Creator/s: Philip Howell
Schedule: About four strips a week
Note: This is the second Zelda fancomic reviewed on this site. If you're interested in the Zelda series, you should check out the review of Legend of Zelda: The Edge and the Light, which can be read here.
Website: I don't mind people making fancomics, but if they're going to use a company's characters and copy the company's artwork, then they should at least have the common sense to give the company some amount of credit. Instead, the creator copies the title screen of A Link to the Past, changes the words in the title, and puts "© 2013 By: Philip Howell" underneath the copied image. Meanwhile, Nintendo isn't credited anywhere on the site.
It gets worse, though. According to the creator, he needs money to buy a Nintendo 3DS XL and the new Zelda game, so he made a few unlicensed Zelda T-shirts and is trying to sell them online. Got that? He's basically trying to steal from Nintendo so he can use the money to buy Nintendo products. And if you look at the shop, right below the T-shirts is a section titled "Intellectual Property" that says the following: "In the Terms of Service, Spreadshirt prohibits shop owners from setting up or putting into circulation any merchandising articles that infringe the original author, brand or copyrights of a third party." I don't think the creator has any excuse for not realizing that what he's doing is inappropriate.
Writing: So, who do you think is the best video game character of all time? GameFAQs began attempting to answer that question in 2002 with its first annual Character Battle (or at least have some harmless fun trying). In the final round, Link beat Mario by about 25,000 votes. But, what is it, exactly, about these Nintendo superstars that makes them so popular? Their personalities can't be the reason, as Link doesn't have any dialogue, and Mario doesn't say anything more complex than, "It's-a me, Mario!" Plot-wise, their games aren't anything special, with Mario beating up bad guys to rescue the princess, and Link... beating up bad guys to rescue the princess. It's no secret, though, that the story isn't meant to be a big deal in their games.
It's clear that what made the Legend of Zelda and Mario series have hit after hit for years is their excellent gameplay, and it seems that these non-characters benefit from the enjoyment players get from the games they love. Seeing a picture of Link, for example, reminds players of the positive experiences they've had playing the Zelda games, and they come to associate Link with positive feelings. It helps, too, that a lot of players got their hands on their first Zelda game when they were very young, meaning that Link also carries an association with the innocent, happier, and more carefree times of a player's childhood. In this way, Link has become more of a symbol than a fictional person with a background and personality.
Another way of looking at it, though, is that the lack of personality actually makes the characters more likable. Since Link and Mario are essentially blank slates, it makes it easy for players to imagine that it's the player who's shooting arrows or fireballs. Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of both Link and Mario, explained this phenomenon at E3 a few years ago, saying that he "wants the player in a Zelda game to actually feel as if they were going on the adventure themselves, rather than just controlling a character down a path. [...] One would expect you to better remember the experience as your own, rather than one of just guiding Link." In addition, controlling a player-avatar lets players get right to the action without being interrupted by dialogue, which, back in Nintendo's earlier days, would've probably just been translated at the last minute by an unpaid intern anyways. But there's also a certain mysteriousness that surrounds a character players know practically nothing about. They're left to use their imagination to form their own idea of where the characters came from, how they act, what they do when they're not adventuring, and what happens with them and the princess after the credits roll. (Or they could just watch the Saturday morning cartoon version, I guess.)
A Link to the Webcomic, then, has free rein for the creator to elaborate on the Zelda series, but, instead, he makes the mistake of presenting Link as the same personality-of-a-rock non-character as he is in the games, except that here he actually talks... a lot. All the creator's doing is piggybacking off of the huge success of the series while contributing nothing of his own aside from some lame gags. As I explained earlier, players love the Zelda series for its gameplay, and this webcomic is basically just Zelda without the gameplay.
Most of the gags are too forgettable to be worth mentioning, but the comic reaches its low point when it makes a "Navi the fairy's annoying and useless" joke. This flaw was pretty obvious when Ocarina of Time came out in 1998, and The Powerpuff Girls already did a spoof of it in an episode that originally aired on Aug. 18, 2000. In other words, the creator's idea of cutting-edge Internet humor is ripping off a joke that a kids' TV show did more than a decade ago.
Art: On the bright side, it isn't a sprite comic. However, since the creator copy-pastes the characters in every panel, the result isn't much better than a sprite comic. Link stands in the same position in every strip, and while it's nice that his outfits change, it seems more like the creator's dressing a mannequin than illustrating a comic. Any changes to the template seem to be a struggle, as the facial expressions are overly simplistic and the proportions of Link's arms are inconsistent. Some of the monsters look decent, but they're boring because all they ever do is stand still.
Backgrounds are another problem with the artwork. In this strip, for example, not only is the background just a dark void for some reason, but the height of the horizon line changes, and it looks like Link's either walking up a wall or is gigantic. Here, not only is the background boring, but the water's so high above the horizon line that it looks like a huge tidal wave's coming towards Link. And here, the page is oddly two-dimensional, as some objects are shaded while others aren't, the leaves and Link are both drawn with the same line thickness, and, again, the perspective makes it look like Link is either huge or is walking down a hill.
Finally, the lettering can sometimes be confusing. See this page, for instance. In the first panel, Link, on the left, says, "Yessss?" and Zelda, on the right, says, "Hey, Link?" Reading left-to-right, it looks like Link is the one speaking first, which doesn't make sense since he's responding to Zelda. And here, Link's on the left again, saying a response to Fledge even though Link's speech bubble's left of Fledge's. Link always appears on the left side of the strips, and a simple solution would be to flip him and put him on the right side for a change.
Overall: A Link to the Webcomic would be a run-of-the-mill humorless humor comic, but its creator's dopey idea to try to sell merch with copied artwork and characters earns it its one-donut rating. Given Zelda's 25-year history, it seems like there's a lot of material there to elaborate on or make fun of, but, unfortunately, the creator puts as little effort and imagination into his project as possible.