Reviews: Atopthe Fourth Wall
A little too negative for my taste
Atop The Fourth Wall is a Nostalgia Critic style review series of bad comics with story arcs and humour. I feel Linkara is one of the strongest personalities on That Guy With The Glasses * Even if you don't read comics really or have familiarity with the specific ones he's talking about, he'll go through it carefully and even explain some of the history and backstory you need to know. It never feels like knowledge is required and should be open to more than comic fans. I can't really review the story arcs because I don't like that sort of thing and so skip them, but you can do that, his stuff is long enough that you don't lose out. But despite all this, I've only watched 15 ish of his videos (from fairly scattered time periods, and all of some of his event series' though). I just can't make myself watch them and it very quickly becomes an anti-enjoyable experience for me. The thing is, he's too negative. His thing is this is where bad comics burn, so he doesn't come into them looking for a judgement, but to entertain the audience by ripping into them. He's got a strong fanbase so people must enjoy him, but he's so keen to seek out the bad things that he stretches too far doing so, it also creates quite a flat dynamic, constantly hearing bad things makes everything boring eventually because there's no change or pacing to it. EDIT: Linkara does point out good things in the main review, I'm not sure why it doesn't feel like it /EDIT By contrast, the Nostaliga Critic is also careful to point out the good things and not everything is mind boggling awful, it builds up to rages, slowly, with boring bits and headscratchers until the full out suckiness is released. With Linkara it becomes easy to stop agreeing him and think 'hold on, but there are plenty of things that do that which aren't necessarily bad' . Instead of agreeing with him and having fun learning about the awfulness of something together with someone, instead it becomes about how Linkara doesn't really know that much about suicide or depression and some of his points really aren't that valid. At the end he does a summary where he puts the comic into context, sums up the good and the bad. This works, it's just a shame the rest isn't like that.
Stagnation is the name of the game
Or the show, rather. Let me expound upon that. Linkara has been doing essentially the same thing for 4 years, with the very rare occurance of something different being thrown into the mix (top 15, or a showcase). He picks out a comic which is bad to an extent and proceeds to riff on it, much like MST 3 K, with critiques sparsely spread out across the video. However, that is it. He, for the most part, just chooses low-grade comics and makes fun of them over and over again. He tried something new with History of Power Rangers and A Quick Look At, but those were left in the dust to make way for more Atop the 4th Wall. His colleagues, Spoony One and Bennett The Sage, actually change their content when the regularly expected videos get too stale. Linkara, on the other hand, just keeps doing what he has been doing since 2008. If, maybe, Linkara switched his format from a riff show with critiques that concentrates on low-quality work, to a review show with riffing that concentrates on works from all sides of the quality spectrum this might be rectified. For proof, his 200th episode wherein he talks about One More Day and offers an analysis of Peter Parker's childishness, or his Superman #701 video wherein he talks about Superman the character, or whenever he's talking about comic culture, or the history of a character, those are fairly interesting segments and I think Atop the 4th Wall would really benefit if Linkara played down the riffing and upped the reviewing and started looking at good comics just as much as the bad.
Funny and worthy of being on the site, but...
Now let me just say that Atop the Fourth Wall is hilarious in my opinion, he comes up with great jokes about stupid comics. Linkara's character is also more pleasant than many others on the site, and he's got amusing sidekick characters. He gives good insight on what a comic book buyer like him looks for, and provides opinions on social matters that I can agree with, off-topic as they are. A good "show" to watch and enjoy. But... I don't know how to begin other than one word: Narm. Maybe it's Narm Charm for some, but I just can't get into these story arcs he has. Linkara tries to build up epic story arcs for his reviews, which isn't a bad thing, but it's awfully distracting sometimes. I wasn't watching his series yet for most of the Mechakara stuff and only really saw the climactic conclusion, and I liked it. Then came Lord Vyce and Linkara's disappearance. I'm not saying the arc was a bad idea, but it could've been done better, maybe if it wasn't stretched out for as many months as it was. Eventually "Linkara reviews bad comics" became "Linkara and friends battle a multiversal terrorist bent on conquering everything in order to protect them from a greater threat while dealing with robots and Silent Hill psychological attacks, and he squeezes in a review when convenient". (Long name, but not the point.) Now it's not like he does a video without any review on occasion for the sake of a story (except a recent Recap Episode, but it was forgivable for the Take That Me tone it took). But what I'm getting at is that the review of a comic feels forced like "oh nuts I forgot, this is a review show, better work one in". His story concepts are good, but Linkara needs to tone it down and remember- This is a review show of bad comics. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I just don't appreciate the epic scale of Vyce and the Entity like he and some other fans do, it just rubs me the wrong way and I feel distracted by it. My overall rating of Atop the Fourth Wall is 8/10, it's still a good review show and a must-see for people visiting the site, even people who aren't a fan of comics (like me). The big, dramatic stories are really the only major problem I have. If there's a good thing to say about a comic review show, it probably applies to this one too.
Above all else, fun.
Atop the Fourth Wall is almost exactly like having a friend tell you about this really bad comic they read, cracking jokes about it to you, pointing out the especially egregious parts, and generally just having a good time with you roasting that comic he read. What makes this really work is Lewis/Linkara himself. Lewis is such a nice, friendly, humble, likable person, that he can quickly adopt to that "friend" role. Indeed, this is why we *care* when he complains about a comic, why we feel sorry for him and not the writers/artists/editors behind the comic he's reviewing, because we like him and are sympathetic to what he feels, which is an aspect of storytelling Lewis nailed. Now, one can argue that other aspects of his storytelling are flawed due to self-insertion, or is just plain Narm, but I don't think those criticisms are approaching the work the right way. Continuing the earlier used metaphor of a friend talking to you about a comic book, the storyline parts are toned more like a casual, fun role-playing game with buddies than an actual story, which meshes very well with the review portions of the web show. And that is another thing to remember: Its a web show. Web shows are equivalent to comic books as a medium, as both are serial based mode of primarily visual entertainment that works to (ideally) entertain for the length of the work, and then make you come back for the next one. This concept of 'entertain-than-incentive-to-return' prevalent in serial storytelling nicely explains the reason for the storyline bits. They are basically hooks to get you to watch the next show, because you want to find out what happens next in the story. As well, the storylines really help the overall visual impact of the show. Comic book scans are a static medium with no movement and no sound. The storyline bits can have epic music, special effects, fighting choreography, props, costumes, etc., which thus make Atop the Fourth Wall a better show overall. All of the above is why Atop The Fourth Wall is one of my favorite shows, online or otherwise, because it is just so fun to be around Lewis/Linkara, who really gives a valiant effort to make his reviews entertaining and leaving incentive to return. So go and watch it now!
OK, lets get the ground prepped (I have learnt to my cost that you have to do this with these reviews or your comments fill with flame). 1:I like AT4W, probably more than NC 2:I have little knowledge of the franchises examined in these reviews, but that is irrelevant. 3:I enjoyed the reviews. This review covers the reveal of Mechacara at the end of Ultimates 3 to the end of the fight. Ultimates 3 was a good, if slightly inaccessible to outsiders review, however I am uncertain at what point Linkara's review ended and the faux-opinions began, because of this I felt the review suffered. All in all however it was a perfectly normal and perfectly good review, far from his best but far from bad. The Young Bloods 2 review, weirdly enough considering the lead in, was also a fairly boilerplate review, funnier sure, but the "lets ignore the robot" line the review took for the built of it was unsettling, despite how hard I laughed when Linkara more or less ignored the lead in. I realise why, the combination of wanting to do Young Bloods as an anniversary thing, wanting to do the big fight with Power Rangers lead in, but it felt off. Actually a very good review, but prodding my suspension of disbelief rather hard in its ribs. As for the Power Rangers review, I am still undecided if the potted review thing was a better format, I certainly think that putting YB2 after this (perhaps as a final revenge thing) so as to avoid the robot ignorance would be a better line to take. That said the fight was amusing, if a bit cameo happy, I was half expecting Lester B Bum. I find it funny that Linkara, a man who despises random elements being introduced and then dropped in comics, did so here in abundance. Nevertheless it was funny with a real zinger of an ending and I have certainly seen many people do much worse. All in all, while I appreciate the time and effort, and was entertained by it, I can't help but feel that Linkara is funniest when not dealing with arcs, his humour stems from the comics and as such they have to take the lead. If you can build recurring opponents or nemesis into that then great, but don't ignore what makes you funny to chase physical humour. Well worth watching if you like Linkara, but others do this style of physical comedy better. Funny, not hilarious: ****