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Two characters sit in a bar. They exchange some banter. One happens to be a robot with a TV screen head, displaying black and white cartoons and various silent films, named THE ONE ELECTRONIC (T-O-E). His companion is a bitter, orange, yellowed-eyed, iris-less bear thing, named Calabash.
And from this relatively sedate, if surreal opening, we go on what is perhaps one of the most startling comics ever. Created entirely by Evan Dahm, RICE BOY is equal parts fantasy epic, surreal dream story, nightmarish journey, and playful curiosity that is honest and humbling. Humbling because its scope and depth is unfathomably rich.
The story: TOE and Calabash have lived a long time. They've been charged by "God" (or "a god" as TOE remarks) to find the "fulfiller", an individual who will do, as a character remarks, some vaguely defined tasks which will restore a form of order to the world.
The problem is that it's been 3000 years and so far, TOE and Cal haven't found the right fulfiller. They've picked hundreds of people, but nothing happened or it made the world worse. In this case, the frog king Spatch the II; he's convinced he is the fulfiller and becomes a dictator bent on conquering the world. TOE, desperate, asks a humble boy...or rather, "Rice Boy", a small, white colored figure with no arms and big black circles for eyes, to maybe complete the tasks set before him..."I'm just Rice Boy" indeed.
From here, the story explores themes of belief, 'fate' (and its inherent folly), death, and revenge (mostly its fruitless quality)
The real joy in reading comes mostly from the elegant look and color style. Everything is atmospheric, giving the story a three-dimensional quality. The texture is whimsical, but not too ephemeral.
More remarkable are the characters. There aren't that many filibusters or walls of text. Dahm writes simply and has a child-like quality. Because of this, characters develop quickly, but naturally as well. Their designs are ingenious and simple.
The only problems, if any, are that some mysterious people and events are never explored or dropped entirely. But this is a minor complaint, after all, the Rice Boy world is vast.
From start to finish, Riceboy cannot be treated like almost anything you will have ever read before. Oh, there will be questions that will be answered... but a thousand rise in their place even as the plot sweeps you along too fast to really care.
Over the course of this webcomic, I found myself laughing, wondering, and crying bitter tears. I loved these characters, and believed in what they were doing. When you read something and wish, with with all of your being that their lives could have been, somehow, better... that is a truly great story.
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