Saturday, February 18, 2017

Heroes of Thantopolis

Ghosts and ghoulies! The dead are everywhere!
Lock your doors! Bar the windows! Make sure nobody can get inside…

…so nothing can distract you from reading Heroes of Thantopolis, a cute lil’ comic about ghosts and friendship.

The Rating

This comic tries so hard. Its gentleness and kid-friendly nature make it endearing enough that I can’t truly dislike it, but there are still some notable flaws.

The Raves

The long and short of Thantopolis is this; Cyrus, a living human being, finds himself in the city of the dead, Thantopolis. He can’t remember his family or who he was. Upon meeting Helene, Goddess and Queen of the city, Cyrus is recruited as her champion and given a weapon. And so proceeds the story.
If there’s one thing I really like about this comic, it’s how vibrant and colorful the art is. The color choices are pleasing to the eye. There’s a big emphasis on curves and soft forms in the comic, giving the art a whimsical feel. Given that Thantopolis is intended to be kid-friendly, these are fantastic artistic choices to make.

The kid-friendly nature of the comic is itself also a praiseworthy trait. It’s relatively uncommon to find a good long-form webcomic that remains firmly in the realm of the G-rating. It’s even more uncommon to see such a comic that deals with topics of death, identity, and personal conflict. Although some aspects of the comic are lacking in development, the younger ends of the target audience would probably find this to be an enjoyable read. No doubt adults can and do enjoy it as well, but it holds up a little better for a younger crowd.

The relationships are probably the strongest part of the writing. There’s a huge emphasis on friendship, camaraderie, and mutual understanding. The relationship between main character Cyrus and Xisea, a friendly little spider ghost, is so unrelentingly sweet that I honestly felt a little happier just seeing them talk to each other about their problems. It's by far my favorite aspect of the writing. Not every relationship in the comic is written quite so well, but when the creator nails it, they nail it.

The Razzes

Let’s start with the art. While I like the color choices, I’ve got some beefs with the character design. There’s nothing wrong with having a simple art style, but this one is sometimes simple to a fault. It reminds me a bit of the Cartoon Network style. You know…

that style. And if you’re a fan of that style, you’ll like this art. The real problem here is the main character looks so forgettable and generic, while most of the others look nothing like whatever they’re supposed to be. For example, this character…

…is a rat, but looks more like a cat. And it only gets worse from here.
This is a spider.

This is a crow.

This is a hunting hound.

This is Sagittarius.

I think she’s supposed to be a horse? I can only assume that since Sagittarius is typically depicted as a centaur. I’ll admit the art is cute, but it starts to get a little stale when almost everybody just looks like an indistinct blob.

Now onto the writing. Oy, the writing. Let’s start with character interactions.

Admittedly, I like how sweet the main character is and the relationship he has with Xisea is endearing to no end. Those two have probably the most likeable personalities in the comic. I also admire some of Trickster’s quirkiness, though sometimes his ‘90s Bro persona can wear a little thin. Cyrus, Xisea, Trickster, and later Sagittarius become a core group of mutual friends through the course of this comic and there are some very nice moments between all four of them. What really annoys me, though, is Helene. By all rights, she is the major cause of most of the main character’s problems and the comic doesn’t pretend she isn’t a master manipulator.
Cyrus has more goodwill for Helene in his little finger than I do in my entire body.
So why is she presented like some kind of mother figure to Cyrus, whom she treats as her personal pawn 24/7? I’m tempted to think the comic is intentionally mixing its signals so that it’s hard to pin her down. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, her arrogance, dishonesty, and callousness really get on my nerves. Every time the comic gives her a “nice” moment, it feels forced, rather than earned.

The plot also has some big flaws. The setup and summary lead you to think that Cyrus’ journey will culminate in him confronting Aquarius. He’s being groomed to fight her, given a weapon, and a small team of friends who seem like they will help him. I was actually excited when it seemed like the climax was nearing, albeit puzzled because the archives showed I was only halfway through the comic.

Surely, the confrontation with Aquarius, which was played up as a major event and Helene’s reason for recruiting Cyrus, would have some kind of complication and the plot will go on from there. Well, as it turns out, the real Aquarius has been held captive by an impostor. This should make for an exciting battle, right?

Nope. Cyrus “defeats” her by talking her down and convincing her that what she’s doing is wrong.

As with Helene’s “nice” moments, I feel like this is yet another instance where the moment just feels unearned. While I respect the message of using words and kindness to reach out to a villain, it all happened much too fast. With a few “words of wisdom” from our hero, she has a complete change of heart that takes all of two pages. On the whole, the entire climax of this arc just seemed cheap.
Since then, the plot has shifted gears to focus more on Cyrus trying to remember who he was, and the progression of that story has been a lot more believable, but the pacing of the comic mostly meanders and struggles to find a focus. Cyrus has a goal, but thanks to Helene’s obstruction, that goal is constantly pushed off to the side. But to what end? There seems to be no other particular aim and I can’t help wondering why Helene even keeps him around.

Y’know, aside from not wanting to part with her pawn.
You did not earn that hug. Put it back down where you found it and go sit in the corner.

The Revue

If there is one thing that this comic has a lot of, it’s heart. I can see that the creator has put so much earnest care and effort into this comic, even if the results are flawed. Regardless, if you’re looking for something colorful, kid-friendly, and generally pleasant, this isn't a bad story to check out.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Drop us a line!