Nerd Rage

Comic: Nerd Rage
Creator: Andy Kluthe
Genre: Gaming, Humor, Slice of Life
Schedule: Fridays
Rating: 2.5

Pop culture is a common influence in entertainment these days. Some of the most popular webcomics focus on subjects like video games, comics, and internet memes almost exclusively, targeting a general crowd of teens and young adults who identify themselves as nerds and geeks. This is hardly surprising; many people who read webcomics fall into that age group and are always exposed to social media forever milling through the latest crazes. It's to be expected that plenty of the writers come from that demographic and are simply working off what they know, as is the case in Nerd Rage. However, there are inherent problems with rooting a comic's substance so heavily in fads, limiting the relevance and overall shelf life of the work.

Predictably, the website for Nerd Rage has a lot of links to social media sites. It also has a lot of ads and a donate button that has several pay options. This kind of thing can come across as tacky, but to the author's credit, the button is appropriately small and unobtrusive. The layout draws the bulk of the attention to the art rather than the advertisements. In addition, the navigation is easy and the site looks nice, though the link to the cast page is broken, a somewhat sloppy mistake. The highlight of the page, not including the comic itself, is the logo, which features the two main characters talking. The content of their word bubbles and the words on one guy's shirt changes every time a new page is loaded, an amusing touch despite the trifling pessimism in the dialog.

As the title suggests, Nerd Rage is mostly about a nerd who gets angry a lot. It's a premise simple to a fault, as just looking at the logo gives visitors pretty much everything the comic has to offer right away. Quite a few pages are about one character, Elliott, complaining vehemently about something pop culture-related as his friend Jim adds his own thoughts to the matter. It's formulaic and predictable, working off a fairly weak comedy template; the character dislikes something, he complains about it, and Jim offers a counterpoint. Other gags consist of making fun of pop culture though exaggeration. These jokes are usually a little funnier, but since the comic focuses on such transient subject matter, it falls flat as the fads in reference begin to lose relevance over time. Herein lies the trouble with webcomics and all storytelling that over-relies on current fads--the work only has as much staying power as the material, which is usually very little.

Even though pop culture jokes don't stay fresh long, there are ways around this problem. Three common remedies are to supplement the humor with other subjects, provide a cast of memorable characters to deliver the jokes, and keeping the tone firmly tongue-in-cheek. Those things are not present here. The jokes rarely stray to other topics and the cast is flat and unmemorable. Jim and Elliott have a straight man/funny man dynamic, but the funny man, Elliott, is too judgmentalchildish, and petty to be likable. Jim is far mellower, but his role is defined by whatever Elliott is doing or reacting to, which keeps him from being fully fleshed out. The supporting characters aren't any better, being mostly defined by one-dimensional stereotypes. All of this might be okay if the comic was a satire of pretentious, overly-picky nerd archetypes, but it's unclear how seriously this is all meant to be taken. Some pages poke fun at this behavior, but others almost try to justify it. Is the comic venting about pop culture, or is it mocking people who do? The inconsistent focus makes it hard to tell for sure.

Probably the best feature is the art. There are times when the heads look a bit too small for the body and some parts look rushed, especially hands, but the poses are always interesting and composition is good. One thing the artist does well is designing unattractive people. Few characters are good-looking, but they are distinct and many of the expressions complement the lack of glamour. The art style is cartoony, though not cute, and holds a consistent quality throughout. There's a running gag where the words on Jim's shirt always changes like it does in the logo, but sometimes it's impossible to read because he's too far away or the words are obscured. Also amusing are the ridiculous, over-the-top facial expressions, which often carry an otherwise boring page. This isn't enough to make the humor pan out altogether, but it does make things a bit more entertaining in an otherwise uninspired work.

There is a large library of gaming and nerd culture webcomics out there. With all that competition, it's very hard to be distinct and despite the art being reasonably good, Nerd Rage doesn't stand out. Readers who love comics that focus on these kinds of topics will find more of the same here, but for anybody wanting something new, this just isn't the place to go.

No comments :

Post a Comment