URL: www.wonderdrome.com
Creator/s: Nick Grant
Run: 9/11-current
Schedule: M/Th
Section/s: Pp. 50-72

I've been intending to do longer reviews, but I don't have a lot to write about this webcomic. Oh well.

Website: This basic website seems to be clumsily plugged into a template, leaving somewhat of a jumbled mess that the creator doesn't seem capable of or interested in fixing. Immediately noticeable is that the navigation buttons wrap in a disorderly way, as if the layout's divisions are smaller than they need to be. The "Extras" page has buttons awkwardly strewn around the layout, filling the page with images of black squares for no apparent reason. And the layout of the "Pamphlets" page quickly starts to break down once a reader changes the formatting by clicking on the links. It's unclear to me why the creator tolerates these numerous defects when a simple layout like this could be coded in basic HTML.

I appreciate that the site has some bonus content, although I don't consider any of it to be interesting or appealing. The site's attempts at political humor, for instance, aren't funny or clever, and the character biographies are nonsensical ramblings.

Lastly, the fuchsia-colored links are an eyesore.

Writing: This is a webcomic that's weird for the sake of being weird. While it's commendable that the creator decided to take an unorthodox approach, Wonderdrome seems terminally stuck in the conceptual stage, rapidly firing bizarre scenes at the reader while leaving the actual execution of those scenes as an afterthought. This is an ineffective method of writing, as execution's far more important than concept, and I expect potential readers will be disappointed that Wonderdrome doesn't offer more substantial content. I think it'd be accurate to describe the comic as basically just a collection of strange drawings, actually, with the narrative elements being haphazardly tacked on.

Art: Every panel looks rushed and childish to me, which is a major downfall for Wonderdrome since it places so much emphasis on its strange illustrations. The principal shame here, though, is that I get the impression the creator's capable of doing a much better job with the artwork, and either doesn't care enough to actually invest a significant amount of time and effort into the project, or he intends for the low-quality drawings to make the comic seem even more bizarre and creative. I'm confident, though, that Wonderdrome would be much more appealing if it had competent artwork. It's true that some popular webcomics, like Cyanide & Happiness and White Ninja, can more or less get away with having childish artwork, but that's because, unlike Wonderdrome, they're writing-centric -- and most writing-centric webcomics get held back by their lousy artwork anyways.

Fortunately, though, Wonderdrome's artwork does have an upside, and it's that the comic's large illustrations and vertical layouts bring the pacing to a crawl, delivering an unusual comic reading experience similar to browsing through a slideshow gallery. Wonderdrome's erratic narrative style and bizarre visuals combine to make this experience particularly engaging, since there's never a clear indication of what will occur next, and I was constantly apprehensive reading the comic, anticipating every next panel to be a raging dickmonster, or some other obscenity. (Despite my concern, all of the drawings in the pages I read ended up being fairly tame.) I consider this use of infinite canvas to be Wonderdrome's most notable aspect, although there's certainly more potential here that the creator hasn't fully utilized yet.

Overall: There's an extra element of uneasiness about criticizing unusual webcomics, as it feels like it carries an implication, to an extent, of quashing creativity, and stubbornly rejecting innovation and individuality. But the flip side of this is that avant-garde creators are susceptible to adopting an ideology of victimhood that can get in the way of improvement. Wonderdome demonstrates a sense of passion and creativity, but the art and writing are both extremely lackluster, and I don't see any indication that this webcomic will gain a significant following in its current form.


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