A Softer World

URL: www.asofterworld.com
Creator/s: Joey Comeau, Emily Horne
Run: 2/03-current
Schedule: ?
Section/s: Strips 981-1000

Website: It's a very simple layout, with the strips on a white background and the creators' comments at the bottom. Oddly, the page isn't centered in the browser window, even though this is a standard feature in just about every webcomic. The comments are also highly redundant, with all of them merely showing off stuff the creators have for sale. Because of this, readers see the cover of one of the creator's novels below almost every strip in the section.

The site's features are an About page, a store, a "random strip" button, and a page with links to the creators' other projects. It's a fairly average offering, but I expect a bit more from a webcomic that's been running as long as this one has.

Writing: A Softer World's meant for an audience who doesn't like sophisticated webcomics but nevertheless wants to feel sophisticated. Offering bite-sized bits of poetry, the comic provides an easy way for readers to obtain a certain desirable feeling: that they're smarter than readers who prefer more "pedestrian" comics. Being one of the most popular short-form webcomics, A Softer World has managed to attract a larger following than almost all of the webcomics that are actually sophisticated.

Brevity's the comic's biggest strength, but it's also its greatest weakness. With between three and six brief lines of text in each strip, the creators are able to mass-produce simple messages, providing frequent updates that are easily understood by the audience. The comics read like emo fortune cookies, iterating sensations of depression and loneliness without making an attempt to explore these emotions and make an intelligent contribution. The resulting text comes off as vain, as it relies on first- and second-person pronouns that highlight the significance of the person feeling these emotions rather than the significance of the emotions themselves. But this problem's largely caused by the comic's format, as the introduction of characters and their situation is always immediately followed by new characters and a new situation. A more elaborate format, such as having six or more panels, would allow for greater creativity and complexity, but that would require more effort from the creators and turn off readers who aren't looking for a deep reading experience. Some gag comics are able to successfully use the three-panel format, but they utilize cleverness, humor, or insight, none of which are present here. There are occasionally strips that are of a more upbeat nature, but their jokes are as lame as those found in the lamest gag comics.

Art: While the photography gives the webcomic a sense of novelty, it isn't handled in a creative way. Strips concerning loneliness show one person, while strips concerning relationships show two people. In a similarly obvious way, strips concerning attraction will have a photograph of an attractive woman, and a strip about the government shows a government building. The creators will occasionally offer an alternative by using blurry, claustrophobic imagery or generic backgrounds, but these images are unappealing and are neutral enough to be used in any context. The creators' signature tricks, though, are using grayscale photographs and a typewriter font, which make the strips look moody and artsy without adding any real substance. In addition, while the photography obviously requires less work than a drawn comic, the creators only use one photo per strip, often copy-pasting the image to create three panels out of it.

Overall: Despite the negativity of this review, I'm not in a position to call the creators' competence into question. That's because there's so little effort put into this webcomic that it offers no indication of what the creators are actually capable of. A Softer World is just an experiment gone wrong that ended up attracting a significant readership of people who think they're cool for reading fumetti instead of regular webcomics.


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