Friday, January 07, 2005

21st Leg: Elsie Hooper

Firstly, welcome to the New Year!

Secondly... enough waffling already! Let's get down to business and find some webcomics!

Comic: Elsie Hooper
By: Robert D. Krzykowski

Genre and Setting: Survival Horror, Modern Day, Apocalyptic

Art Style: Heavily-stylized realistic, Greyscale (heavy blacks), newspaper strip format

Is About: A young girl named Elsie Hooper, who has been taken by the shadowmen. Elder brother and guardian Ridley isn't about to let them get away with it, and wages a war in the deserted town of Campbell falls. Deserted, except for the hordes of shadowmen bent on stopping him.

Frequency: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays (Has been rather irregular lately)
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
I think it was the front page banner that did it. You have these two omnious figures standing in a shaft of light. And one of them is carrying a chainsaw.

A chainsaw. If that doesn't set the mood for the comic, nothing does.

As should be expected (and probably appropriate) the website is dark and minimalistic. Nothing fancy, but I don't think anything more is needed, really.

The Concept:
It's the classic survival horror situation: You run through your hometown, which is devoid of people and is now overrun by a) Undead (zombies) b) Monsters c) Aliens. When push comes to shove, even a mild-mannered character is going to find some way to fight back. Ridley Hooper does.

The premise for Elsie Hooper follows the classic approach, and is none the worse for it. It's certainly a nice twist that you're never sure what "they" (the shadowmen) are, or what happened to all the people, except that they are all certainly gone. There's more underneath the surface that has only been hinted at, something apocalyptic, we we'll see soon enough where that goes

The Art:
While at first glance it looks deceptively simple, it's actually quite detailed. The style definitely suits the comic matter, and serves to enhance the 'horror' feel. Robert also make liberal use of splatter effects.

One thing's for certain, you can't possibly mistake Robert's style for anyone else's. The style of drawing the eyes take some getting used to, but it works.

I should also mention that there's some great experimentation done on the newspaper strip format.

All in all, I like the art, and I do the like the distinctiveness of the style.

The Writing:
It's obvious the author has a good grasp of storytelling techniques.

The action scenes are excellently done. Conveying action in a comic is very difficult (I should know) but the action scenes in Elsie Hooper are exceptionally well done.

Not only is the flow of action very easy to follow, but it manages to do something many action comics fail to do: have a lot of action yet not make it boring. It pulls the reader into the thick of the fray, and for a moment, you are there. You can feel the fear when the shadowmen surround the characters. You can sense the animal rage when the characters fight for their very survival. You feel the terror and despair of the characters when they hit setback after setback. And the constant knowledge that more of them are coming.

Another thing worthy mentioning is how subtle and efficient Roberts can be sometimes. Here for example, one of the characters tells of the events that happened to him before meeting up with the main characters, not only does he relate some events that are important to the story, but he also gives some nice backstory on Ridley's parents. (A good example: Ridley's father was a fireman killed in action, but the author manages to convey this to the audience without directly saying so).

I've gotta learn how to do that one.

One thing that annoyed me the most after reading Elsie Hooper is that as enjoyable as the story is while you're reading it, once you're done you realise that despite the large archives, not much of real substance has really happened in the story. There's a lot of action. And more action. And it's good action... but at the end of each chapter the plot advancement has gravitated perhaps two inches from where it was at the beginning of the chapter.

Which is a pity. There's a very intriguing story in Elsie Hooper that's still waiting to break out, but has been supressed in favour of action. and while action is all very well, there is such a thing as 'too much of a good thing'.

This might not seem like a big 'problem' in your eyes, but in all honesty, if the pacing continues to be this slow, I'm beginning to doubt I will ever see the end of this story. In my experience, good comics that die before reaching their ending tend to be of this type; the slow pacing kills them eventually as the creator's attention tends to wander off. And if I think a comic will never finish, I'm not likely to continue reading it, because goddamnit I want to know the ending!.

I hope I'm wrong. I really do. But I wouldn't be surprised if I were right.

Elsie Hooper has lots of fast-paced interesting action and a great concept. Normally I'd give it a glowing review, if not for the knowledge that the story pacing is problematic, and there's the great possibility that this comic might not ever finish. I had a great time reading it, but after finishing I found it frustrating.

Don't let the opinion of this blogger keep you from reading it, though...

The Next Leg:
Maybe it's just me, but I can't seem to find a links page with webcomic links in it.

You know what this means: BACKTRACK!

I don't know why, but I chose Dinosaur Comics. Maybe it's because I remember it being mentioned about in websnark before, or maybe it's not something I'm likely to read otherwise...

Although that might be because I have a slight phobia of dinosaurs. Now I bet that's something about me that you didn't know.


  1. "Links page under reconstruction"

    and... dinosuar comics is completely awesome...

  2. Well... maybe I waffled so long with this review Robert decided to re-construct. ;)

  3. Hey.
    I think you're right on with Elsie Hooper.
    Not that I don't think it's a great comic, it's just been over-hyped a bit, and when you read it, you think, this is barely started. How can someone call somethign the greatest horror story ever told if it has only the start of a plot. I dunno.
    Anyway, You voiced what I was thinking when I read it perfectly, though.
    Always a pleasure, of course.
    Talk to you later.

  4. Thank Zachary!

    I never heard about Elsie Hooper's reputation as "The Greatest Horror Story Ever Told", but wow I was initially wowed, I quickly realised it was going nowhere pretty fast.

    The beneficial part of this leg was however, I've been nearly committing this same mistake myself, and seeing this done by someone really alerted me to fix my writing a bit more.