Three Panel Soul

Creator/s: Matthew Boyd, Ian McConville
Run: 5/06-current
Schedule: Once or twice a week
Section/s: November 2012 to February 2013

Website: It's an unremarkable ComicPress site, which is disappointing for a high-profile webcomic like this. The most notable element's the messy border between the main section and the black background, but it isn't very noticeable.

As far as bonus content goes, all the webcomic has is a store that sells prints, books, and T-shirts. The home page has a link to a "News" section, but that page has only been updated once since 2007. There's also a button marked "Whirled," and it lets you control a ghost that moves around various rooms. It seems like "Whirled" lets you play games or something, but it wasn't immediately obvious what it has to do with the webcomic.

Lastly, the webcomic got some attention in 2007 when the police showed up at the writer's residence for "making a terroristic threat" in one of the strips. You can read the creators' side of the story here.

Writing: It's weird; usually, webcomic reviews focus entirely on the writing, with maybe a sentence about the artwork casually thrown in at the end, but that's not the case with Three Panel Soul. In this review, the substance pertains to "the look of the strips"; here, it's about "the unique art style" and how "Ian [the artist] uses his creativity"; and here, the "Strengths" and "Weaknesses" sections only describe the artwork, and the review concludes with "Ian is an artist who’s definitely worthy of your attention." So, what's going on?

Basically, Three Panel Soul's writing should be completely ignored, because it adds nothing to the webcomic aside from providing context for the illustrations. None of it's funny, interesting, or clever, making it more of a distraction than anything. However, those who choose to read the dialogue anyways will find that the comic's mainly either about random stuff, or about a geek girl who wears fantasy clothing. Having a geek girl as the main character should appeal to geeky male readers in two ways, as it gives them someone to relate to while also presenting them with an imaginary girlfriend they can fantasize about. However, in this case, the character's exceptionally whiny and childish, and normal adult responsibilities like having a job are presented as being a soul-crushing burden because she'd rather be playing video games with her friends than working. As I said earlier, though, if you end up reading this comic, I recommend skipping the dialogue altogether, as it isn't necessary to enjoy the part of this comic's that actually appealing, which is the artwork.

Art: The creators' previous webcomic, Mac Hall, won a bunch of awards in the Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards, including "Outstanding Art" in 2003 and 2004, "Outstanding Layout" in 2003 and 2004, and "Outstanding Use of Color" in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Its total of nine awards is more than any other webcomic's gotten. Needless to say, Mac Hall had some spectacular artwork, and the artist's only gotten better in the seven years since it ended.

While the artist excels at all aspects of drawing and coloring comics, the best part of it's just how varied it is. The comic will jump from flashy fantasy artwork to noirish, slice-of-life stuff to cute chibis without warning, and it leaves readers never knowing what to expect next.

Overall: It's a shame that Three Panel Soul has such lackluster writing, as it's one of the best-looking webcomics around. I'd almost recommend it just as a gallery of excellent comic illustrations, but I can't get over how pervasively mediocre the overall presentation is. When the artist gets a new writer or starts writing the webcomic himself, I'll be eager to give it another look. Until then, there are plenty of more interesting webcomics worth checking out.


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