June 29, 2011
No, I don’t spend the next few paragraphs telling you what is necessary to be a webcomics author.
What it Takes is a comic by Karen Howard, more popularly known as Kez, a graduate student in Buffalo, New York, and is part of the War of Winds website collection along with a selection of other webcomics.
The basic premise of What it Takes (referred to as WiT from hereon for brevity) is that civilisation basically went kablooie. Why? We don’t know, nor does the storyline much care. What we do care about is what people are now doing to survive in the post-urban world.
Typically the comic follows the antics of Colbey, a pseudo-androgynous woman who is more than capable of handling herself in the wilds as well as using anything she can lay her hands on to her advantage. Though the comic has been running since November of 2009, there’s a lot about Colbey that we don’t know, including her motives for going where she goes in the world, but it seems to revolve around a man who may have at some point been her fiance. Mostly you’re going to stick around for the character personalities rather than the deep meaningful storyline, which is exactly what WiT intends. Life after cities and TV is neither good nor easy and Colbey is very much aware of this, every day is a struggle simply to survive.
Artwork has developed a lot since its 2009 inception (grab your spinning tops!), which was almost as close to greyscale as one can get using more than two colours. Artwork now is still essentially black and white, but with far more varied and subtle use of shading. Proportions have definitely improved fairly rapidly, as has the portrayal of motion and action, such as in a recent installment that had Colbey nearly hanged at the gallows.
Writing has similarly improved. Whilst it wasn’t “bad” per say to begin with, dialogue and characterisation has definitely improved over time. Colbey routinely gives her thoughts on goings on through narrator boxes (similarly, if far less absurd, to Deadpool) and in many pages this is the only dialogue we get as she spends a lot of her time alone or entirely reluctant to talk to whomever happens to be around. As such, most of what we read is drawn entirely from her own perspective and personality, which has definitely improved over time. Language was clumsy and the mix of spoken dialogue and narration was perhaps even clumsier, but in more recent pages the blend is much more seamless, if Colbey has to talk she rarely does any narration at the same time (a contrast that is jarring if attempted simultaneously) and the characters, though often brief and temporary, are detailed and thought-through.
In all, WiT is definitely enjoyable, and certainly a perhaps welcome distraction from the typical urban “crises” we encounter on a day-to-day schedule. Sure, it’s taking your phone over a minute to communicate with a satellite in outer space to fetch you the latest picture of a kitten doing something strange with a white bold text caption, but Colbey routinely deals with more severe things just trying to walk down a street. If the characters and the odd drop of intrigue don’t grab you, the perspective will certainly hold you against a wall with a machete to make sure you’re certain about navigating away.