Setting Fatigue, Thy Name is Erfworld
I followed Erfworld with near-religious devotion when it was hosted on the OOTS website. It was (and still is) a masterpiece, combining excellent character drama and a unique setting into a seamless whole that never loses pace or poignancy throughout its run. Then Book 1 ended. The major issue I have with Erfworld was that it started out with the characteristics of the setting itself being of secondary importance to how the main character interacted with them. The idea of a person from the real world being forced to command an army that runs entirely on strategy game rules was an inspired one, and so long as the story remained Parson's, it retained the focus needed to keep me interested. However, later books take focus away from Parson and instead begin exploring the setting of Erfworld itself, which in my mind was a serious mistake. The problem with Erfworld is that it cannot be taken seriously. For crying out loud; this is a setting whose pantheon is made up of Elvis impersonators. It is a world entirely made from pieces of humorous reference material, and this fact becomes painfully evident every time the story attempts to be deeper and more philosophical than it has any right to be. Unfortunately, the later books not only try and add more convoluted references to the mix than they have any right to, but insist of trying to add depth and meaning to the resultant creations that is consistently overshadowed by the fact of their origins. I have no problem with Erfworld when it isn't constantly trying and be dark and edgy. The series worked when the comedic elements existed in harmony with the more serious elements. Parson's revelation that the cutesy cartoon world he had landed in could be just as violent and brutal as Earth was moving at the time, but later books focus on this aspect far, far too much to retain any form of emotional impact. A final issue I have with Erfworld is that the text updates are incredibly dry and hard to get through. The writer is obviously trying to create a deep, nuanced fantasy adventure, but tries to do so in a way that is at odds with the actual comic. In conclusion; Erfworld is a textbook example of a webcomic that is suffering from setting fatigue. The story is becoming far too edgy for the medium it is presented in, and needs much tighter focus to retain my attention.
The best comic no one's ever heard of
Erfworld was hosted on the same site as a much better-known comic, the Order of the Stick. Yet when I read both, I was blown away by this sub-comic of sorts. Don't get me wrong, OOTS is great. But Erfworld is truly fantastic. The world is incredibly imaginative and creative. The RTS-based universe leads to situations that are familiar, yet wildly different. Most comics setting is an afterthought, but Erfworld's setting takes center stage. Thanks to the always well-written text updates, the world is slowly introduced to you, but you will immediately get a grasp of the basics. The humor is also worth a mention. Although not the funniest comic ever, the sheer mass of meme and pop culture references is staggering and often hilarious. Let us not forget about the characters. Each character, even the gimmicky ones, is excellent and humorous. Parson is a likable ever-man, Wanda a "Maybe, Maybe Not" villainess/antiheroine, even the somewhat less developed characters, like Maggie or Vinnie, are still a great contribution to the comic. The art is also fantastic, although I prefers Xin's art in Book 2 to Jamie's in Book 1. Overall, the comic is truly epic and fantastic, of the highest quality in art and story. Go read this comic. I can promise you it's not dissapointing.