Creator/s: "blankd"
Run: 6/10-current
Schedule: Once or twice a week
Section/s: Ch. 4, pp. 58-77

I've been meaning to read DeSTRESS at some point anyways, so when the creator posted today asking for a review, now seemed as good a time as any.

Website: DeSTRESS has an abundance of bonus content, including extra artwork and comics, a detailed character page, voting incentives, and world and language information. I'd say it's pretty exemplary in terms of bonus content in webcomics.

It'd be nice if the site had a more interesting layout. It quickly gets underwhelming seeing the same exact boring layout and color scheme in almost every Smack Jeeves comic I read.

Interestingly, the creator recently redid the entire first chapter of DeSTRESS. I've read arguments for and against redoing old chapters, but regardless, I'm impressed the creator was able to do it without her update schedule getting affected too much.

Writing: I'll start by noting that despite my sampling being a mere 20 pages, I had no problem getting the gist of what was going on, which is a credit to writing that does seem a little convoluted at first. The subjects of Martae, the Blue Archive, the Chiranobles, summoning, and other things are still very vague to me, but this didn't diminish my sense of enjoyment from the reading; actually, it's more of the opposite, since now I'm intrigued enough to consider reading past and future material for more information.

The main feature of the writing I noticed, which is a positive one, is the creator's ability to balance the expository and dramatic elements of the narrative. I've read several webcomics lately where the creator loads up on plot-heavy dialogue but forgets to make the comic entertaining and visually interesting, but that's not a problem in DeSTRESS. There are several violent scenes in the section I read, but the creator keeps them simple and brief, returning to progressing the plot and avoiding letting the comic get overdramatic.

Another strength is the pacing, in which the creator mixes it up between dialogue-heavy and dialogue-light pages. Some pages have no dialogue at all. This dynamic structure forces the reader to slow down and refocus, enhancing the reader's keenness and their level of enjoyment.

As for the general content, having Amvisile attack the person advocating use of force is an amusing and ironic twist. I appreciate the mature and realistic wrap-up to the episode, too, which correctly assigns blame to both parties; this is an example of what I noted above about the comic avoiding getting overdramatic. And the bits at the end of the chapter with the appearance of the red skeleton and the mysterious Cervi are certainly strong cliffhangers that would keep a reader looking forward to the next chapter.

Lastly, the dialogue in this comic's very good, and I was able to get a sense of the distinct personality of each character, even just from reading this one page.

Art: The art's quite good as well, with the creator clearly having put a notable amount of effort into practicing anatomy. I'm particularly pleased to see the characters rendered so carefully -- in this page, for instance, I can clearly make out Amvisile's deltoid, bicep, and tricep muscles. I think all artists should have a solid grasp of muscle and bone structure, even if they're just drawing cartoonish figures. The creator also uses a wide variety of poses and perspectives, and I didn't notice any particular fault with the human characters. Amvisile's monster could've been portrayed better, but the creator's already noted this mistake in her comments.

The character designs are also strong, and I had no problem telling the characters apart from one another. As clearly shown on this page, each character has a distinct outfit, facial structure, and hair style. And the monster designs are really cool -- they remind me of the creepy Phyrexians from Magic: the Gathering.

If any area could use work, it'd be the backgrounds. They're always lightly colored and sort of sketchy, as if the creator's deliberately trying to draw attention away from them. It's a reasonable time-saving technique, but I never felt entirely satisfied with the interior and exterior scenes.

Lastly, aside from white, gray, and black, the only colors DeSTRESS uses are dark red for blood and sound effects, and dark blue for magical energy. I think this approach is well-executed, with the color representing an abrasive, destabilizing effect upon the grayscale world.

Overall: DeSTRESS is a manifestation of discipline, diligence, and a precise understanding of how comics work as a medium. I was prepared to not hold back in my review since the creator's a harsh reviewer herself, but I really couldn't find much I didn't like in this webcomic. The creator has every right to be proud of her webcomic, and if any recipients of her reviews feel compelled to challenge her integrity (as I've already seen happen on several occasions), I'll back her up by saying that she definitely has a good idea of what she's writing about.


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