What Did I Learn?
webcomic reviews by Delos Woodruff
by Mark Ricketts
The comic opens with a sarcastic squirrel named Vito Squirreli. He and his family are being relocated in the Wildlife Witness Protection Program from Jersey to Maine. Vito is a mafia informant. As of this review, the characters of Vito’s family have been introduced but have not been featured much. Since there are only a handful of comics about the family, I won’t be the spoiler about them. They are bound to be entertaining when the time comes.
Looking out for Vito and his family, Ranger Todd is a big hearted, gung ho park ranger that has been assigned to the remote Moose Mountain National Park. He seems to think he’s there because he whistles unconciously. However, Ranger Todd’s wife left him because of this same overzealous interest in nature. It’s that over-enthusiastic obsession which causes him most of his problems. The upside is that he is probably the best person to watch out for Vito and family.
Let’s not forget Orson the beaver. He’s tired of living out in the wild and has decide to move to the big city of Bar Harbor, Maine. Orson is given to extremes, though. He told Ranger Todd that he wanted to “defect” to the ‘big’ city. He’s fascinated with Animal Planet and works very hard at avoiding work. For now, Ranger Todd has allowed Orson to stay with him.
There are a few other characters that haven’t been seen much. There is a moose named Mitzi, who has been widowed four times over. And recently, a Ranger Supervisor has moved into the Fire Tower. That meant that Dizzy the bear had to stop “hibernating” there – that whole arc in the storyline was worth a chuckle. Really Dizzy could best be described as an annoying house guest. There are also local people and animals (complete with their own hick country dialect) who are shown. Sometimes these illustrate Maine-isms and other times these comics just serve to add to the storyline as it loosely develops.
Yes, there appears to be a storyline to Moose Mountain. It is seemingly long term and so is progressing slowly. Don’t read that and I think I meant to say it is dragging. It is not. Moose Mountain simply has a patient build. There is no rush, no urgency to resolve the story and it will take as long as it takes to show you what needs to be shown. And that’s good. As part of the country theme, you can let life slow down and really savor the moment.
Every comic has a decent punchline, driven by the characters. Even the lobster has a sense of character when he is trapping humans. He’s vengeful but clearly feels justified. By a strange twist of events, I’ve managed a seafood department in a grocery store chain and dealt with an untold number of lobsters. They are, in fact, vengeful and constantly hungry too. I could regale you with stories and explain that last statement in more detail but the point is that most of the details have a good bit of truth to them. That helps you get the jokes.
Let’s talk about the art of Moose Mountain. Moose Mountain starts out in black and white, with some grey tones. The linework is good, the characters are well designed with accessories and varying sizes for interest. Later comics have (mostly) color which I liked much more. The comic with Mitzi only has flat colors but take a look at the two left panels compared to the third on the lobster comic (August 2nd.)
Interestingly, the colors are not flat and they aren’t cel shaded either. It almost resembles wet on wet watercolor. This shows more color than form and offers another dimension to the comic. Flat colors have some appeal but to really pop visually, comics usually need something more. Cel shading might not fit the tone of Moose Mountain very well, so I’m glad the artist went another way. In fact, the color gives a much better sense of the woods than other coloring techniques. It also provides some variation on the characters, making them seem more alive. I find myself wondering, as fall approaches, if there will be any changing colors of the leaves featured.
It so happens that there is a fire tower near my home that I used to hike to and climb to the top of. The Moose Mountain Fire Tower has all the earmarks of an actual fire tower, with the exception of size. I’m not sure you could stay overnight in the local one – it’s too small to stretch out a sleeping bag in. Otherwise, it strikes me as fairly authentic.
Moose Mountain will be a fun comic to check up on. I’m interested to see what happens as Orson’s high stress New Jersey beaver family interacts with the locals. I can also see some conflict potentially brewing between Ranger Todd and his Supervisor. Then there’s the squirrel mafia which will eventually come looking for their turncoat. If you like nature, rural life or Maine then you’ll like Moose Mountain.
Finally, Moose Mountain has masterfully done presentation. It’s full of great theming, with a great color choices of browns and greens. There is wood signage and the next/back buttons reminded me of official nature park signs. It has an open, comfortable layout which is easy to navigate. The only downside is that some of the site features (the forum and store) aren’t yet finished. I clicked on everything I could find, looking for more.
What Did I Learn?
Use color in the right way for your comic’s concept. Get the right mix of character types. Everyone likes talking animals, so don’t shy away from them. Moose Mountain has the theme link to the state of Maine location, which helps create buzz for the comic outside comic circles. There are other true to life details in the comic which help it resonate with my memories and experiences. Moose Mountain updates Tuesdays and Thursdays.