Felicia Day knows how to push your buttons.
It didn’t occur to me until I began looking up background information on Day for this review, but she is an amazing entrepreneur. Here is someone who has successfully turned her cult status and Woman On The Internet fan obsession into genuine focus on her creative enterprises.
From Slayer to Sherman, Day is known for representing characters that either gender can project their desires onto. What she perhaps should be better known for is her ability to deftly separate the idealizations of others from her work. For every sardonically sexualized “Do You Want To Date My Avatar?” music video there is a whole season of The Guild where Day is without that subtext. For every frightened Slayer growing excitedly into her power (or avoiding a Doll-pocalypse), there is a Penny being crushed between the machinations of two egotistic men. For every lead role in a SyFy original movie about killin’ werewolves there is…a Sears commercial. She defies being pigeonholed without rejecting it and this forces you to consider her work as more than online novelty and without pretense.
It’s in that spirit that I approached the new collection of The Guild comic (preview in the link). It also helps that Felicia Day is an excellent comic book writer.
The collected edition of Dark Horse’s three issue mini-series sees release today and it chronicles the path that the show’s main character, Cyd Sherman, takes from being a depressed 20-something violinist to a (still somewhat depressed) hardcore gamer in an online guild. The story is far from being a cash-in byproduct of the webseries, indeed, it serves as a sort of show bible for The Guild and is pretty much a must-read origin tale for fans of the series.
The story itself is engaging, self-effacing without being irritating, and can stand well on its own without the reader having to have watched a single episode of The Guild. Felicia Day’s dialogue turns on a dime as she drives Cyd slowly towards a life centered around MMORPGs, and the voice and cadence of the show’s characters is always readily apparent.
Jim Rugg’s art does double duty in this comic, swinging between Charles Burns-esque indie simplicity to monstrously lush fantasy art. Both styles complement the storytelling so well that I found myself checking more than once as to who the second artist was, only to find it confirmed in the editor’s notes that, no, this was indeed all Rugg’s work.
There is an awkwardness to this origin story comic in that it ends up outshining the very webseries to which it is ancillary. The shortened nature of the episodes in The Guild (about eight to ten minutes each) doesn’t leave a lot of room for emotional development. Instead, they rush from plot development to plot development and that robs the series of the weight that the comic very successfully brings to these characters.
The series is also so obviously comedic that its pace doesn’t allow sadness to linger on too long. (Case in point: The character of Vork lives perhaps the saddest life known to man, but you certainly don’t want to spend an entire episode with him moping over that realization.) After four seasons of the show, the lack of emotional growth in the characters is beginning to become more glaring, though thankfully the comic scratches that itch and provides an overall framing that the webseries lacks.
So that’s the bad news, but it’s not very bad news. Especially in light of the fact that this is a well-written, well-drawn mini-series that should entertain new readers and fans of The Guild alike. That is a hell of a hard thing to pull of in any medium and I’d love to see Day tackle an original comics-only series.
Chris Greenland mistyped “MMORPG” as “MOORPG” in this article so many times that he kind of wishes he could play online as a cow. +10 grazing!