WCO.242: Never Satisfied
People, let me make a stark confession here. I have no idea what’s cool, especially with regards to webcomics. I am a total poser. I pretend like a cool person with some semblance of authority, but the reality is that I am a fraud. I crave the desire to have people look up to me, despite knowing zilch about how to make webcomics or how to judge them by their quality.
These characteristics place me on roughly the same level as Lucy of Never Satisfied. Apparently it’s got quite a few fans. One such is Comics Alliance, which awarded this title as the Best New Webcomic of 2015. “A delightful webcomic by Taylor Robin, with sharp artwork, artful storytelling, and a colorful, diverse cast of characters” raves the revered comic website. Shamefully, I’d never heard of this comic before, but, you know, I’ve already explained my poser credentials.
Never Satisfied is set in a world where magic exists, and everyone is horrible to each other. Seriously, all the adults seem like total assholes who only seem to take pleasure when they’re snooty at their kids and at each other. Co-existing with these upper class twits are a poverty class that subsists entirely on stolen food provided by passing charitable rogues.
The story focuses a school of spell-casters who have animal familiars. There seem to be some sort of rule that these critters have to largely be adorable. There’s not a lungfish in the bunch… though I do imagine if there was one, it would be super kawaii. But generally, though, they’re birds, cats, and cute little spiders. I think most of them talk, too, so it’s like everyone gets their ow personal Meowth.
You might expect these spell-casters to do exciting things like chase down villainous magic users or hunt cursed artifacts, but you’d be wrong. Instead, we watch them do absolutely mundane schoolroom activities, like chase after birds or get involved in a magical game of tag. Four chapters in, and the challenges are incredibly low stakes. The most tense moment of the comic arrives when one of the characters must shoo of a couple of suitors, which she manages to do very easily.
Taylor Robin is a fine artist. The world of Never Satisfied is dominated by a giant, moss covered sphinx. It’s quite a striking and distinct visual, and it’s something that made me latch on this webcomic immediately when I was quickly browsing for interesting titles. Further on, you run into other great examples of Robin’s art that use a brilliant color palette in its eye-catching depictions of foliage. There are arresting moments when the brightness washes out to show a change in mood, and it’s quite lovely.
Robin also does generally well slowing things down to show changing facial expressions. You can almost see emotions pass across a character’s face as they go from disappointment to resolve. I think it goes a little too overboard at times, though, where sometimes it drags.
Though I’ve never watched it, I’m going to guess that the style is inspired by Stephen Universe. I have no idea, really, since I’ve never watched it. I am, after all, a grown man. (One whose got Pokémon Go running in the background, granted… but still! A grown man.) My preteen goddaughters seem to be way into it, though, and it seems to have a bunch of color coded characters with power gems.
Ah, what an interesting cycle. As the earlier generation of webcomic creators influence Cartoon Network, so too are the current generation of webcomic creators influenced in turn. It’s a lovely sort of hidden continuation.
Now… I will contend that this comics is definitely not for me. For example, there’s an entire page where we see Lucy putting on make-up. My instinct is to go, “Why? What is this doing here? This is some unnecessary filler!” But… perhaps the target audience puts more weight in the activity of putting on make-up. Moody teens who want to look pretty sometimes. It’s something I admittedly do not often do unless I’m dressing up like a creepy clown and hanging out in front of the middle school.
Really, though, I just cannot get into the character of Lucy. She’s a bucket of character traits — she’s a badass! She’s carrying a secret pain! She’s secretly charitable! — that’s an overly familiar mix of what a rogue should look like. Is Lucy the sort of saintly rogue that she steals food for starving yet adorable street urchins? You bet. Let me tell you, even when I saw this in Disney’s Aladdin I thought it was a far too convenient shortcut.
At the same time, I can’t get a real fix on Lucy’s personality. Every moment in the comic is a reinforcement of one aspect of her personality, divorcing her from an inner life.
There’s a moment when Lucy has just won a check mark for bringing home a dead bird … something that leaves her classmates horrified. Then she gets invited to a party, which switches her to emo-mode. “She just felt bad for me,” she says, “and I don’t take pity invites.” And it comes out of nowhere.
Are people really like that in real life? Yes. But you have to have some finesse when writing a character that’s self-pitying without coming off as unlikable. Lucy does not quite pull it off. It’s trying to tell us that the hard-ass personality is a mask… but honestly? The carefree hard-ass is way more sympathetic.
There are other characters, to which the focus shifts to in Chapters 3 and 4, but aren’t quite as fleshed out in the the time it takes to painstakingly attempt to give them a personality. It cumulates into something unappetizing. You’re stuck in a world of magic users where they don’t seem to serve any purpose. They’re mean toward each other, they put the kids through educational purposes… but why? Are they doing anything to benefit the society they live in? That I could understand.
Instead, it’s this vaguely defined thing that seems to be around generally to give kids cute pets. That’s a fine set-up… but for a comic that’s been running two years and four chapters now, the lack of traction leaves me … never satisfied.