Stuff Sucks by Liz Greenfield, Reviewed by Damonk
It's been said many a time by many an online comic enthusiast – don't expect someone's first attempt at a comic to be "The Masterpiece". The second or third one, however?
Liz Greenfield's indie Stuff Sucks certainly seems to support the going theory. An ongoing Life's-Lunacies-and-Loves story involving an indie music shop (run by the obligatory balding eccentric hipster), a dashing Young Hopeless Hero-type fellah, and a fetching Con Artist still on her Grifting Training Wheels, Greenfield's third foray into webcomickry (after a first brief webcomic attempt whose name sadly escapes the reviewer, and the short-lived Weirdism) is easily her most solid and most entertaining production thus far.
From the first full-page installment, the reader meets up with Daniel Mitchell, the endearing protagonist. He is your typical Good Guy fellah with a nice "normal" life – he's nice to his mother, respectful to his (ex-)boss (Tony), and engaged to what appears to be a lovely – and rich – young gal (Nicole). He's even got the prerequisite Bar Buddy best friends – the ball-capped Horndog (Mike) and Mr. Smart-lips (Aaron).
Daniel's life certainly seems all fine and dandy… until he decides to chase down a suspect young female (Zemi) who walks in Tony's record store wanting to sell a "worthy collectible" and runs off with a bunch of LPs (remember those ancient things – round like CDs, but bigger and made out of wax?). From that point on, all bets are off re: normalcy, and the story of all these folks really starts cooking with gas.
The writing, transmitted flawlessly through character development and dialogue is the lynchpin of this comic production. It's certainly what elevates Stuff Sucks from being just another Witty Slice-of-Life comic to a sharp, engaging fiction that grabs you from the get-go and leaves you begging for more the moment your eyes scan the latest weekly offering's final panel. Simply put, it's a solid read, and you'll find yourself struggling to decide which character is your fave, as they are all so darned freakishly magnetic.
Each individual instalment, while still part of an over-encompassing storyline, is tightly written so as to be satisfying as a self-encapsulated standalone – you either get a good punchline, a decent plot development, or some engaging character insight. In other words, though you only get one page of comics a week, it's always just enough to tide you over until the next one comes. It's not an easy thing to pull off, but Greenfield does it well, and does it consistently.
The first 24 pages of Stuff Sucks are rendered in black and white line drawings. Though not as polished as the later instalments, they are still delicious in their doodlesque simplicity – proof you don't have to look photo-perfect to convey effective perspective, positioning, or general backgrounds. After comic #24 (the end of Chapter One), the style jumps from fun sketches to very pro, very polished (monochromatic) color work.
Greenfield's chosen art style for Stuff Sucks is mildly reminiscent of webcomickers Vera Brosgol, Jim Zubkavich and Drew Weing, with a dash of Sylvan Midgal thrown in there for good measure – slick, stylistic, and with snazzy monochromatic colouring. Of course, you also see shades of her previous Weirdism style, too.
Plot-wise, it's still very early in the "story" to be absolutely sure as to where Greenfield is going, but there are many possible directions, each one of them packed with quality sucking-in-the-reader potential. And maybe that explains the title of the comic. Stuff Sucks… you into Greenfield's intriguing fictional world, and you won't want to come back out anytime soon.
If third time's truly the charm, then expect this comic to be the one that really gets Liz Greenfield on the map.