Creators: James Hohenstein, Logan Wendt
Run: 10/12-6/15

I’m a fan of detective stories and the TV show Crime Watch Daily. I love anthro characters (a.k.a. furries) and black-and-white cartoons. I like traditional media and inking too. That means I should love Stymie . . . but I don’t. I like it at best. Although James Hohenstein’s work shows a lot of promise, his first graphic novel suffers from difficult-to-follow dialogue and almost unbelievable plot twists.

There are times when the action is well-paced and the dialogue is realistic. But these moments are few and far between, as the reader’s rushed through what seems like two years’ worth of story. On top of the breakneck speed, the webcomic starts off as a flashback, but it isn’t made clear that it’s a flashback until Page 75. It gets better on a second reading, though.


Stymie could have avoided a lot of problems had it toned down the lead character’s killing spree. Let me explain: if you are a Mafia heir, no matter how strong your family name is, keep it classy. Especially if there’s murder involved. The second lead character is Alejo, a detective. The story starts off with his flashback of seeing Wes, the Mafia brat, beat in the brains of a drug dealer for being cocky. The Mafia brat’s father dies suddenly in a confrontation with a police officer, leaving Wes to be the new Mafia don of the Apolda family. He makes several bad decisions. Meanwhile, Alejo is on Wes’ tracks for the murder of several rivals. Alejo’s lovely wedded wife, Dollface, dumps him for Wes, who she encourages to make even more bad decisions. Anyways, the story becomes convoluted in the next hundred pages when Alejo and Wes both reach moral event horizons in their own right, and then there’s an anticlimactic ending where both men die in their own special way.

The Good

Alejo’s characters actually well built up, and had he had a clearer introduction from the start, I would have loved his character. He's the office drudge waiting for his big case to fall into his lap. But we don’t get his good side except for in a couple scenes near the end of the story. Instead we get the rundown on the Mafia brat's every murder and his short attention span.

The art isn't all that bad. The creator has a good grasp of anatomy, and he clothes his anthros (unlike in some comics I know). But his faces lack diversity. Especially because this is a black-and-white comic, each character having a very distinctive character design is paramount. I can tell the main characters apart fairly easily, but the men have problems with lack of diversity in clothing, stouts, and eye shapes. His work also suffers from a lack of shading and grey tones. The comic is literally only black and white, which explains a bit why it’s hard to tell characters apart.

Motion is captured well in the comic. My favorite scene is when the detective falls through a wooden platform during the stake-out towards the end of the comic.

The Bad

Ughhhh. The flashback! My goodness, the flashback. It just made me confused the first time I read the webcomic. Re-reading it, I still don’t get a sense of time moving in the flashback, and it’s hard to tell where it ends and where the real story starts.

But even the difficult-to-follow flashback pales in comparison to the supervillain-wannabe Mafia brat. The Mafia is characterized by a meticulous, closed-off, quiet existence as one of the world’s most powerful—and recognizable—crime syndicates. An heir as reckless and stupid as Wes would be stopped and stripped of his title, if not by his rivals, then by his own family. I don’t appreciate the comic book villain-style portrayal he gets when he murders an entire rival family in cold blood just because his dearest love, Dollface, said he should.

Speaking of which, Dollface is my least favorite character in this whole shebang. When Wes reveals to her that he’s the heir to a famous Mafia family, she’s totally cool about it. Now, playing cool is fine if you are doing so to save your own ass, but she just seems . . . well, more curious than she should be about his work.

Could it be that she’s gathering info to tell her detective husband, Alejo? Nope. Dollface never mentions it to Alejo and, instead, makes sweet furry love to him when he gets home later that evening. The story would have been better off if she never made an appearance.

Author Biography

James Hohenstein wrote Stymie the summer after he graduated from Bethany Lutheran College with a B.F.A. in Studio Art. He calls Stymie “one part Greek tragedy, another detective Noir,” and I give him props for actually knowing what a Greek tragedy is, and employing its tropes in Stymie. He seems like a talented creator who’s just starting to make a name for himself in comics and sequential art.


In all honesty, I liked Stymie. Past its pretentiousness and the mediocre dialogue, it does manage to capture the reader’s attention past Page 100.

I think what Stymie suffers from the most is having Dollface and Wes be such unrealistic characters. Look, I get that you’re a “good person,” and that’s why you’re helping a man you found bleeding to death in a park, but my goodness, if you found out that he’s a Mafia heir, why the hell would you encourage him to be evil? And Wes: beating everyone’s brains out in public, where there are witnesses and your gunshots can be heard for miles, is never smart. I couldn’t feel pity for him when he died. Who do you casually tell that you’re a Mafia heir? That hot chick you think is flirting with you?

Scores (out of 5)
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1 comment :

  1. Yeah, everything you've said here is... absolutely correct.
    Thanks for the kind words in here, and the critiques of Stymie. I wanted to make "Dollface" some sort-of-representation of a self-serving/power-hungry, bad girlfriend, but I know I really failed to make that clear. Stymie was pretty fill to the brim of poorly-informed and reinforced decisions.
    I really hope my writing has gotten better, and my character designs! I'm currently working on a kind of fantasy adventure comedy, so I hope it performs better...
    Thanks again for your review!