Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Barista Girl



Banner from Baristagirl.com


Ed Note: Small typographical updates

TITLE: Barista Girl
DATE OF REVIEW: 9/17/08

Misc. Info
URL: http://www.baristagirl.com/
Author: "Ratchet DuPwah"
Other Works: N/A
Started: January 7, 2008
Number of Comics: Almost 100
Voting: No
Incentives: N/A
Incentive Updates: N/A
Genre: Work Humor
Rating: T - Heavy course language. By the second comic, this comic is sure to expand the vocabulary of young readers in a bad direction. A lot. Occasional violence. Rarely blood, but certainly murder.
Notes: Chosen by request. First "blog" comic. This will be the penultimate review of Season 1 of Read My Complaints. Be sure to join us for Season 2, which won't have any gap of time between it at all. I just thought I'd split them into seasons every 4 reviews for the lulz. More to the point, I learned what a "Barista" is from "Questionable Content", I think I should look forward to this. I'm a fan of sarcasm, and the first page seems to be a good sign for me.

Art
Coloring: Black/Pen; Inked
Style: Unique, some American influences.
Effort: Art varies a lot. It will go strip to strip looking good and back, varying with little rhyme or reason. While I have no trouble what's going on, and the style has definitely improved, it still has a lot of refining to do, as well as finding a 'happy medium'. Look into doing color: the few that you colored looked great.
General: People's clothes change. While they wear them. This can be confusing for when you're trying to get a hold of who is who. A lot of shirts say one thing in one panel and by the end it's cycled through several unique shirts. While this is amusing at first, it makes it very hard for a new reader to grapple with faces for new characters. I guess you don't need to know anyone but the main character? There might be other important characters, but with no names and little plot importance for them, they all sorta become faceless. Distinguish your characters and have a reason for them. That's not to say that Barista Girl doesn't do things right. Action scenes are nice, and there's excellent panel variation. The nice frenetic feeling that the comic gives off is good considering the action. Emotions don't often variate from 'bored', 'angry', 'annoyed', or 'stupid' though. Some variation would be nice.

Story
Background: Basically the story is about the pains of being a Barista. There isn't really a plot, so much as there is a girl dealing with a sucky job.
Complexity: This one's pretty flat. Nothing too complex, you can take it for face value here.
Continuity: It's basically like a story without a plot. It jumps randomly, and a lack of color makes it impossible to tell the time of day. Suffice to say, you could accept this as a series of running one-shot comics that are chronological and are all canon. The closest thing you get to a story is that at one point the BG quits and is unemployed a comic or two, then gets another. At another coffee shop. So close to character development... and yet so far. Lots and lots of fillers, though.
Clarity: Pretty clear. Nothing much to follow. You'd probably get it more if you're into indie stuff. And coffee.
Substructure: Once in a while there is a label. There was a 6 comic storyline, the title of which I can't use in present company (apparently I get thrown out if I go "overboard"). Other than that? Nada.
Draw: The main draw here is complaints. People like to complain, misery loves company, and people like to hear complaining. That's why I named my reviews "Read my Complaints".
Overall: I may have missed something, but I don't think any of the cast has a name. There's the main character, who complains, a coworker who isn't good at his job but gets paid more, and a myriad of customers, all of whom are depicted as idiots. I'm not saying it's not true (I've never worked in a coffee shop), but that's how it plays out. I find it ironic that she is continually called a Barista Girl, however, when a Barista's job is expressly to mix drinks, and she refuses to deviate from a set menu. By the by, this is basically a no-plot story about a girl who hates her job, and it just continuously cuts to another seen where the main character is seen suffering. Combined with the color scheme, it feels very emo. Bear in mind that while I say they could all be one-shots, they are all about the same person and I in chronological order, it's just that no event seems to effect anything outside its own comic. Without a plot, it seems a running chain of jokes that's purpose is only humor and violence. Or maybe humor as a result a violence. Since the author is a Barista (I assume, from the blog posts), this comic may be their way of venting. It's funny, if you're into people being mad.

Upkeep
Update: This comic updates pretty much without any warning. I had to search hard for a schedule: on the first comic, the "blog" update says it updates Mondays and Fridays. Aha! Looking at the dates on the comic, it's clear that there is no real pattern here. Three or four days feels like a good estimate for this one, but I've seen fluxes go from one day to seven as quickly as one comic to the next, and its follower.
Site Design: Okay, so BG is hosted by PPP (Papal Petrol Productions, which doesn't make any sense lest you simply wanted a bit of alliteration for the letter P. The Pope rarely deals in oil. So rarely, in fact, his oil glands have probably all dried up. But enough about names and elderly religious leaders.) and set up with ComicPress. Fair enough, but it feels very bloggish. To the point where I have serious doubts it's not a blog. You get a blog with author comments for every update, which is not uncommon, and below that blog responses. Well, I guess that throws the need for a forum out the window. On the other hand, they have a nice layout for everything else (they even have a shop: surprising in something so new, possibly suggesting a fairly devout fanbase). They have the standard "Contact", "Home" and "Shop", suffice to say, while an Archive and Forum are unneeded since they appear on each page. What IS shocking missing is some form of FAQ or Cast page. I think this is a must for webcomics: you need a place to inform your readers, especially new ones. People want to know what kind of comic it will be before it begins, so they can see if they will like it (in my experience, at least).
Comic Navigation: I'll be honest with you. I skipped down here just so I could say this one now. There is no latest button, and the only 'first' button is on the main page. Ouch. Aside from that, there is a nifty calendar with which you can quick nav to a date, if you know it. On that page, there is no forward/back, you have to click the picture to go to that 'post', at which you can navigate. A little confusing, but intuitive enough. The lack of buttons hurts my soul though, especially considering it can be hard to pick out. There's no search option, and while a 'first' button may not be necessary on every slide, and you can use the home button to get to the latest, it makes me cry myself to sleep at night knowing there's not one here.

Metascore
Art: 3. Art could use work. It's shaky, it's messy, but you can always tell what's going on. I've never had trouble identifying a scene. There are a lot of fillers, and there could be more effort, but that's clearly not what this comic is about. If you'd give us more story and less fill, and you'd put a little more effort in (those colored strips, where they were, were big improvements in my opinion)... and maybe distinguished between characters, I would kick it up a notch. I like the art on a core level, but some parts look downright ugly. To contrast, pages right next to that can look great. I think you need more time to refine your style.
Story: 1. Story is nonexistant. The longest running 'story' took 6 strips. It's pretty much all one-shots. Somewhere else in there there was a sequence of 3 that seemed to be more than just one-shots, as they were related.
Upkeep: 2. There is just so much to improve. This is a weak point. Make getting around a little easier for us, and I think it will help a lot. An FAQ or cast page would be an even better step in the right direction. A solid update schedule, though, is what I'm pulling for the most. The reason I'm inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt and push you up to 2 is that you did a whole lot right, but sadly these three things are pretty vital. I'm not saying 'slow down so that your fans have to wait', but I do think that having a schedule will not only make life easier on you (not in a constant rush to get your next comic out, and if you stack up, you can save them for later updates), but it will also make things easier for your readers when they know when to expect the next comic. The fact that you have a subscribe button here must be a Godsend: otherwise people would have no idea when to look.
Final Grade: 2. This comic has its ups and downs. While it may lack in the common areas of comic analysis, it has its strengths in something we can't measure, which is that it was designed to be a humorous comic. However, that is all a matter of taste, so I can't remain objective of it. Simply put, I'm scaling this comic with the best in the business, and on a scale of 5, 1 does not mean that you should avoid it like the plague. Look into it if it interests you. If you like violence, sarcasm, and anger in a comic, look into it. But what I can say is that if you aren't interested from the beginning, that is unlikely to change.

Closing Remarks
This isn't necessarily a 'bad comic'. If you're reading it for the humor of anger, then more power to you, but nonetheless, I grade hard and there are great expectations. Sadly, this comic, while good in its own respects, can only put up two indie girls fighting against public idiocy out of five.

8 comments:

Ratchet said...

Thanks for the review! I'll post this bad boy for my 100th comic!
Thanks again!
Cheers
-R-

The Wife said...

DUDE! You need to relax, open your mind, and have a little fun! And stop being taking things so damn literally! Barista Girl is meant to be FUN! Do you know what 'Easter Eggs' are? Hence, the changing shirts/clothes.

OH, and btw, WHY couldn't you call 'Ass Kickin' Harbingers of Justice' by its proper name, instead of constantly referring to it as 'a 6 comic storyline'? It has a clear-cut cast of characters, who all had names. Did you not look close enough? Obviously, proper names weren't used, as it's a true story, and therefore a possible liability to BG and those involved.

OH! And for the record, it's PPP, NOT P3! And the name itself, Papal Petrol Productions, isn't SUPPOSED to make sense to anyone besides my husband who's the creator/owner of PPP. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to explain it to you, if you'd like.

Sidewinder said...

I'm not saying things like changing shirts aren't intended to be amusing, but I am saying that it makes it difficult to distinguish characters, as one of the first things a reader ties to an identity is their clothes pattern, which is why comic authors so often don't deviate their clothes at all.

Your question about AKHoJ (the storyline) is a legitimate one. At the time, I was reviewing comics for Frumph.net. I was recently kicked out because I didn't like the censorship of my reviews.

Again, as I stated in my review, this comic will appeal most to readers who have applications in their own lives. Comics are not only a good way to vent stress, but you can really appeal to people with similar situations. The big dilemma here is one that's been bothering me for quite some time, which is why I've been looking into reforming my review system. You see, humor is subjective. I can't say that something is universally funny, or that it is not. I can say that this will appeal to people with that kind of taste or who can identify with the strip. I thought certain parts were funny, but others I found crude (possibly because I can't relate as well). This has bothered me quite a bit, for instance, because one of my favorite comics, xkcd, is impossible to review correctly with my standards: it has no story and it's all stick figures. By that reckoning, it should be a 1. But I find it one of the most humorous comics I've ever seen, so I'd think it would deserve a 5 without a justification. If you think you have a better way I can objectively review such a subjective area of analysis, I'd be grateful to hear it, but in the mean time I have to deal with things from the most objective standpoint, and I can't justify scoring something higher without credible backing.

P3 was an abbreviation I used because it was P^3, which is equal to P*P*P, or PPP. It's not an uncommon way to abbreviate, but if it bothers you that much I will change it.

My biggest problem with BG's story is that it would function just as efficiently in any order. There's no running plot, which I guess applies to most true stories. Still, without a driving force it becomes difficult to define the story as a whole. Such is the reason fiction writers go down in history with acclaim, while biographers are remembered at best as good reporters. Unfair? Perhaps.

I assure you, the humor is not lost on me, but in order to provide my style of review, I have to take it in a bit of a staunch way. Of course, that doesn't prevent occasional sarcasm.

Wall of text critically hits you for 298508520983502975320938509358 damage.

scartoonist said...

Barista Girl reminds me of zine comics that were around pre-internet. You be sitting in some bus station, and suddenly you'd see one on a vacant seat, and it would amaze and dazzle you with its attitude. Often they'd be a mess -- maybe one person did art and another did layout -- but in those post punk years when everything was a mess, it felt fresh.

Bengo
http://floatinglightbulb.blogspot.com/ blog
http://lilnyet.com/ webcomic

Katalac said...

I agree with the wife here. You really do need to open your mind, and perhaps your eyes as well. As far as the updates are concerned, she updates every Monday and Friday, that means you get a new comic on Monday and Friday. It's on the freakin banner for chris'sake! She may blog more often than she puts up comics, but that is to get her readers revved up for the next thing she is doing, or to inform her readers of what she may be doing, for example, she informs her readers when she does an art show, in hope that she might meet the readers.
The changing shirts thing has been there from the very begining, even before she did this comic. She is concerned about the little thing, and people noticing these little things. If you had taken more than an hour to go through everything she has maybe you would appriciate it a little more.

Sidewinder said...

First to address your concerns about the update schedule, I don't see a lot of schedules on the banner, so I immediately began hunting for it in the 'blog' section, and didn't realize it was there until I pasted the banner into my review.

One the other hand, take a look at my recent review of For the Reels, you'll notice I make a comment about my grading scale for BG. I was considering rereviewing the comic's story section scaled as though it was a series of one-shot comics rather than as a full story, since a series of one-shots doesn't need a driving plot (see above) and it would free me to do more literary analysis on critical areas of humor (see above), though I remind you once again that humor is subjective (see above) and will very person to person. I've been looking into revising my system (see above) so that I can more accurately review satirical comics (see above).

Now, you might wonder why I had to use so many (See above)s. This is because most of your concerns are already addressed in my response post. Please read it.

Anonymous said...

In no way were you *EVER* associated with Frumph.NET, just a common user in the forums.

Sidewinder said...

Question: Did Frumph.net gain user traffic from users from other sites follow my links to my reviews?
Answer: Yes

You are correct that I was never on the site STAFF (which only consisted of admins, and the fact that I wrote reviews without being on Staff was inevitably the reason for my ban), but I did indeed write for the benefit of the site. I admit that I am ashamed that I benefited the site now, but I am happy I met many of the users there. There are a lot of good, friendly people on the Frumph.net forums, unfortunately Frumph himself is not among them.