not hard to see parallels with the Browser wars. IE9 is our Big Burly Hero blowing into town. The guy in the black hat is Mozilla Firefox, challenging our hero for all the money and gold nuggets, i.e. the browser market share. They meet in the streets for a duel, and, as you expect, IE9 stands triumphant!

Only to be clocked by an unassuming young woman who seemed harmless enough at the onset, i.e. Google Chrome.


As for IE9… well, it turns out it got chewed out by Google Chrome and the simultaneously released Firefox 4. Ouch.

Maybe you shoulda been quicker on the draw, Microsoft.

Final Grade:


*RIP Cliff Robertson.


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on September 13, 2011, in action webcomic, Crabcake Confidential, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics, western webcomic. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I would not argue that Macs are good machines and if its your machine of choice that’s fine. However, since you were not able to view Never Mind The Bullets in IE9, your review of it is not accurate. The 3D parallax scrolling is lost. I tried it in a few different browers on my PC including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari and found problems with all of them. IE9 is taking advantage of the new HTML5 web standards. In this case, Apple needs to catch up.

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