Author: Joe Kleinman
Genre: Humor, Romantic, Sci-fi, Fantasy Superhero
I, and others on the site, have covered superhero webcomics in the past. The consensus seems to be that the genre is all-encompassing in Western publishing that any comics posted on the web would have to either surpass their published counterparts in quality (which is difficult to do, since they can afford to hire professional artists and writers to put out 20-30 pages a month), or offer a different take on the genre. Wootlabs attempts to go with the latter option by adding more comedy and romance to the mix, which works at using similar subject matter but still distancing itself from Marvel/DC fare. The comic is still flawed however, with art that cuts corners and characterization spread thin by a large cast of characters.
Square Woot is an mad scientist/supervillain. She has a team of robots and genetically engineered creatures she considers her family who help her aid in her crimes including the rebellious reptile humanoid Wendy, the penguin Pengi who can shoot ice breath, the more serious robot Rusty, and the egotistical and violent Catbot 9000. Her main adversary is the giantess Riot Girl. Woot meets a superhero named APM (Actions Per Minute) trying to take down Riot Girl herself and Woot and her family show her up and beat Riot Girl themselves because Woot considers Riot Girl her enemy to beat. Woot and APM fall in love and enter a relationship, and APM convinces Woot to turn good.
The crossover from evil to good raises the ire of fellow villains as well as Riot Girl, who caused so much collateral damage in her fights with Woot that the only reason people considered Riot Girl a hero was because Woot was a villain. Most of the later story arcs focus on villains getting back at Woot because she's now a threat. Other arcs focus on specific characters, including villains like the necromancer/mortal duo Judamaru and Booth.
The comic generally works when the focus is on the Woot family and APM. The characters have relatively consistent personalities, and the comic works well when we see these personalities clash, such as an arc in which Wendy can't cope with being a hero because she's been raised to be a villain and feels Woot's betrayed her for going soft. Not to mention that the scene is reminiscent of a teenager to a mother, and Wendy's defensiveness over Rusty as having an actual family dynamic rather than one of a villain/minion relationship. The family dynamic, which includes a mixture of respect, frustration, and ragging on each other works to the comic's favor, as it characterizes Woot as being capable of kindness rather than being driven solely by power or wealth as the villain/minion relationship would imply, so her decision to become good is far more believable.
Of all the relationships in the comic (the other two being Judamaru/Booth and superhero duo Alexia/Dorothy) Woot/APM is the one that is the most fleshed out, because the two have shared interests and they have clashed over conflicting values, so it's not just sunshine and cutesy-poo pet names.
But at the same time, Woot is portrayed neutrally and has her own flaws. She was bullied in high school by a previously normal-sized Riot Girl, which she uses to justify her supervillainy, and ultimately becomes responsible for making Riot Girl giant in the first place, losing her arm, and feuding with Riot Girl at the cost of destroying large chunks of the city and her own house. Likewise with Riot Girl, while her past bullying isn't justifiable, her current actions are somewhat sympathetic because of the alienation of being giant-sized and her demands are simply to be changed back to normal. Ultimately, neither are shown to be in the right as they both get rightly chewed out for being so short-sighted.
There's quite a bit of depth in the characters and the author has a good idea of what he wants his characters to be, evidenced more by a cast page that's actually useful (albeit somewhat outdated, the two characters in silhouette have already been introduced and others have been introduced since) because the character descriptions actually matching how they're portrayed in the comic. However, the larger cast means that a lot of characters don't get the same level of characterization as the Woot family, reducing them to one-note characters who aren't that interesting. Lovagon, the leader of the Shining Evil, is a generic evil villain/executive, Wizard Ant and Christina are unappreciated members of the organization (Wizard Ant particularly being the butt of everyone's jokes as the lamest supervillain), and Alexia and Dorothy as recent characters have little to no distiguishing personality at all. The relationships of these characters don't fare any better, as the only reason Judamaru likes Booth is because he's nice. And Alexia and Dorothy as a couple feel more like a surface level copy of Woot and APM with less characterization. Maybe in future chapters, we'll see more of them and they'll get fleshed out, but as of now the large cast is more to move the plot forward than anything.
The comic is appears to be sketched, inked, and colored completely digitally. The characters are stylized and the colors are vibrant, which lends itself well to the more comedic portions of the storyline . And in some ways, the comic introduces some interesting ideas in regard to the color and character design. Woot and her family are drawn completely in tones of blues and greys, giving some cohesion to an otherwise random assortment of characters. Woot later gives APM a new suit, with a similar color scheme, which indicates that she is becoming a closer member of the family. This is later integrated into the storyline as APM's mother is a hippie who believes people have colored auras, saying that APM's red aura (which corresponds to her hair) is destined to be with someone with blue aura (which it's pretty clear that Woot's going to have). Again, this is one of those things that only exists among the central cast, and I wish some of these ideas were extended more to the rest of the cast.
As for the rest of the art, it's shown some improvements, but still has some things that could be better. In the past, hands were drawn like mittens and fingers would only appear when necessary, though the recent strips have stopped doing this. The comic has some consistent issues though, such as the size relations between the main cast and Riot Girl, who is listed on the cast page as being 200ft tall. When other characters are drawn beside her, they are at sizes that would imply that she's either shorter than listed or they're 10-20 feet tall. Likewise, when the characters are shrunk to the size of ants, they are drawn bigger than they should be. Some of this could be chalked up to character visibility, but there are probably other ways of showing the characters without affecting the sense of scale. Finally, there is a problem with side profiles, where the nose just runs together with the mouth and chin in one solid line, better known as “snoutface.” It's ugly, lazy, and inconsistent with the fact that the characters are drawn with square or rounded noses in frontal profiles, but are given pointy noses in side profile. Even for a stylized comic, there's no excuse for it.
Wootlabs is a decent webcomic that avoids direct comparisons to the printed superhero comic genre by focusing more on humor and romance, with an artstyle to match. But outside of the main cast, there's a larger cast that receives occasional spotlights, but nothing to do with it except moving the plot forward, and the relationships are the same in this regard. The art has some interesting use of color and character design, though again this can't be said for the rest of the cast. And while it has shown some signs of improvement, there are still some problems that can be addressed to make the work better overall.