Shattered with Curve of Horn

Creator/s: Max Miller Dowdle
Run: 11/12-5/14

Website: The last webcomic I reviewed had a really cool ComicPress design, and this one's pretty mediocre by comparison. There are just a lot of ComicPress sites out there that look very similar, and a little bit of time spent on customization goes a long way. Even something as simple as using a different font for the navigation menu would help. I like how the pink-and-purple color scheme goes with the comic's dreamy visuals, though.

There's an FAQ, a brief About page, a store, and some other comics the creator's worked on, and it's more minimalistic than I'd prefer. There are comments for every page, though, and they're pretty fun to read. All of the bonus content's behind a paywall ($7 for a PDF, or $18 for the print version), and it's a decent incentive for readers who feel like supporting the creator. The free version's apparently supposed to be taken offline at some point, so those who are interested might want to check it out now rather than later.

Writing: Shattered with Curve of Horn should've been really good. It's got an appealing hook, a clever concept, and realistic dialogue. However, to borrow from the Bad Webcomics Wiki's structure, its downfall comes on Page 17, which is when the character Pierce enters the comic. His presence turns the solid introduction into a never-ending conversation that makes the story drag on way too much.

To give the pacing issues some context, the story's 138 pages long, and it probably could've been covered in half that many pages, or possibly even in a fourth of the length with some tight writing. It seems like at least 80 percent of the story is just the characters sitting around chatting, and while I don't necessarily expect action scenes or anything, it's really boring and tedious to read a bunch of text like this without the story actually going anywhere. These kinds of expository scenes are typically positioned as necessary breaks in between the more exciting moments, but there isn't really a sense of that here. It's sort of a cerebral approach, sure, but it's also constraining in the way that storytelling elements are neglected.

Part of it's that the creator gets conversational structure but seems overconfident about it. The dialogue's believable and relevant, but it's also a nonvisual part of a visual medium, and the art unfortunately gets pushed to the side in order to draw attention to the writing. It's great that there's a lot of buildup and foreshadowing, but there's really no way the creator could've done the story that would've made it work to have this much dialogue. The No. 1 priority has to be keeping readers engaged with the story, and the comic lacks the flow and tension needed to make that happen. Instead, it mainly just feels pretentious and self-absorbed, and it's a shame since the creator's probably skilled enough to have made a great webcomic.

On a related note, the comic's at its best when it's being the most surrealistic, like in the opening scene and with the protagonist's artwork. It presents the characters' situations in a more immersive way than having them just talk about it, and it also helps break up the monotony of seeing the characters in cramped interior spaces most of the time. A script should be tailored to the creator's artistic abilities, and in this case, it seems like the creator has enough artistic range that he could be doing some flashier stuff. And if the range isn't there, then that's a good reason for him to get out of his comfort zone more. The really awesome part about doing a comic about dreams and imagination is that it involves drawing all kinds of crazy stuff. I mean, I guess the creator might be apprehensive about alienating readers by being too weird, but it's important to be bold and take risks.

Art: This comic's a perfect example of how dialogue scenes should be drawn, and there's always clearly effort made to give each panel a distinct feel and make them visually complex. There are some more subtle techniques used, like abstract coloring and mirror reflections, and it really helps the fact that there are so many shots of that boring hotel room. The anatomy and coloring are always great, and there are never times when it seems like the creator had to rush and sacrifice quality. Also, it's really neat how the protagonist's artwork's done in a different style. I really don't have anything to complain about here, and I'd even suggest this as a reference for creators who want to be better at drawing dialogue scenes.

Overall: It's hard to find decent surrealism webcomics to read, and Shattered with Curve of Horn's professionalism makes it a notable addition to the genre. However, the story feels more like an uneventful drama most of the time, and readers will get impatient with the slow pacing and tedious dialogue. The concept's awesome and could've been done in a variety of creative ways, but it barely gets explored by the time the comic's over. A better version would've had a lot more "good stuff" rather than having a ton of buildup with a little "good stuff" mixed in. Still, the creator does the best he can with the script's limitations, and the variety of angles and poses helps make the slower scenes more readable.

  • Failure to exercise his right to remain silent
  • Narrating well below the speed limit
  • Using an unauthorized website template
Scores (out of 5)
  • Website:
  • Writing:
  • Art:
  • Overall:
Recommended sentence
  • Must dress up in a McGruff the Crime Dog costume and lecture webcartoonists on why illegal narcotics are bad for them


  1. The art is visibly based on traced photos. There's a page where there's a nude woman and some bulls where the drawing is notably different.

    Just pointing this out since you're giving the art a top score.

    1. I'm going off of what I consider to be standards for webcomics, and the art for this is well above those standards regardless of how it's made. And even if it's traced, it comes across as being unique since it's really unusual for webcartoonists to trace photos. I prefer this style, for example, over yet another Penny Arcade clone.