Anthony Bailey (anthonybailey) wrote,
Anthony Bailey

Review: Homestuck

Homestuck logo


by Andrew "MSPaint Adventures" Hussie

This epic ongoing webcomic is my favorite new artistic work of the last year.

a favorite panel

The core of the story concerns a bunch of children on interwoven hero's quests, exploring something like a video game. It has a few elements in common with Scott Pilgrim but is massively more ambitious and inventive, and the mythos is more fully realized.

The plot mechanics are highly intricate: in particular the time-lines of characters and objects form a spirograph-worthy pattern that makes Primer look like an idle doodle. One character accurately describes the thing as "4 B1G S3LF FULLF1LL1NG CLUST3RFUCK, A HUG3 ORG14ST1C MOB1US DOUBL3 R34CH4ROUND" - and yet it fits together as well as any time-travel story I've seen.

Creator Andrew Hussie tells his tale in a highly singular voice and using a boundary-stretching style. The medium is an unusual evolving experiment: all the MSPaint Adventures are presented in the form of an interactive adventure where readers suggest what the characters should do next. This has become more of a stylistic motif than a core principle as Hussie tells longer stories, and Homestuck ups the ante on this with some of the story's own characters giving instructions in the same manner, and watching each other through the same screens the readership does. The usual meta-fictional elements abound.

Typically several pages of the comic are published every day. Most contain a single GIF image, frequently animated. Often these are accompanied by a short descriptive text, or by character dialog which is always presented in the form of a chat log. Some pages feature Flash content: these range from simple transitions with a little atmospheric audio, through interactive stuff to explore, parodies of boss battles all the way to complete 8-bit style embedded games and full-on soundtracked fast-cut cinematic animations lasting several minutes for some pivotal sections of the story.

OK, powerful many-layered story-telling with cutting avant-garde edges. But the key quality that got me reading this comic, pulled me through the archives over Christmas and now has me impatient for updates every day is that the jokes are consistently great. The humor is quite universal, somewhat geeky, and occasionally nerdy (I confess it was the slapstick sequences based on data structures that hooked me forever.) And the character dialog sparkles: if you pulled the Scooby Gang fifteen years into the future and onto IRC then you might end up with these chats and their hilarious embrace and extend of contemporary kids Net idiom and culture.

Highly recommended, if you can cope.

Tags: hreview
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