Keaner.net by Kean Soo, reviewed by Stelas
Kean Soo's journal comic, hosted on his own site (Keaner.net), is one of the more recent additions to the webcomic world. Started at the turn of the new year, and updated in blocks of two or three 'daily' comics at a time (i.e., he draws daily comics, but only updates in batches), it provides the reader with a glimpse into Soo's life and thoughts, while trying to make us laugh a little along the way. Often humorous, sometimes thoughtful or sad, at other times just a slice of life, the strip is always one thing for certain: full of emotion.
There's a plentiful mix of varied graphical styles used throughout the comic's history, all of which are highly effective at conveying exactly what Soo wishes to share with his readers. From a 'standard' simple but pleasant minimalistic style, where people's heads are ovals and noses are curiously absent, to the stunning nature portraits of a slow sunrise, a bank of clouds, or the snow falling around a local university, the drawing style is almost always easy on the eyes. When it's not, there's a reason for it within the context of the comic – Soo lets his art express emotion as much as his words. Angry, emotional comics are inked with scratched, uneven lines, while something like "The Fantastical Story of Kean and Mr. Depression" is presented as a first-grader drawing in a parody of the summer holiday essays we all used to write. The darker, unhappier comics make great use of a combination of colors and placement to create a strong visual impact on the reader and clearly convey what the artist is feeling.
Similarly, the writing flows through with an eclectic menagerie of style. Soo runs the whole gamut, switching easily between lightly conversational narration to more thoughtful and almost poetic stream-of-consciousness writing. The humor is often somewhat self-mocking, but more often than not, it is so purposefully, in order to better illustrate something within the situation, some bizarre facet that the world has thrown into (his) view. However, as stated earlier, this is not a comic for those who want a laugh every time they click. Instead, the comic pulls the reader in, placing them inside the artist's head. As a journal comic, there are many references to events or people that the reader won't know about, but this merely serves to give the strip more of a spectator's-eye view into Soo's life, inciting more curiosity and impetus for a reader to read on. The emotion in the webcomic is palpable - unhappier episodes leave the reader really feeling for Soo, and in contrast, a sudden return to humor after a period of these low comics leaves the viewer heartened, cheering for the artist. The journal effortlessly inspires empathy, resulting in a very satisfying read.
While some may take issue with reviewing a journal comic for fear that it may be too personal a thing to be picked apart, I have to personally say Soo's journal comic immediately hit my bookmarks list. Whether you read it for the thought-provoking introspection, the humor, or simply for the little tales of life, it remains a top-class comic.