Super Mario Bros. 2, Part 2

URL: www.smbthecomic.com
Creator/s: Steven Applebaum, Ryan Hoss, Parker Bennett, Eryk Donovan, Jaymes Reed, Jack Forbes
Run: 5/13-current
Schedule: About once a week

(melaredblu already reviewed Chapter 1, so this review focuses on Chapters 2 and 3.)

Website: The site's fairly simple and straightforward, with a mix of blacks and grays, and I would've liked to see a more visual layout, either in the style of the games or the movie. It has some standard features, like a Characters page and an FAQ, but the archives functionality's lacking, as there's no obvious way to easily browse through individual pages aside from typing the page number in the browser or scrolling page-by-page through the chapter sorter. There's also some cross-language issues, as clicking "First" takes readers to a Portuguese version of the comic, but trying to select a chapter in the Portuguese version takes readers to the English version. And there's a link on the home page to an Italian version that goes to a "Page Not Found" error screen.

Writing: Super Mario Bros. 2 has three inherent qualities that should make webcomic readers skeptical: one, that it's a sequel to a movie, which is a highly unusual premise for a webcomic; two, that it's a video game webcomic, which are overly prominent in the form of sprite comics and are universally terrible; and three, that the movie it's based on isn't popular, with one of its writers describing in an interview with this webcomic's creators that Super Mario Bros. "has a few fans, but it’s mostly a weird curiosity and it’s an object-lesson in how not to make a movie." The creators, however, seem to approach the source material with unrestrained enthusiasm, as, in addition to running a fansite for the movie, their interpretation's tied too much to the film, making this project more of an homage than a legitimate sequel.

Chapter 2's a dramatic departure from the webcomic's opening, as while the first chapter's a goofy action story that's more similar to the video games, the second chapter features the movie's cyberpunk setting and is much heavier on dialogue. This shift's a clear improvement, and it's unfortunate (if somewhat understandable) that the tie-in from the end of the movie (Princess Daisy's return and call for help) led to a double-length initial chapter of pointless violence. If the action had been trimmed and some of those pages budgeted for characterization and plot, the webcomic would be more enjoyable. As it is, the creators fail to properly introduce the setting or any of the characters, apparently out of a sense of urgency, and it seems to be a requirement that the reader's familiar with Super Mario Bros. even though the movie came out more than 20 years ago. I think a big part of the problem's that the creators, according to the webcomic's FAQ page, have planned for the comic to only be about 120 pages long, and rather than adding more pages to properly develop the story, they're cutting essential content in order to limit the comic to an arbitrary length. However, even with this barebones approach, the story's almost halfway through already and the plot has barely been brought up yet, so the writing's severely inefficient, and I don't see how the creators can stick with their original plan of 120 pages without turning the remainder of the story into a complete mess.

Mario couldn't possibly be portrayed in a more dull way, and the minor characters aren't utilized beyond being mere cameos, but Daisy and Luigi's romance is decently written. They tragically can't be together due to living in different dimensions, and while the comic hasn't really managed to elaborate on their relationship beyond what was presented in the movie, this aspect unexpectedly suggests that the creators would be better at writing a love story. Although, on the other hand, they screw up badly with Mario's relationship with Daniella, whose name is only known from the hyperlinks below the pages. Amazingly, she's appeared on eight pages so far, and has yet to say anything or have anyone talk to her, and Mario only looks at her once. In addition, no explanation's given for why she accompanies Mario and Luigi to a dimension that's under attack, and no one expresses concern that she might be in danger. And then, she randomly disappears in Chapters 1 and 2 for a while, and when Mario's last seen, at the party in Chapter 3, she's nowhere around. I'm guessing that she's only in the story so that she can get kidnapped later and have Mario heroically rescue her, but the way Daniella's portrayed is both clumsy and a huge wasted opportunity to develop Mario and elaborate on a potentially interesting character. As insignificant as she is in the comic, Daniella's handled so incompetently as to cancel out the redeeming qualities of the other brother's relationship.

Art: Chapter 2 introduces color to the comic, which goes a lot better with the story's playfulness than the black-and-white, almost noir-ish look of the earlier pages. The coloring also greatly benefits the cyberpunk scenery of Dinohattan, which is the most notable part of the artwork. (Applebaum comments that Donovan's "talent with designing and drawing city scenes was one of the main reasons why we chose to work with him.") The characters are adequate, if unremarkable, with the more exotic figures (like the Shy Guys and Yoshi) being the most appealing, although it's difficult to take Wart at all seriously due to his resemblance to the Trollface meme. Altogether, the art's pretty competent and makes the comic fairly tolerable to read.

I have an issue with the overuse of splash pages and wide shots, as while they look great, the comic's desperately in need of more dialogue, and these layouts take up valuable page space without being essential to the plot. Particularly superfluous is this splash page of Toad rocking out, which doesn't seem to be a significant event. The establishing shot of the park is another splash page that doesn't seem necessary, and constraining it to a wide shot would've made room for at least one or two panels of dialogue. The comic needs to be more economical with its page space, prioritizing necessary information over attractive visuals.

Overall: It's great that the creators feel passionately enough about a movie to take making a sequel of it into their own hands, but they need to put their project into the proper perspective. Regardless of if readers are fans of the original or not, Super Mario Bros. 2 needs to deliver compelling characters and an engaging story, which it has failed to do. The creators should be able to step back and look at the comic not just as fans who've been obsessed with the movie for years, but as webcomic readers who are looking for an entertaining video game comic to read. It's likely that a significant portion of the script will need to be rewritten in order to salvage the project, as merely featuring several popular characters isn't good enough.

3/5

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