One Punch Reviews #59: Smashing Avatar
Man, you know what I haven’t done in a while? A review of a webcomic about video gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…..
Whoa. Sorry about that. I think I passed out for a moment there. Anyway, you know what the world needs more of? Webcomics about geeks. Geeks and their geeky lives. And video games. Ryan Huertas and Mike Karell, the creators of Smashing Avatar, certainly created one of those comics.
Now, before we get into the review proper, I’ve got to put a question out there. Look at the sample strip I posted below. Does this look familiar to you? Like, maybe we’ve seen this webcomic before? There’s two gamers… a couch… even the hair looks sorta familiar….
It looks a lot like…
It looks A LOT like …..
Oh, right. Oglaf. This comic looks like Oglaf.
Yessirree, folks, if video game humor is what you’re looking for, you might find it in Smashing Avatar. There’s humor about playing games (which, thanks to Kinect and Wii and that ball-thing PS3 has, offers more visual options than two guys sitting on a couch these days). There’s parodies about games like the one goofing on the kuh-razy game mechanics that lets Link sleep in stranger’s houses. You know the drill.
But, you know, life isn’t all about games. We get some stuff about life, relationships, and man talk… well, geeky man talk. But strip away some of the geekiness, and it’s more or less a Tim Allen routine. Heh, men… they never ask for directions, do they? Augh, augh, augh, augh!
To their credit, Huertas and Karell don’t exactly try to hide which comic inspired them. They mention no less than three times who their influences are. Smashing Avatar hews very close to the same template: similar art, similar jokes. Only, to their detriment, the jokes just aren’t as good.
That comic where the brown-haired fella seethes in rage how the 3DS is adding peripherals. He goes on to whine about how adding the feature is like adding a cupholder and a pirate flag and an “external external thumbstick.” It’s the closest the comic comes to featuring someone in the throes of utter anger. And yet, the expression and the punchline just feels so … neutered. Part of it is the lack of facial expressions and body language. Panel two shows the character slamming his hand against his fist, indicating how upset he is, and yet he’s so blank that he could be complaining about anything. Maybe someone stole his bagged lunch? Or maybe he lost all his money in the stock market? The last panel, too, is rather predictable. Want to know how many webcomics I’ve read where the punchline is a wacky, exaggerated over-the-top example at the end? Too many.
Compare that with a recent Penny Arcade where Gabe expresses his distress over enjoying Downton Abbey. Gabe goes through a range of crazy, fantastically exaggerated expressions before coming the conclusion that liking manor house intrigues will lead him to embracing political causes like Darfur. It’s a punchline that feels both natural and fresh at the same time.
Now, Smashing Avatar isn’t the only webcomic influenced by Penny Arcade. There are a lot that I like: Fanboys, GG Guys, and Virtual Shackles, for example. While starting off with a similar template (geek life, two protagonists, vidya gaems, yadda yadda yadda), each branched off in a different route and forged their own unique sensibilities in artistic style and humor. While Smashing Avatar is not terrible, per se, it’s so similar to its inspiration that you can’t help but make comparisons. Sadly, it comes off an inferior, Chinese-knockoff. Reading Smashing Avatar, all I could think was, “Man, why am I reading this and not Penny Arcade?”
And I’m not even that huge a fan of Penny Arcade.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).