Reviews: Nuzlocke Comics

Unbuilt Trope that attracted a Misaimed Fandom

Most people today know Nuzlockes as the quintessential Pokemon challenge. A hero with a great destiny sets out on a journey made more epic because Pokemon die in battle instead of faint...

Would you believe that the very first Nuzlocke comic was a Deconstruction of this very premise?

Instead of being a heroic Naďve Newcomer, Ruby is a Jerkass Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist who's only the hero because everyone else is either more jerkish than him or a complete idiot, or both. "Master is all about proving things, that's why he took The Challenge." THIS is the only reason why he puts his Pokemon's lives on the line. It's NOT depicted as a good thing at all, in fact, he's meant to look pathetic.

Furthermore, Ruby actually loses the challenge, and goes home broken... but failing to have learned anything at all. He develops an unhealthy obsession with winning the League, which leaves him perfectly open to suggestion... and that's where Fire Red begins, where the original comics really Grew the Beard.

Fire Red takes the Deconstruction even further. Ruby is directly called out on how selfish his goals are, and has to be reminded (of becoming Champion) "it's just a title". Giovanni is a lot more sympathetic than his game counterpart, and Ruby ends up causing major problems by repeatedly stopping him. But the one that really hits you is the Deconstruction of the series catch phrase itself: the story's Big Bad uses Ruby's belief that "this is all happening for a reason" to manipulate him into becoming an Unwitting Pawn.

Yet this time, Ruby actually does develop. The final chapters of the Fire Red arc are more drama than comedy, and you can tell Ruby has learned to value his Pokemon far more. By this point, he can't really be played for comedy much anymore, so the White run focuses more on him being the Only Sane Man to extremely crazy versions of Unova characters, which is still hilarious.

But there's still Deconstruction in White, with N's one simple line: "Remember, they wouldn't have died if you hadn't caught them." In some ways, the tragic deaths in Nuzlockes are the protagonist, and by extention, the player's, fault.

The original Nuzlocke comics are funny, clever and heartwrenching, and most derivatives missed the point.

Amazing potential, but only a few fulfill it.

I'd like to say that I love Nuzlocke Comics. The story telling potential in them is fantastic, however many of the Nuzlocke comics fall short of it. Why? For one simple reason.
The deaths have no impact on the trainer.
Oh, they might cry for a panel or two, but after that, many of them just continue on as if nothing happened. Later on this can change, but usually someone uses the line "They knew the risks" and the trainer gets right through it.\ Which doesn't really make sense as a reason. The pokemon were captured pretty much against their will and forced to fight. The fact that many of the versions of Nuzlocke have them talking and sentient just makes it... worse. They are human at that point, and they die for the sake of bits of metal, and no trainer seems to let themselves question this, or in fact stop the challenge.
It just doesn't sit right with me, and speaks of poor writing.
However, there is one Nuzlocke comic that I think does it right. Petty's Nuzlocke challenge. The deaths there have far more meaning, in my opinion (except for the intial spree of them) and the ending ties up the story beautifully. Indeed, the pokemon themselves have distinct personalities and characters. Different from many of the comics where they play second string to the trainer. I got to know every one of the main cast and was always on edge when they battled, not wanting them to die.
To me, Petty's Nuzlocke is one of the best of the lot, and I think it deserves a read.
As for the others, I will do my best to summarize my thoughts: Hale's storyline had promis but I feel it fell apart with the romance of May, there was just no justification for it, due to Brendan's previous behavior and that's where it fell apart for me.
Robot's had no real depth or emotional weight for me ( to be fair I did not read it all, I got tired of him just spending one panel on the pokemon's death and moving on like literally nothing had happened.
Nyachan's is very enjoyable. I don't quite get the romance and the third of the series doesn't really make sense. With Lily's prior experience you'd think it wouldn't have a chance to happen.
Apocalypse Jhoto is... something. It does indeed have a good storyline, but Candace develops into a completely unsympathetic character as time goes on, and why does she even NEED the badges?

Funny, sad, and far better than it has any right to be

I was familiar with the concept of the Nuzlocke run for a time, but until recently I didn't know about the comic. Thanks to the short form the comic is in, it didn't take long to browse the archives, but it's worth going back and reading it over, and taking longer to think about it. Why?

It's hard to explain, but there's just something right about the way it's done. The art is simplistic (it gets better as time goes on), and the story jumps around a bit, but yet it's still very effective. I think it's not so much the comic itself as the message it conveys: what if Pokemon were real? And what if they could die? The original run was set up for the sake of a challenge and became something more: it allowed the author to value Pokemon he didn't before, and he became far more emotionally invested in them. Although the comic is quite often hilarious (the Lost references are a bit lost on me, but there is a great Power Rangers one when Groudon awakens), the deaths of beloved characters are also genuinely sad, and it manages to strike a balance that makes the comic more memorable as a result.

Nuzlocke Comics is basically the antithesis of Stop Having Fun Guys. When you care about your Pokemon and become attached to them, that's pretty much the polar opposite of the hardcore competitive mindset, which sees their team members as means to an end, and that end is winning. But that's not the point of the games, and somehow this comic subtly reminds us of the fact that we're supposed to view our Mons as friends and valued partners, not tools. Call me sentimental, but I think that far outranks the humor content of the strip.

Also, if you have the time whilst on the site, I heartily recommend checking out the fan comic section as well. Robot and Hale, in particular, have excellent comics that have the same quality as the original without feeling like knockoffs. Robot's plot seems to be influenced from Green Lantern's Blackest Night storyline, much more evident later on in the series, and Hale's is genuinely good but worth reading for Crazy May alone.

Even with the fanmade strips, the archive won't take more than a couple hours to zip through. Even if you read it solely for the humor/entertainment value, odds are you'll still come away with a little something more.

I don't know what to say... too good!

Web-comics tend to be very simplistic, good enough to get a laugh but not enough to have you give it a second thought. This comic broke that trend. A simple idea based on Pokémon, with decent art and great comedy to back it up. It manages to swing flawlessly from comedy to action to drama. But what exactly do I love about it? -It does more than try to be funny, it, at points, actually makes you feel. -The in-jokes, references and memes are great. -The art style drastically improves over time. -Everyone has character traits, Buddy with his Rambo style attacks, the background story between the three Kanto starters, Giovanni's past, Mewtwo's past. Pidgeot was one of my favorite characters, he had great synergy with Ruby and his sacrifice was actually very sad. -The entire Fire-Red chapter. The plot twist, the jokes, the characters were all so on key. -Very quick to catch up with. -Surprisingly good action. I find myself at a loss for words when I think of how to describe the comics. It has a very good twist on all of the games it tackles. It gives very serious backstory to characters that never had it, and when that backstory isn't serious it's hilarious ("I dub thee fort magma!"). Above all else I feel it finally breathes life into the seemingly dead Meta-game. I suggest this comic to anyone looking for an hour or so of enjoyment.

Damn is all I can say... But then again...

There's a saying I have seem to come up with. "You can only milk an idea so many times before someone decides to try out something new with it". Pokemon Let's Play comics are simple. Adding a challenge makes it interesting, but when so many people decide to do it, you will soon be having Deja Vu. So what happens? What makes Apocalypse Johto so different? Aside from the setting, the comic doesn't even feel like a Nuzlocke Comic at all.

The setting for Apocalypse Johto is simply the Apocalypse. Pretty much all the Pokemon are now attacking people with lethal force. Remind you of anything? Similarity aside, the comic shows what happens to all the towns and people once all hell breaks loose. Some change for the better while others... well... you get the picture. It interprets the events of the HG/SS games in a different light, more different then how other HG/SS Nuzlocke Comics go.

Our main character isn't some nice goody-goody two shoes or some swanking dude like most other Nuzlocke comics, but rather a bitter woman who has lost her town and is trying to find a way to stop the attacks, fighting those who stand in her way. And she can be very scary at times, with her decaying beauty not helping the case. It's a very nice contrast to other Nuzlocke protagonists.

As for the system, the Nuzlocke system, while it does start off with some sort of establishment as one might expect (the rules, the stats that show up whenever a new Pokemon is caught) it soon stops and becomes a story in of itself. There are times where I forgot that I was reading a Nuzlocke comic. It makes the comic more like a comic, and not just another Nuzlocke comic with an added gimmick.

Personally, Apocalypse Johto is a good Nuzlocke comic. I wouldn't actually recommend it as your first one. Do what I did and ease yourself into the Nuzlocke Comics first before reading this. The difference from this comic compared to others will be staggering and will only make the comic that much more enjoyable.