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Sore Thumbs by Owen Gieni and Chris Crosby, Reviewed by Wednesday White

As a practicing liberal foreigner, I often seek out topical gaming humour with political undercurrents and boobies. Substantial, voluminous, unAmerican boobies. Those boobies should be attached to hot anime chicks, like the ones which are popular with the teen girls who shop at bookstores! They make me feel like Ben Affleck --

-- er. I'm sorry. It's the malign influence of Sore Thumbs, which nominally chronicles the efforts of a fanatical Republican, a bleeding-heart liberal hottie, the hottie's dizzy best friend, and a dumb sweetheart soldier to operate an independent video game shop.

Everyone speaks like they're being scored on how many references they make to their assigned passions. This is a pretty wide range, mind; when your characters are phenomenally broad caricatures and your dialogue tends towards absurdity, you can go anywhere from terrorism to personal ethics in the course of a single strip.

As a practicing liberal foreigner, I often seek out topical gaming humour with political undercurrents and boobies. Substantial, voluminous, unAmerican boobies. Those boobies should be attached to hot anime chicks, like the ones which are popular with the teen girls who shop at bookstores! They make me feel like Ben Affleck --

-- er. I'm sorry. It's the malign influence of Sore Thumbs, which nominally chronicles the efforts of a fanatical Republican, a bleeding-heart liberal hottie, the hottie's dizzy best friend, and a dumb sweetheart soldier to operate an independent video game shop.

Everyone speaks like they're being scored on how many references they make to their assigned passions. This is a pretty wide range, mind; when your characters are phenomenally broad caricatures and your dialogue tends towards absurdity, you can go anywhere from terrorism to personal ethics in the course of a single strip.

Unfortunately, the strategy falls flat. Soldier Sawyer's ceaseless personal tragedies are deftly played, but the bulk of the interplay skews in the most ulikely direction. It's not so much that the humour's over the top; it's that the strip really wants you to know that that's where it's heading, whether or not it gets there.

Fairbanks, in particular, grates. No mere caricature of Republicanism is he. Rather, he's a caricature of an exaggeration of a Republican's idea of a left-wing stereotype of a Republican ("Maybe Christian rock is too rowdy"?!). This is not as complex as it seems from the description; it mostly amounts to shrill rants and unnatural rhetoric-spouting. Even as far removed as he is from living, breathing conservatives, he's pushing too hard -- and too obviously -- to register as an effective parody.

This is the crux of the problem: Sore Thumbs just keeps trying too hard, calling attention to itself, and falling over in the process. It calls itself "insane political gaming manga-type comics;" perhaps that's too much to take on all at once. The agenda isn't clear. Even in the midst of overtly political gags, the focus seems less on the gag's nature and more on the act of making a political gag in the first place. One may as well crawl on top of a table and scream, "I AM MAKING A JOKE ABOUT REAGAN!"

The dialogue would be as natural and the effort made would be equally visible. The creators' politics are made clearer in the iframed blog below the fold, but not by much. (Apparently the standing US president is gay. Or something.)

It's rather a shame, really. The serviceable art (they apparently mean "manga-type" in a How To Draw Manga sort of way, but the execution's not unappealing) ensures that the comic isn't actively unpleasant to look at. It would benefit from a greater sense of motion (it's easier to evoke the metalunacy of a Puni Puni Poemy or Re:Cutie Honey when characters aren't doing their best to hold still) and steadier inking. The gently blurred backgrounds, neither photorealistic nor cartoony, are a pleasant change from every third gaming webcomic's Mac Hall gankage. In fact, aside from the breastacular onslaught, the art almost goes out of its way not to call attention to itself; perhaps the dialogue simply overpowers it. (Said onslaught is addressed through fan art in the limited extras section; this shouldn't be funnier than the comic, but, well...) Same goes for the bog-standard Blambot lettering, the bog-standard Keenspot navigation... there might be a subtle statement being made about gaming and pseudomanga webcomics here, but I'm missing it.

The story shows potential here and there, mostly when topicality isn't being mashed in with tremendous slapstick mallets. Given time, the characters could go from extrusions of perceptions of stereotypes to cartoons. They do need to be cartoons; their ambitions are muddy and insensibly high. (Except for the cute little bear, Coleman; he burbles loudly, he's cuddly.)

Sore Thumbs could easily get over itself and send its cartoons on a ride. But, until it finishes having to pause and point out its own hamhanded dialogue at every third turn, it's going to be stuck firm and spinning its wheels. Perhaps, once the US Presidential election's dust has finally settled, the creators will feel free to let that happen.