Creator/s: Félix Lavallée
Section: Ch. 9, "Days of our Elves"
Website: My design philosophy's that the look of a webcomic's site should complement the content, and this comic's unsuccessful in that regard. There's nothing to go off of except a striped background and a small graphic, and it doesn't give the impression that the comic features "silliness and situational comedy, with a healthy dose of adventure, action, romance and outright craziness," as the About page describes, or that it has "elements of Fantasy and Science fiction." Seeing as that the comic still has "Copyright © Félix Lavallée 2005-2011" in its footer, I'm guessing that the site hasn't changed much in a while, and it's probably way overdue for a makeover. The Cast page still shows drawings from 2005, so that'd be a good place to start.
The bonus content's pretty standard, with the most notable part being a collection of 28 different wallpapers that readers can download. Some of them are still in the archives, though, which is annoying since it breaks the flow of the story. If the creator feels like adding more extras, I suggest doing something more creative and unexpected, such as a short story featuring the comic's characters.
Writing: Flaky Pastry's setting's based on classic Tolkien fantasy, and, even with a bit of Cthulhu mythos thrown in to spice things up, it's a pretty standard setup that relies on goofiness to hold its readers' attention. At the center of its humorous nature are its three protagonists, the wacky-nerdy Marelle, the wacky-random Nitrine, and the wacky-violent Zintiel, and, unfortunately, none of them are even the least bit interesting. Out of those three, Zintiel gets most of the attention, and she's a badass-crazy-evil-goth-type character that should remind some readers of Richard from the better-known webcomic Looking For Group. While Flaky Pastry launched first, Richard's a far more entertaining character, and this comic's creator never really manages to tap into Zintiel's comedic potential or have her do anything interesting. When Flaky Pastry's not in infodump mode, it mainly consists of either a character saying something wacky, or of a character commenting on how wacky somebody is, and it's a low-effort, repetitive kind of humor that isn't enjoyable.
A lot of the time, though, the comic is in infodump mode, and it's irritating how much text the creator starts cramming into every page once the opening scene's done. The exposition's uninteresting because of a lack of originality and thoughtfulness, and because it's so pervasive, the characters and situations don't develop enough for readers to care about them or their world. The comic desperately needs something noteworthy to happen soon, as I wouldn't have the patience to get through another 70 pages of the characters standing around and filling up panels with mediocre dialogue. Even the sparring match between Zintiel and Valessa, which is definitely the chapter's most dramatic scene, is surrounded with text practically anywhere the creator can fit it around the figures. It's also a problem that there's been at least 15 named elves introduced in this chapter so far, and the creator completely wrecks the pacing by trying to squeeze them into whatever page space he has left to work with. It'd be somewhat more understandable if this was the very first chapter and the creator was trying to set up the main part of the story, but Flaky Pastry's more than 500 pages in at this point, so there's no reason for it to be getting bogged down in exposition like this.
The comic has a minor subplot involving the secret gay life of Prince Lumigardo, described in the Cast page as "definitely the manliest elf" and with a "reputation as an invincible fighter," and I found this character to be by far the most interesting. He's involved in a complex situation where he feels socially obligated to pretend to be courting a woman, and, as the future king, his sexuality puts the fate of the kingdom into question. He's kinda like the gay Loras Tyrell from the show Game of Thrones, an important character whose scandalous love life causes a lot of conflict. This subplot's been underutilized, though, and while it'll possibly be more prominent later in the chapter or in a future chapter, it doesn't make much sense that the creator's been passing up some high-potential material here in favor of lame gags.
Art: It's got some of the best illustrations in webcomics, and I find it comparable in quality to Oglaf, another popular fantasy-comedy comic. Fluid body language and facial expressions (especially Nitrine's) contribute heavily to the humor, and the comic features detailed wide shots on occasions when the pacing slows down a little. And the outstanding coloring, which is unusually bright but carefully hued and shaded, helps set Flaky Pastry apart from other fantasy webcomics.
Still, there are a few shortcomings that prevent the artwork from being as good as it should be. One of these problems is that the pages are only 650 pixels wide, and this leads to a lot of panels where the characters and details are too small. Fantasy webcomics tend to rely on their artwork a lot, and it's difficult to find a popular one that doesn't have larger pages than Flaky Pastry. For example, Gaia's 770, Goblins is 892, Looking For Group's 700, Oglaf's 760, and Twokinds is 825. The next problem's that the excessive speech bubbles take up too much room on the pages, which combines with the factor of the small page-widths to form "talking heads" layouts and repetitive backgrounds. There are a couple of ways that fantasy comics deal with this situation. The first way, exemplified by Gunnerkrigg Court, is to have sparse text in a small font, which allows it to have quality layouts despite only being 600 pixels wide. The second way, exemplified by Order of the Stick, is to just have really wide pages, as it's usually at least 900 pixels wide, and it's often even a little bit wider than that, with the latest page being 928 pixels wide.
The lettering's another area that's in need of improvement, as the colorful speech bubbles make the comic look garish when combined with the bright artwork. It's a somewhat appropriate stylistic choice considering the goofiness of the content, but the bubbles ultimately result in a sense of color overload that's unappealing. The blocky bubbles are also not as aesthetically pleasing as the usual round ones, as they feel impersonal and take up too much space. Lastly, the font size is unnecessarily large, and reducing it would further allow more of the artwork to be seen.
Overall: Flaky Pastry's an okay fantasy webcomic, but it's disappointing that it's passed the 500-page mark and the creator's still struggling this much with composition and pacing. It's unfortunate, too, because the art's awesome, and I can imagine Flaky Pastry belonging in the top tier of webcomics if the creator had managed to learn more in the nine years since the comic started. Hopefully, the creator can figure out how to fix the mediocre writing, pointless dialogue, and weak humor on his own, but at this point I expect that some form of collaboration's more likely to be successful. Until significant improvements are made, though, there's really not much reason to read Flaky Pastry considering the abundance of fantasy webcomics.