Creators: Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss (script), Parker Bennet (story), Eryk Donovan (pencils), and Jaymes Reed (letters)
Genre: Action/ Cyberpunk
Adaptations are a very common thing to see in entertainment media and webcomics are certainly no exception. There are many based on a popular movie or video game, either borrowing the general setting and characters, or simply putting the original story directly into comic form. Sequels are also fairly common, and this is where Super Mario Bros. 2 falls, being a sequel to the movie adaptation of the popular Super Mario Bros. game series. As adaptations go, this one in particular presents some interesting traits worth looking at.
A certain amount of background is helpful in appreciating this webcomic. First and foremost, it is explicitly written to be a follow-up to the movie’s cliffhanger ending, made by people from the movie’s original production team. A helpful forward on page three expounds on this a bit more. A wise choice by the creative team, because without it, newcomers who are not familiar with the film may find themselves a bit confused. Like the movie, the webcomic shares a title with an already-existing Mario game, but not the aesthetic, mood, or setting. The movie, which has garnered a cult-classic status and devoted fanbase over the years, is in fact quite dissimilar from the games and instead functions as a modern-day cyberpunk re-imagining of the basic concept and characters. It’s very helpful to know where the movie left off in order to understand the plot, but as far as the games go, the webcomic has very little to do with them.
Probably the most notable difference between the comic and the games is the two main characters, Mario and Luigi. As in the games, they’re plumbers and heroes, but that’s about where the similarities end. The comic’s version presents a happily professional blue-collar worker in Mario and a good-natured wise guy as Luigi. Both are likable characters and they work well together. The other major character is Daisy, a somewhat enigmatic woman who recruits the duo to help her deal with invading dinosaurs from another dimension. While she doesn't really resemble anyone in particular from the games, she stands on her own merit as an interesting, motivated character. A few of the villains have also made an appearance, but at this early point in the story, their personalities and goals are still a mystery, which raises some curiosity as to what they will do next.
The main story thus far revolves around the characters fighting off the invading reptiles and sending them back to the dimension they came from. The setup is pretty quick and gets straight to the point, wasting no time to pit the plumbers in battle. The comic firmly establishes what the main characters are like and what their strengths are in this battle; Mario is a deliberate, cunning planner, Luigi fights head-on and runs support for his team, and Daisy has command over a strange power even she doesn’t understand. However, without watching the movie, it can get a little confusing where some of their tools and weapons are concerned, since the comic doesn't quite explain how they work. Being familiar with the games does nothing to fill in the blanks, either. The webcomic is acknowledged as a sequel, but a good sequel can still hold its own as a stand-alone story and here, it falters a bit where the inner workings of the setting is concerned.
The art is dynamic and detailed with interesting and bizarre visuals in backgrounds and character designs. Where it shines most is in showing off those unique designs and in the action scenes. The action tends to be punctuated with an ink-splatter effect to emphasize force and energy. However, the art is also a bit stark, having a lot of white space in the panels. Some grey wash or hatching might balance it out more, but the straight black and white has an emptiness to it that takes away from otherwise good shots. There’s also some trouble with character faces going off-model, especially with Daisy. While not unrecognizable, the features and face shapes are not always consistent. Finally, while there is a lot of motion in the action, sparks of energy lack that quality. They are usually represented as crackling lines, but they’re often surrounded by too much white space to really give the illusion of casting light.
Ultimately, the true test of an adaptation isn't merely how well it represents its predecessor, but how well it holds up on its own, something that can be very hard to judge. The more popular the original is, the more critical the audience tends to be of any attempt to carry it into a new medium. Super Mario Bros. has been subject to mixed opinions and one of the more common criticisms is how little it has to do with the games. As far as the webcomic goes, it certainly bears little resemblance to its namesake, but does a good job as a sequel of the film and shows a lot of appreciation for its devoted fans. Its greatest weakness as a stand-alone story is its reliance on the audience being familiar with the movie to understand how everything in the setting works, which can turn away people who aren't huge fans of the movie. Its greatest strength is establishing what makes it different from the games right away and setting out to do something different and interesting. In the end, Super Mario Bros. 2 comes out even with the potential to get better as the story unfolds.