...So after the power outage, my house reverted into a tribalist confederacy and it was up to me to reunite the kingdoms that spawned throughout the house. I conquered the house room by room until I faced off against King Dad in the living room, and with his defeat I became the new king and we all watched Netflix on my Android for--Oh! Hi! Didn't see you there. I was just describing my week long debacle in the aftermath of a Fimbulwinter-esque storm that crushed the New England area like a gnat under a giant boot made of ice.
What's that? You want to hear more about this comic called Loserville: And Then You Might Explode? Well you're in luck, because I happen to have read it in between my conquests and I have to say, it's all right. Don't worry, I'll explain.
Loserville is a webcomic written and illustrated by Alex J. Cox and published by SLG Publishing, and it's all about a (relatively) young couple trapped in the mundane machinery of their day to day lives. But this isn't like any of the normal planets you and I might occupy, oh no. There's talking animals, time portals, a mascot that haunts your diabetic comas, and a neurological disease that causes you to spontaneously combust.
Jenna, the wife, works at a much better-paying job than Deke, the husband, but she's also a hypochondriac with anger issues. Deke works for a customer service firm and wants nothing more in life than to write a great novel and "do it" as often as possible. In this way the characters could initially be seen as cliche stereotypes (the sex crazed male and the hysterical female) but things start to get interesting and more fleshed-out when Jenna contracts Multiple Sploderosis, which guarantees she will probably die with a bang and minimal whispering.
She also eats enough ice cream to fall into a diabetic coma and meets this guy, who changes her universe:
The story and writing, I think, are two different levels of quality. Nine times out of ten the writing doesn't feel hamfisted and flows nicely, so I give Cox credit for that, but while the story is easy to follow and lacks plot holes, I feel like it's got a dose of ADHD in there as well; there's kind of a lot happening and it tends to switch back and forth between characters pretty quickly. All the yelling kind of makes me feel a bit overstimulated, like he's putting too much effort into letting you know this is a comedy piece. It could be a side effect of the book format; this is normally a webcomic, so seeing the strips side by side with no breaks sometimes makes the action feel squished together.
Jenna and Deke are the stars, so their characters get a good polish while secondary characters are typically there to either advance the story or become objects of our hatred, like Trent or Doctor Soandso, who is kind of a snake oil salesman riding the Multiple Sploderosis wave to fiscal prosperity.
I personally like the protagonists since they're just normal people trying to deal with all the nasty things life throws at them. Can you say you've never wanted to be able to flip out with positive repercussions like Jenna can?
The jokes are kind of hit or miss. He's got some good material in here but other jokes fall flat; yeah, we get that Jenna can scream loudly, you don't need to show me an alien armada wondering about a string of A's sailing past their windows. Still, I went "heh" more often than not so in my book he's got a decent knack for jokes.
Another thing he does is use text boxes to provide voiceover. Sometimes it works, other times it's redundant or awkward, but I like it. I think he can use it for some good jokes, Arrested Development style, if he works at it.
When I got this comic from my editor it came with a press sheet explaining the comic in a blurb, describing it as "a lot like Calvin and Hobbes, except now Hobbes is a grown-up and wants to do something else." I don't know if I'd characterize it as that. Hobbes was the reasonable foil to Calvin's irrationality and also a person Calvin bounced ideas off of about life, the universe and everything. His defining characteristics were his self-awareness, maturity, appetite for fish and occasional bloodlust. Also that he was a stuffed tiger. If the release screwed up and meant Calvin, well, I wouldn't compare Deke to Calvin. I think the best comparison is in that Calvin and Deke both live in universes in which weird things are normal and in which existentialism is a main theme of the story.
The art reminds me very much of a newspaper comic strip, which helps give it its comedic tone and also allows Cox to mess around with his characters without needing to worry too much about anatomy. Realism doesn't really work for this kind of strip. When he really wants to draw someone detestable he amps up the detail and makes them as globular and troll-like as possible, and he can also do a wide variety of poses and expressions well. I think his biggest weakness is action scenes, because poses get pretty awkward when he's trying to put characters in motion. Other than that, what I can say about the art overall is that it works in the way he intends it to work.
If there is anything to say about this comic, then, it's that it feels like a newspaper comic that never went through editors. That's a good thing; newspaper comics haven't been funny for decades, dominated by a select few artists and the content censors. While I think it tries a little too hard to be goofy, I think this guy knows what he's doing. He just needs to refine his approach, and I think he'll go from "all right" to "great". Of course, this is only Volume 1, so we'll see. I am interested to see where this goes.
TL;DR While somewhat overstimulating and at times awkward, this comic can be pretty amusing. It could use some improvement, but it's not bad and was overall enjoyable to read.
Loserville: And Then You Might Explode is a collection of the webcomic written and illustrated by Alex J. Cox and published by SLG Publishing. You can buy it from his site or support Spandexless and buy it from our webstore.