After a few months of repeated insistence from comrade (and housemate) S Chladek, I’ve read this Homestuck thing that the internet loves so very much. Well, some of it anyway – I’m at the beginning of Act Four (about 1400 pages in, and I don’t even want to think about how much time this has taken me) as I write this, and with those trolls that everyone who reads Homestuck go on about all the time having just been introduced, my opinions are starting to solidify. Once I catch up to the new stuff, I might do another one of these. Probably all about those damn trolls.
Spoilers, probably, but it’s all so silly I don’t know how much it really matters.
Before I go any further…
…brief (ha!) primer for the uninitiated: Homestuck is a webcomic, the fourth in the Microsoft Paint Adventures (MSPA) series, preceded by Problem Sleuth, Bard Quest and Jailbreak (and which, despite the title, is largely .gif and Flash art created in Photoshop and Flash (with the exception of the very first strip)). The frankly insane story concerns a group of four thirteen-year-olds play a videogame that initiates the apocalypse and sends one (at the time of reading) of their number into a weird nether-hell which is actually the outskirts of some creative dimension, or something. The plot is communicated via old-school adventure game style narration (earlier strips in the MSPA series were powered by user suggestions, but as of this story, he’s divested himself of that particular gimmick) and the characters’ nonsensical conversations with each other (of the sort that hip internet sorts like me have on the reg) via PesterChum, their fictitious IM client (and as far as I can tell, they only interact with each other, their father/mother/brother/grandfather and occasionally the trolls, who you might have heard because everyone who reads this nonsense goes on about them all the damn time, though I haven’t seen all that much of them yet). It’s (if I recall correctly) the longest webcomic (in terms of panels) ever, primarily due to the insane amount of updating the creator does because this is all he does with his time. There’s an enormous fandom (which, for the most part, I’ve successfully managed to ignore), although they’ve done some cool music stuff, apparently.*
I should establish that despite the effort on Sean’s part it took to get me started reading this nonsense originally, I’m now rather enjoying it. It’s an odd, absurdist excursion into the mind of creator Andrew Hussie, who on the evidence of his work is a crazy person. It’s entertainingly written, there are decent jokes, and (unusually for something this enormous and lengthy (hilarious ‘enormous and lengthy’ joke here)) it does seem as though things were planned in advance, all the Chekov’s guns established early, and that sort of thing (at least, as far as I’ve read).
That an awful lot of it seems… well, perhaps not random, exactly, but arbitrary is, I think, just part of the way Mr Hussie writes these colossal, sprawling adventures of his. Arbitrary though some of the stuff may seem, it always follows an odd internal logic. It matters, too – the repeated jokes about data structure might only appeal to people like me, but it does affect the story in really rather entertaining ways. This sort of peculiarity also extends to the characters.
The characters are (in my eyes, at least) a bit odd. They’re certainly impressively unflappable. When the somewhat-similar-to-the-Sims game which catalyses the world-ending catastrophe, S’burb, is installed by John (the protagonist, insofar as this comic can be said to have one**) and his friend Rose is able to move things around in his house in real life, he seems unpeturbed. I find, however, that there’s something that alienates me from them, and in part it’s to do with how they, and the comics themselves, look.
I’m not saying the art is bad – it isn’t. It’s often absolutely beautiful, and its being composed largely of .gifs doesn’t hamper than – it can augment it. Or just be awesome. However, the symbolic way that the characters are drawn – simply, and without much of an expression – their defaults (John and Dave neutral, Rose and Jade smirking) seldom changing – and, furthermore, the way they communicate – the Far Side/New Yorker cartoon text-at-the-bottom style of narration and chatlog dialogue presentation – can be a little emotionless. This isn’t necessarily bad, and may well be intentional, but it means that, for me, at least, the characters don’t have much character***.
This may just be a personal hangup. I also take issue with the characters’ Buffy-speak and the fact that they each only seem to have three other friends, and they’re all on the Internet. Mind you, I don’t tend to talk to/befriend internet randos**** or post on message boards or anything. Sean is that sort of person, which might be why he loves this comic so damn much.
I’ve read people comparing it to LOST in terms of convolution and frequent introductions of bizarre things that aren’t fully explained (for example, the Cruxtruder/Alchemiter/Totem Lathe seem (in my eyes, at least, and even despite the whole ‘game’ artifice surrounding everything) to come out of nowhere, with little explanation, reminding me somewhat of the Dharma stations) but despite all the idiosyncrasies and meandering plot threads, quite unlike LOST, I’m fairly sure Homestuck is going somewhere. Everything seems to be moving in service of some greater story, and it all seems to be moving in some sort of direction. It could start to feel a bit Chris Carter if some things don’t start being explained in a little more depth and detail soon (soon for me, that is), but it’s doing all right for the moment.
I’m concerned not to sound too negative here – I’m rather enjoying Homestuck, and if I’m reading the augers correctly, I’m going to be getting some more interesting time-travel stuff introduced to the story soon, too. I would encourage you to go and give Homestuck a look, especially if you have a lot of time on your hands Not for the casual reader, but if you feel like reading something different to almost anything else out there, this is jolly interesting. Three stars, some funny bits.
* mind you, some of the music composed for use in the strip itself is pretty damn impressive. Check out the Bandcamp page, and listen to Symphony Impossible To Play – it’s rather good.
** perhaps ‘character we meet first’ would be more accurate.
*** ‘don’t have much personality’ would perhaps be more accurate, but would be far less smooth. Also, there’s nothing less smooth than pointing out how smooth you just were, and nothing more recursively smooth than doing a goof about your pointing out how smooth you just weren’t and oh good grief
**** I’ve realised that sounds a little disparaging. It isn’t intended to – the internet is just as valid a place to meet people as the real world is. I just like using ‘randos’.