Dasien by Neil Purcell

Dasien by Neil Purcell is a webcomic about a super-powered woman who fights crime.  She has a secret identity.  She lives in a universe where there are other superheroes and supervillians.  She fights crime because that’s what superheroes do and the supervillians are bad because that’s what makes them supervillians.

The above paragraph will be a bit of a litmus test for whether you enjoy Dasien or not.  Dasien is built entirely with standard American superhero comic book components.  As such it doesn’t do much to surprise the reader.  On the other hand, it does reliably deliver action scenes — a key ingredient of the classic superhero story.

The plot — so far — is basic: Dasien hangs around with her buddy Parker Lynn Bailey, a reporter for the local newspaper, hangs around her apartment, and fights the supervillians who work for the local crime lord, Gooch

After Daisen catches a supervillian-courier working for Gooch, Gooch brings in a more high-powered team of supervillians to take out Dasien.  There’s a mcguffin called the EMA that everyone is after – Dasien takes it from the Gooch’s courier and then the supervillians take it back. 

There is a lot of fighting between Dasien and the "big lunk" member of the supervillian team.  Other superheroes and the police battle the rest of the supervillans.

Because he spends a lot of time on action scenes, the plot does not move that quickly. Purcell is probably no more than halfway through this initial storyline.

There’s also a subplot about a rivalry between the reporter character Bailey and a television reporter named Ally Bromsfeldt.  It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but it is frustrating that Purcell has spent more effort developing two supporting characters (Bailey and Bromsfeldt) than the main character Daisen. 

Dasien, herself, is a cheerful young woman, albeit one with superpowers, but not much defined beyond that.  I’d find her more interesting if she had more of a compelling background.  (The fact that she’s a superhero is simply not that interesting in and of itself in this comic because Purcell has established that it’s a world with lots of superheroes.)  Purcell has a one-off origin story comic at the beginning which he describes as an homage to the kind of origin stories golden age comicbook superhero characters tended to have.  Although it’s short and not unlike many other superhero origins where a scientist invents something (in this case a "special virus vector") and then secretly tries it out on a human being, Purcell could extrapolate from it to add some much-needed wrinkles to the Dasien character.

The artwork is bright, primary and somewhat influenced by anime.  Although the characters are not drawn in a highly realistic manner, Purcell has a clear enough sense of human anatomy to effectively portray the action in Dasien.  In fact, the art and the creative action scenes are the strongest part of the webcomic. 

The artwork and the simple characters and plot would largely leave one with the impression that this is a story for — or at least appropriate for — young adults, but oddly enough Purcell drops in an explicit scene with the reporter character Bailey engaged in sexual activity.  There are several things wrong with this really:  one is that the particular scene doesn’t really add much to the character of Bailey and two, the less then realistic artwork of the webcomic doesn’t work as well with this kind of scene. In notes to various episodes, Purcell writes about his own thinking on whether to include adult content in the series and it appears as if he initially started off with a G to PG-rated approach in mind before retroactively allowing himself the freedom to add in more R-rated material.  Because the strip still largely reads as PG material the one R-rated scene is just jarring.  If Purcell wants to change the tone of Dasien he will have to do so much more dramatically going forward.

Despite the above criticism, if you are looking for a straightforward example of a superhero webcomic, Dasien is a worthy candidate.  It delivers a healthy portion of the basics of the genre – lots of action, nefarious evil-doers and heroes in spandex.

Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.