Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wapsi Square

The main problem with Wapsi Square is the writer's uncertainty in delineating the nature and limits of the universe, the characters' personalities and the internal logic of the work as a whole. It's a fairly common problem in webcomics, given their habitually haphazard beginnings. Very few are thought out beforehand as finite works. Many presumably simply run out of ideas because they outlast their estimated popularity.
This issue is compounded by the desperation for outlandish situations. I commented in an earlier post that the internet is littered with webcomics about high school and college students travelling to alternate dimensions and fighting vampires and dragons for no apparent reason. Let's not even get into the "elves with swords" routine. The Wapsi girls have a tendency to acquire overblown, dramatic powers and histories which serve no real purpose in the long run.

Very few comics which fall into the pattern of endless cast expansion, soap-opera-like twists and reiteration of the background of their imaginary worlds ever manage to pull together into something coherent and unfortunately Wapsi Square seems to be continually sliding downwards.

I suppose i should start with the goods before i get into the bads. It's nice to see the artist fine-tuning his particular style, making what could be nothing more than blocky caricatures into expressive, forceful personalities. The story, such as it is, also held some interest for a while because it deals with some of the less familiar conspiracy theories, concerning Atlantis, cyclical human history or Mayan calendars (OK, that last one has become all too familiar the past few years but he's not to blame.) Novelty carries with it the caveat of obscurity however, and many times the dialogue seems to jump, to make nonsensical leaps based (i would guess) on assumptions about how demonic possession 'works' according to a particular culture or the nature of a cyclical timeframe. Another central issue is the almost entirely female cast. Male characters make only cursory appearances, almost as extensions of a female's internal monologue. Whether it's pandering to the audience by drawing nothing but curvaceous characters or outright slavishness to women's control of males' instinct, this tendency is in itself distastefully sexist.

The bigger issues though are still the ballooning cast of (yes, all female) characters and the seemingly random redefining of each one on a whim. The comic started with jokes about bra sizes, drinking in bars and sexual relationships, a fairly predictable melange of twenty-somethings' concerns. At an early point, the main character freed the Aztec god of alcohol from a statue, but he's male so he was largely abandoned after he introduced a trio of bimbos which turned out to be an all-powerful trinity that just want to live normal human lives, then sphinxes got involved and one of the characters discovers she was an eighty-thousand-year old sphinx all along and a couple of them discovered they're haunted by demons with their own personalities but that's ok because we can redefine the central story to revolve around demons even if it was about the sun stone to begin with and if by this point you think this is sounding like "Days of Our Lives" with more magic you ain't seen nothin' yet.

The author, though admittedly creative,  seems to suffer from "wouldn't it be cool if" syndrome and a sad tendency to try to make each episode, each new character quirk as world-shaking as possible. He seems to realize this to some extent and was clear-headed enough to downplay the end of the first big adventure (in which the heroines save the world and possibly a good portion of the Milky Way as well) to prevent himself from needing to create more sharks to jump... but then he started shark-fishing anyway.

Still, in another year maybe i'll take another look at the comic, for the sake of the good old stories of the creepy girl at the office (who turns out to be just creepy, not supernatural - currently being retconned into something supernatural i'm afraid) or pages like this one of the main character being attacked by the demonic personification of her self-doubt. Wapsi Square's problems tend to look like a condensed version of those of print comic books. How many times has Batman's personality been re-iterated and how many origins does Spider-Man have nowadays?

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