Friday, November 21, 2014


Writing and art by Gabriel Hardman

     I'm going to be up front on this: I enjoyed Kinski. It was a thoroughly enjoyable comic from start to finish. There's just one problem that can't get out of my head: what does it mean?
     Kinski is about Joe, a man who, on a business trip, finds a stray dog by the hotel. What starts as trying to take care of the dog turns into obsession as he steals the dog back from its owners and is even willing to sacrifice his job...all in the name of a dog he doesn't own.
     Needless to say, Kinski is a little weird. It's not bizarre-weird, it's not mind-screwy weird. It's just weird in the sense that the story is decidedly offbeat. Joe's clearly obsessed with the dog, but the obsession never becomes entirely creepy, just obsessive. There's never any reason given for his obsession, either. It's not supernatural, there's no backstory. His coworker asks “Did you have a dog as a kid?” but there's no response. We're just thrown into this story and we're told to deal with it.
     And maybe that's what makes this comic so enjoyable. It's not lingering too hard on the symbolism or the meaning behind things. Everything that happens is moving forwards in the story. If Joe talks to someone, they have a meaning in the story. When the dog gets lost in a trailer park, he climbs up on a roof, which leads into an argument that distracts him from his search. Hardman's art is similarly straightforward. Detailed as much as it needs to be, the lack of color showing just what it needs to show. He's telling a story, and anything the reader gets out of it may just be inconsequential.

     So I'll admit that if there's further meaning here I don't know it. But I guess I don't care. Kinski is wholly unique, neither dark nor light, neither deep nor shallow. It's a story and you either enjoy it or you don't, and I happened to enjoy it.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Developed and published by Valve Corporation
Played on PC

     Playing older FPSes tends to be a very different experience. The generation of Doom and Quake was less focused on story or any sensible cohesion of level design, more focused on blowing monsters up. Half-Life was one of the first FPSes to actually make a story, with levels that naturally transition into one another. And surprisingly, all the years have not hurt its playability.
     Gordon Freeman is a physicist on his first day at the Black Mesa facility. And in the middle of an experiment, something goes terribly wrong, unleashing a connection with an alien world. Now Gordon has to make it out alive in the middle of both aliens and the military looking to clean things up.
     One of Half-Life's greatest strengths, something that remained in the sequel, is its ability to switch genres on a dime. The game starts off closer to a survival horror game, giving you nothing but the iconic crowbar and pointing you towards the many zombies and headcrabs that want to kill you. As the military comes in, though, it becomes more of a shooter, building up your arsenal. While the aliens are fairly straightforward, the military will use tactics, flushing you out of cover or using pincer maneuvers to make things more frantic. And in the middle, you're having to figure out puzzles and platforming. There's very little direction given to you, but it also always manages to push you in the right direction, losing the labyrinthine maps of Doom for a more straightforward but still exploratory experience. You might wander around a room for a little bit, but then you'll say “Ah, that pipe up there looks suspicious, I should get to it”.
     Half-Life's form of storytelling also remains strong. There's no true cinematics in the game, never breaking from the first-person viewpoint of Gordon. But you still pick up the story going on from the short conversations with scientists and security guards. And you also pick up the story as you go through the environment. The labs you walk through hint to exactly what's been going on, the new enemies that come after you show how much opposition Gordon is up against. And you always feel like you have a goal, not that you're just wandering wildly. And sadly, this all falls apart in the final levels. The infamous finale loses any sense of story and feels more like you're just wandering around aimlessly until the game ends. It does show exactly how strong Valve's games normally are that this only becomes a problem in the end—not that it stops it from being a problem.

     Half-Life remains an FPS giant, aging well and standing as one of the strongest debut games of a developer. It's rare to play an older game that stays this fresh today.