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The Webcomic Overlook #81: Raven’s Dojo

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Hero spends about seven episodes training to fight an unstoppable villain. Hero and villain meet, and, after spending an inordinate amount of time staring at each other. They have inner monologues which last for several minutes on how they’re going to beat the other guy with their unstoppable techniques.

Finally, they fight. Which lasts for thirty episodes or so. The good guy and the bad guy trade the exact same punches for the first episode, after which the bad guy boasts over the next episode how he has this hidden technique that he hasn’t used yet. He spends the next three episodes powering up, where the heroes just sorta stand around with their mouths open. And then the villain unleashes his powerful move… which is totally ineffective because the good guy has his OWN unstoppable technique, which is, apparently, IMPOSSIBLE!

Repeat.

Congratulations. You’ve just watched an episode of Dragonball Z.

The show is quite infamous among anime circles for running, say, a string of 70 episodes with perhaps 10 minutes of actual content. Even the most diehard fans will admit that Dragonball Z was one of the dumbest things on TV. Yet, somehow, creator Akira Toriyama somehow created the most influential anime in history. Several anime, from Yu Yu Hakusho to One Piece, followed in its footsteps.

The show is a favorite on the internet, from popular memes (”Over 9000!”) to AMV’s (which range from gleefully ridiculous to surprisingly touching) to one of the most infamous webcomics of all time (which, incidentally, also inspired its own AMV).

Unfortunately, we’re not going to be talking about BUTTLORD GT. Instead, the Webcomic Overlook is reviewing a newer entrant into the burgeoning field of Dragonball Z parodies/homages/shameless rip-offs: Raven’s Dojo, written and illustrated by Raven Perez.

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Raven Perez shouldn’t be confused with Ramón Pérez, who writes and illustrates the excellent Kukuburi (reviewed at Comic Fencing here) and the comic adaptation of the Clone Wars for Dark Horse.

No, Raven Perez is the guy who once wrote God Mode. His term on the rotating roster of creators was colorfully eviscerated by John Solomon on Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad: “There’s nothing resembling a joke, much in the same way a stain on the ground doesn’t resemble a dead horse.” Harsh. But how can anyone ever stay mad at Raven Perez? Look at the picture on his bio: doesn’t he look like a rascally little scamp?

After handing the reigns of God Mode to Adrian Ramos, Raven had a chance to start afresh last year when he relaunched Raven’s Dojo on Keenspot. Unlike his earlier version, the new Raven’s Dojo would be a long-form comic with some semblance of a plot. Bringing over the “lessons learned” from God Mode and unhampered with the pretense of writing a gaming comic, Raven ramps up the cheesecake, the adolescent sexual humor, and the ineffable “Dragonball Z”-ness.

Raven’s Dojo follows around a group of characters who live on an island in the sea. They include the following:

  • Sarah, who has giant boobs. You might think that sounds crass an politically incorrect, but that’s probably her most prominent personality trait. She’s also incredibly bitchy, but that trait goes for all the Raven’s Dojo characters.
  • Dornail, a pudgy dragon who is an imbecile and a pervert. A dirty, rotten pervert.
  • Rosetta Stone, a culmination of two male fantasy types: a shy librarian and a superheroine in a skin-tight outfit. She’s the Goku stand-in.
  • Raven, who I’m guessing is a deliberate self-insert but, despite having a comic named after him, is far too superfluous a character to make a call.
  • and, last but not least, Rodney, who looks like a poop with permanently clenched teeth.

Notice a common theme among all the characters? That’s right: none of them are the least bit original nor the least bit interesting.

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Now, if I can pay Mr. Perez at least one compliment: he’s actually pretty good at imitating Toriyama’s distinct style. In a medium where all anime tends to look the same, Toriyama broke out with a comic where everyone’s facial features were highly exaggerated, bipedal animals mingled with humans, adventurers voyaged the world for things that looked like cute baby toys, and vehicles looked like they were designed by Fisher Price. In other words, complete lunacy. So it’s kinda nice to see that, from the improbable locales to the character designs, Raven’s Dojo makes for a pretty good Dragonball facsimile.

Unfortunately, it might be too similar. Raven managed to also bring in everything that made DBZ a tedious slog, then amplified to excruciating levels. As a result, Raven’s Dojo is one of the most mediocre webcomics I’ve read in recent memory.

Remember that earlier criticism by John Solomon about how nothing resembles a joke? Not only does it still apply, the pain is magnified tenfold in long-form. That’s because Raven can now hammer the same joke several time a row straight to your brain until you die from either brain hemorrhaging or severe humor deficiency.

There’s one instance, for example, where Raven, Dornail, and Rodney dress up in diapers. They convince everyone in the immediate vicinity that they’re babies. ADULTS WEARING DIAPERS! Oh my goodness, everyone must be BLIND if they can’t see through those flimsy disguises! AHAHAHAHAHAH! Comedy gold, amirite?

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If you found that sequence funny, then good for you. I mean, who am I to judge. You are the reason Little Man made $101 million worldwide. But if you’re the kind of person who found the joke flat, unfunny, and barely a level above saturday morning cartoon humor the first time— i.e., if you’re someone with taste — brace yourself because we’re gonna to be hit with the joke over and over and over again! By God, a tedium tour de force!

So, a mere twenty pages in, I was already wondering when the hell this goddamn comic would end. I started to wonder whether my time would be better spent on other things, like, say, solving the current economic crisis or remembering what happiness felt like. I punched the wall. I wept in despair. I twittered about socks. Alas, Raven was too successful in replicating Dragonball Z’s most notorious feature: the mind-numbing stretches of nothingness.

Sight gags aren’t so much wacky as they are “wacky”: sad attempts where Raven Perez tries too hard to make us laugh. Rodney and Dornail serve as the comedy relief, and by “comedy” I mean “painfully unfunny” and by “relief” I mean “annoying little turdlets.” And the jokes just get more and more desperate as the story progresses. What if their enemy was a werewolf … AND a robot … AND a redneck?

LAUGH, GODDAMN YOU!

Want to know how ponderous Raven’s Dojo gets? The comic manages to make naked ladies boring. A pity, since it’s obvious Ramon Perez loves big boobs, or at least loves to draw big boobs. Any opportunity he gets, he draws boobage. Whole strips are centered around Sarah’s bountiful cleavage. And Raven’s not going to be shy about it, that cheeky rogue! Raven’s Dojo is full of gags about breast-feeding and gags about girls pressing their boobs against each other. Scandalous!

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There’s even an extended plotline where Rodney faces a mysterious new roommate in a Shower Showdown. Which takes place, naturally, in Sarah’s shower. With Sarah inside. Which is a flimsy excuse to draw totally gratuitous shower scenes that feature Sarah naked.

Some people might think that this sort of material is tacky, but … okay, it’s tacky. Honestly, I feel dirty just typing out those last two paragraphs. It gets worse, too: boob jokes are just the tip of the iceberg. But beyond the shameless tackiness, there’s nothing. It’s not titillating. It’s not humorous. It’s not so much shocking and edgy as it is a comic that thinks it’s shocking and edgy.

Raven’s Dojo is where humor goes to die a long and festering death. If you want Dragonball Z humor, treat yourself to some BUTTLORD GT instead. It’s no less juvenile, true … but at least it has a sense of humor.

Rating: 1 star (out of 5)

Posted in 1 Star, action webcomic, anime, comedy webcomic, fanservice, manga style webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics Tagged: Raven's Dojo