Creator/s: Matt Summers, A. Chow
Schedule: On hiatus
Update: I've been informed that this webcomic was originally written several years ago. To view the creators' more current work, you can check out their other webcomic, Let the Hunt Begin!, which can be read here. Also, note that Crux is a spin-off of Tales of Pylea, which currently updates and can be read here.
Website: It's about as plain as could be, although the site at least has a custom background and a fantasy-style font for its navigation buttons. One thing in particular I would've liked to see is a way to skip ahead to certain parts of the story, which is a standard feature of practically every webcomic. Instead, Crux only offers a basic First, Previous, Next, and Last setup.
The neatest part of the site's not actually on the site. I did a Google search for the comic's title, and I found out that there's a Flash game where players have to try to quickly spot the differences between two versions of the artwork. I imagine that this game has encouraged at least a few people to check out the webcomic it's based on.
Writing: One of the great things about webcomics in comparison to the mainstream print industry is that creators can publish their wildest ideas without any resistance. There aren't any meddling editors or business executives around to shoot down concepts or force creators to conform. On the Web, all it takes to be a publisher is to make a comic and upload it. This dynamic doesn't benefit a webcomic like Crux, though, because I don't think it'd have any problem pleasing a group of publishing executives. However, this isn't necessarily a desirable trait.
From the comic's first action scene featuring its spunky young protagonist to the second action scene that's currently interrupted by a hiatus, nothing in the story stands out as being particularly creative or noteworthy. We meet some thugs, a feisty elven chick, and an old trickster, and it all feels very safe and cookie-cutter to me. Characters fire off a series of clever, cocky lines like, I guess, they're supposed to in a fantasy story. Crux isn't a webcomic that anyone would dislike, but at the same time, it fails to be fun and exciting. It's the suit-and-tie version of a webcomic -- well-groomed, reasonable, and respectable, but not someone you'd really want to hang out with.
Most importantly, though, Crux lacks the energy of a passionate personal project. The characters, setting, and story don't seem special to me, and I don't feel like this is a comic I'm particularly supposed to care about. The effective plot structure, careful timing, and smooth dialogue reflect the creator's wealth of skill and experience when it comes to writing comics, but I'd rather read the work of someone half as capable who's enthusiastic about a story that they feel is uniquely theirs. This comic's well-written, but I was bored with it by the time I finished the first chapter.
The story's formality starts showing through in the first scene. The apparent goals here are to introduce the hero and make him likable, introduce the villains and make them dastardly, and then introduce the elf chick and make her likable. The comic accomplishes these objectives, but it feels like the creator's just checking off boxes so he can move on to the next part of the story. An in medias res action scene like this should hook readers, but I wouldn't use any adjectives like "cool," "creative," "fun," "exciting," "awesome," or "different" to describe it. Instead, I'd use the words "functional" or "efficient."
Later, after the protagonist and old man smirk at each other and say clever lines, the protagonist and thug smirk at each other and say clever lines while fighting. All of the main characters are cocky, with the protagonist saying, during the fight scene, "If you want a dance, you should have said so in the first place. I didn't even have time to put on my best dress," while the thug rattles off bad-guy lines like, "End of the line, punk," "Sharky here is mine," and "You can't hide from me, punk!" The creator can check off "introduce the old man and make him likable" and "fight scene with the hero and the thug," but there's still no "wow" factor. Instead, it's just a well-paced, well-choreographed fight scene between a big guy with an axe and a smaller guy with a sword. It works, but it isn't going to make many people think, "This is such a great fantasy comic. I'm glad I found out about it, and I can't wait to see what happens next."
Art: Fortunately for the webcomic, this part makes up for the lackluster writing in a big way, as the creator has established herself as one of the best webcomic illustrators out there. Crux features page after page of gorgeous fantasy artwork, and while some of the pages in Chapter 2 are in unfinished stages, they're still a step up from almost anything you're going to find from other creators. Towards the end of the section, the creator switches from conventional coloring to digital painting, and I don't have a preference since both styles look excellent. Normally, if I wanted to see illustrations of such a high standard, I'd expect to have pay something for it.
Besides just offering solid anatomy, varied perspectives, and detailed backgrounds, though, the comic goes above and beyond with its creative page layouts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Figures and panels often overlap other parts of the artwork for a dynamic effect, and the creator tends to use panel shapes other than the standard squares and rectangles for the comic's more dramatic moments. And on this page, jagged and curvy panel borders are cleverly incorporated with the artwork to reflect the protagonist's disorientation and desperation.
Overall: Crux joins Daqueran, Gaia, Guild Adventure, Katran, and The Prime of Ambition on the list of fantasy webcomics I've reviewed that have attractive, creative, and exciting artwork but are held back by uninspired, underwhelming writing. And, like those other webcomics, it's possibly worth checking out just to see the kick-ass illustrations, but there's nothing noteworthy enough about the characters or story to hold readers' attention for long.