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The Asylumantics by Chris Cantrell, reviewed by Matt Summers

With the end of October imminent, kids in many countries are looking forward to that most scary of holidays: Halloween. Dressing up in costumes, banging on complete strangers' doors, and begging for candy… good times to be had for all. However, the end of October also brings us to a special time in the world of webcomics.

Specifically, the anniversary of webcomic The Asylumantics. Chris Cantrell has reached a major milestone with his comic... on October 31st, 2005, The Asylumantics will turn four years old. With the comic's birthday rapidly approaching, Chris has planned a book sale, custom figurines based on the cast, and a contest that promises a great prize pack.

The Asylumantics has all the elements of a good ghosts-and-goblins comic. You have Gus, the local ghost that owned the place long before any of the others were even born; that is, except for Vlad, the resident vampire. Satan and his fiery land pop into the comic from time to time, and people have died electrifying deaths within the walls of The Asylumantics.

However, this is not a comic about evil and horrors galore (like, say, Jack for instance). Instead, The Asylumantics is a hilarious comic that just happens to have a rather unique set of characters living in an asylum instead of your usual setting.

And unusual they are. You have Bread, a man with an interesting condition where his entire head is made out of, well… bread. Do not feed him beans; the results can be explosive. Poor Napoe is terrified of any loud noises, strange things, surprises, dogs, cats… the list goes on and on. Don't be holding Napoe when he gets frightened, or be sure to have a towel handy otherwise.

Gus, the ghost mentioned above, is extremely irritable and has a particular liking for beating Vlad to within a few inches of his life. However, Vlad has proven very difficult to kill. An explosion that sent him through five walls only left him in a coma for five days; a smaller one, he recovered apparently overnight. This does not bother Gus too much, though… after all, part of the fun in hurting Vlad is that he'll be just fine a few days later.

Most of the storylines in The Asylumantics tend to run in one to two week-long storylines that all relate to each other. A few longer ones have occurred (including a favorite, where the whole crew goes to Hollywood while unknowingly starring in a new reality show) that help to flesh out the characters along the way, but for the most part, the comic has thrived on these shorter storylines.

The humor in The Asylumantics switches between sight and sound gags (and a warning now, the folks in the asylum don't necessarily have a whole lot to keep them busy… so expect fart jokes from time to time) fairly effortlessly. The deeper plotlines get worked around the humor fairly well, and overall it is a very funny comic.

Clicking links revealed that Chris also creates a comic called Please Rewind that is quite humorous itself. However, this comic revolves around a group of people that own and help run a video store; not quite the same sort of funny insanity as found in The Asylumantics, but decent in its own right.

The artwork in The Asylumantics is pleasant – spare and clean – and has stayed fairly consistent throughout the life of the comic. Though the comic is mostly black and white, occasionally a color page reveals that the vast majority of the cast are an odd purplish shade. This actually isn't surprising, though; after all, they are in an asylum; why not be different colors as well as being nuts?

Overall, reading The Asylumantics archive was a hilarious ride. The people in the asylum are, as expected, completely and totally nuts… but in a GOOD way. The humor, even though sometimes base in nature, fits the comic and is well executed within the frames of the comic. After four years, Chris is definitely doing something right and hopefully he'll be doing The Asylumantics for at least another four years.

Congratulations, Chris, on your four-year anniversary. You make insanity fun.

Matt ‘netpoet’ Summers lives with his wife and son in rustic eastern Virginia, and is the writer for Tales of the Traveling Gnome, a fantasy webcomic that updates biweekly.