Saturday, July 12, 2008

34th Leg: The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

Now if you recall, back in my last actual log I checked out Dementia of Magic. So in grand Webcomic Finds' style, I'm continuing from DoM's link page. There are many well known webcomics there, but the absurdity of the concept made this one stand out:

By: Chris Hastings (Pencils and Writing), Kent Archer (Inks)

Setting and Elements: Modern Day, Surreal Reality
Content Type: Action, Humour

Art Medium: Black and white, Pencil and Inks
Art Style: American Comic Book

Is About: The story follows the exploits of Dr. McNinja, of the Irish McNinja ninja clan (I cannot believe I typed that out with a straight face). The Doc, as he is known, has rebelled against his family tradition of being ninjas and becomes a doctor. The stories follow his adventures as he tries to run a general practice and cope with his life as a ninja at the same time.

Frequency: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation: The white website design is very clinical and well designed. I find it odd that both creators names were not on the frontpage with any sort of copyright notice, but all the information is available on the "About" page.

The illustation on the frontpage, of a ninja in a doctor's labcoat is beautifully rendered, if a little posy and stiff-looking. Overall, it looks to be promising, the premise is definitely unusual. Now to see how it plays out.

There is no "Start reading from first page" link on front page, so off to Archives.

The art style is very old-school comic-bookish, black and white ink lines. It looks pretty good so far. Judging by the preview it's a hugh archive, so looks like I'm in for a long read.

The Concept:
Well to be sure, the concept is unusual. You can have medical sitcoms like Grey's Anatomy and then you can have shows about ninjas. Combining the two is like combining strawberry cheesecake and rice congee. Not something you'd really think of naturally.

The Art:
Like most webcomics, the art starts off a little shaky in the first storyline but steadily improves as time goes on. The comic is in black and white, with clean lines although the artist does make use of what looks like tablet-work for some special effects.

The action looks very well-drawn, although at time I have had a strong feeling that some of the elements in the page have felt traced. Mind you this observation disappears in the later issues, the art is overall very well down and the composition of the pages and panel layout are impeccable.

Character design is very very distinctive. I certainly never had any difficult at any point differentiating between characters even though maybe 50% of the characters are ninjas who never, ever remove their ninja masks. Granted, a ninja who runs about in a white lab coat and stethoscope isn't particularly hard to confuse. Mind you, it's hard to make a ninja in a white lab coat look good, but heck, the Chris Hasting-Kent Archer partnership does it with considerable finesse.

One thing worth of mention is that since the main character is one who never ever (I repeat) removes his mask, all the expression for the Doc is done though what you can see of him, body language and eyes. Speaking from experience, I can tell you this is not easy. And here, it is remarkably well done.

The Writing:
The writing for Dr. McNinja is consistent in a few aspects, mainly that it's funny, and in keeping with the titular character, it's irreverently absurd. All that said, once you can suspend disbelief on the concept, a lot of things make perfect sense.  And it never tries to take itself seriously, and so continually lampoons: internet culture, Batman, the comic book industry, caption boxes, and occasionally, itself.

In short Chris has a very unique, pawky and enjoyable sense of humour, and this really is the hallmark of the series. This doesn't mean that Dr. McNinja is all silliness and no plot however. The plots of the stories, while always absurd, are surprisingly intricate and take care to make sense in the same absurd manner.

Add to this there is some very strong characterization going on in this series. It takes your perceived stereotypes and turns them on their heads. And while the Doc is portrayed something of a wonder (Medical doctors/super ninja) he has is own issues and is flawed and fallible enough to identify with and like. Even the villians are very well fleshed out, and don't get me started on Gordito, Judy (the rather unorthodox receptionist), and the Doc's Fruit and Nut cracker of a family... 


Not really much that I can point out, the creators of this comic seem to know what they are doing.

There was one point where I was greatly worried that the comic might have fallen to (Drat I can't remember what's it's called... I just call it GPF syndrome. You can call it the Rowling syndrome too if you like.) the tendency of some humour webcomics to morph into overly serious epic drama comics. But much to my relief, although the overall story took a slightly darker and more serious tone, it never really got angsty or overly serious, and managed to retain the essence of McNinja-ness (there I've coined a new word) that never alienated the reader as much as some other comics did.

The other thing is the most recent storyline touches on a subject I have a problem with. Well, so much that over 3 years ago I wrote an article about it for Comixtalk (previously known as Comixpedia). Granted, it looks more promising this time round given the unconventionality of the writing... Chris might be able to pull this off in a way that doesn't make me roll my eyes. There are always (I am happy to admit) exceptions.

I try not to be too gushing or too critical in my review logs, but this is a comic I seriously enjoyed and laughed out loud at. It's a Find, I am very glad I chose it for this leg of my journey.

There's quite a bit of violence, as should be expected from anything with the word "ninja" in it (Unless it's some hunter rolling "Need" on your epic mace in World of Warcraft... oh wait, we murdered a boss for that... nmind) but oddly enough it self-censors profanity, which I suspect is more for comedic effect than anything else.

The Next Leg:
...will be a surprise. There's lot of links in the links page, so you'll see what comes up in the next episode of Webcomic Finds!

Note: I had earlier mixed up names and referred to Kent as the writer when it should be Chris... uh... whoops?


  1. So, now that the Dracula storyline seems to be over, did it avoid making you roll your eyes? :-)

    I had no idea that people used Dracula as a punching bag that much. Seems kind of cheap to use someone else's character for that, and most of the times I've seen Dracula pop up he seems to get away relatively intact. Though right now I can only recall that he showed up in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still, it seems to defeat the purpose of using him as a legendary force of (un)nature if he could be killed by someone of less legendary status (such as most peoples' fictional characters).

  2. Chris Hastings writes and draws the comic. Kent Archer is the inker.

  3. @anonymous: Thanks, I had noticed my mistake, but I forgot to amend the error in the review body itself. Done now!

  4. @rge: Well the Dracula storyline is over, and I have to admit it was very well done. I did not roll my eyes. In fact, I enjoyed it very much.

    Yes Dracula was quite a punching bag. As much as I liked some comics such as "Athena Voltaire" and "Clan of the Cats", the low point of their stories for me were the ones where they involved Dracula. It just seemed... meh. Nowhere near as interesting as their more original stuff, it did ruin my interest in those two series for a while (sorry Jamie).

    In this one however, there was a happy lack of descendants of Harker, Van Helsing and co (except for the parody, the one who got moon-lasered). There were a lot of original ideas in the story line, Dracula was very well portrayed, ending was good and I LOVED the character development between Gordito and the McNinja family.

    I think the thing that made it different this time was that there was actually a fresh plot, and like I said, Dracula had more depth than the stereotypical "I am going to take over the world" kind of villain. The Doc's relatively civil interaction with him was also novel as opposed to the "here I come with stakes and holy water, die, spawn of hell!" approach. Well civil at first anyway.

    So colour me impressed :)

  5. Welcome back. Are you going to pursue this blog seriously? I am wondering whether to link to you.

    See, a funny thing happened. Lots of people started webcomic blogs and then wandered away. Well, the blogs went quiet but the links didn't, and the internet is so cluttered with links to dead webcomics blogs that those of us who are still at it spend a lot of time responding to people who can't find a living blog.

    We've started banding together, so that if someone finds one of us, they can find the rest.

    If you do wander off again, at least make your last post links to the active (such a list is available on my blog). Personally, I hope you stick around, because you are a good writer and reviewer, but the way you left everyone to wonder makes me just a little skeptical.


  6. @scartoonist: I'm glad you enjoyed my blog.

    In answer to your question:

    No. I wouldn't say "Seriously". I've found making it serious thing the best way to kill off any joy I derive from it.

    I plan to do this blog for myself now. It's going to be my travelogue as I rediscover webcomics again. If people read this I want them to be reading it because they enjoy it first and foremost, not for any other reason.

    I'm glad you enjoy my writings, but please feel no obligation or pressure to link to it if you feel hesitant and doubtful about it.

    Anyways, thanks for stopping by, all the best and happy comicking!

  7. That's a wise answer. As much as I want you to say you are going to post frequent thoughtful, highly readable reviews, you have to put your own needs and desires first.

    I look forward to whatever emerges.


  8. I would like to comment via email, but the listed address appears defunct. Perhaps you could provide an alternate or write to me at ScratchinPost (A) gmail [DOT] com and I'll send it, as it's already written.

    Note, no g in scratchin