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Webcomic Review: Menage a 3

I'm an avid reader of web comics and web based material in general. I really think that there are some great artists and writers on the web, and I'm glad that the web offers a place for authors and writers who would otherwise be unknown to put up their work, for money, criticism, or whatever they desire.

Gisele Lagace, a Montreal based freelance artist, is a busy woman when it comes to the webcomics world. She draws for three webcomics: Cool Cat Studio (http://www.coolcatstudio.com/), Penny And Aggie (http://www.pennyandaggie.com) and the new comic Menage a 3 (http://www.menagea3.net). Menage a 3's premise is simple: A comics nerd with a boring life and two gay roommates suddenly finds himself in a pickle when his two roommates start a relationship and move out. Luckily, they put a want ad in for new roommates and they are quickly replaced by quirky drummer Zii and big breasted DiDi. (Get it? It's like DD!)

The comic right now is very short in length, as it was just started recently. You could easily read through the archives in less than half an hour, and the strips are short, concise, and generally well written. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, filled with character and expressiveness, and each strip conveys a ton of information about the characters and their situation. If we look at your average webcomic, then compare or contrast it with Menage a 3, Menage a 3 will come ahead. It's very, very well done.

The thing that bothers me about Menage a 3 is the cast and the way they interact. Right from the beginning, Menage a 3 offered a 'warm, fun' webcomic that was heavily based on sexuality for a 16+ audience. Indeed, the very first strip has our protagonist Gary walk in on his roommates having anal sex right there on the couch. While it's refreshing to see a gay presence of any type (besides an overwrought storyline where a female character comes out of the closet) in any webcomic, Gary's roommates are quickly swept out of the picture after a few buttsex jokes to bring in the real main attraction of Menage a 3: T&A. Zii is portrayed at first as the 'perfect girl' type: hot, into nerd interests like comics, and being the owner of a cute butt, which she proudly shows Gary. And of course, Gary goes absolutely insane over having a cute girl for a roommate. He grins, blushes, weeps, thanks deities, and is generally the happiest guy around.

This kind of bothers me because in Penny and Aggie, a comic about high school relationships and interactions, we see plenty of attractive young teenage girls interacting with the opposite sex but – its believable. Yes, boys are pleased if pretty girls are willing to date or fool around with them, but there's no awkward gawking and double taking and praising God above over the recipient of their affections... having a butt that they pointed at. Same with Cool Cat Studio – the human interactions come off as more sincere, more real, and as a result aren't offputting, even though the characters flash boob at the right times.

This gets worse when the second roommate, Didi, enters the picture. Didi is tall and wears a tiny, tiny dress that shows off her generous cleavage. Speaking of generous, the strip where we first really 'meet' Didi is just a shot of her lips and breasts, with prominent nipples poking through the cloth. Gary cannot make a decision about whether she should move in! He is stunned and alarmed and aroused! So Zii must drag him away as he drools and sways and reason with Didi – when it turns out that Didi can cook, she's in.

Zii then becomes alarm because Didi pulls her close to her generous bosom in gratefulness. Zii flips out and shoves Didi away: “I was the last in my class to get boobs!” I liked the strip until I saw Gary in the background, again, crying and praying.

There are parts in the comic that show warm, fun human interaction that makes me laugh. I really, really like certain strips – we're starting to see cracks in Zii's perfect girl to date character, for instance – she's starting to come across as ill mannered, inconsiderate, and ill equipped to handle living with a reasonable, settled guy like Gary. The expressions she makes when she admits to being a shitty cook or being a bit jealous of Didi are priceless. I think we'll see a lot of range out of Zii, a lot of spark, and the initial hump that came with her character (“Oh no, not another beautiful, nerdy, perfect girl who our main character will Nice Guy(tm) all over!”) has been surpassed, and I'm really warming up to her.

On the other hand, Gary and Didi haven't gotten past this yet. Gary has been in every strip, and I kind of wish he would get over the fact that over 50% of the population has lovely lady bits. This is also admitting to my personal problems but: I find it somewhat triggering to my low self esteem and self revilement to watch him sway and gape and blush and weep and pray at the sight of bottoms and breasts. It's a personal peeve of mine: I just can't stand the way that beautiful women are portrayed in media as traffic stopping, mindblowing, absolute sexpots that manage to warp reality and reduce men to spluttering gibbons by their very presence. Not only does this never happen, but it sets a standard for how women and girls see themselves and how they should be percieved. So I mean, I get that its supposed to be funny (haha, he can't even listen to Didi because her nipples are hard), but it just brings up terrible feelings in me. Plus, Gary is totally going to become a Nice Guy(tm) and then I will hate him. Calling that now.

And then there's Didi. Right now, I can't even hate her. We've been exposed to her for two weeks, and her impossibly tiny waist, generous rack, pouting lips and curved bottom only bring forth one emotion from me: contempt. If I was given the comics material to describe Didi in one sentence it would be “Gary wants to bang her.”; which is really the only reason she was written up on a script and summoned into a comic – it'll be hilarious to watch this ill proportioned woman who loooves to shop get along with a nerdy rocker chick and a socially awkward lonely guy. She's there as merely a foil; a cook and a sex object who chirps in with her little French-accented insights. I really hope that Didi gets more meaningful airtime.

Truly, there's a solid foundation for this comic and its technically very well done. If there's any hope for this comic to become top tier, it lies in Zii; right now, she's the only character who's developed (and its very well done!) and she's the only character I don't want to slap or ignore – I kind of want to put her in a box and watch her make very silly expressions. Menage a 3 is supposed to be a warm, fun sensual comic, and I get what they're going for, but right now it's just leaving me cold.

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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 18th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not a livejournal user, so I'll go anonymous. Just wanted to clarify that Zii isn't a drummer. Reread carefully and you'll see that she plays guitar :) Ma3 is more about absurd humor first with character development after, so I'm not sure P&A or CCS are good strip comparisons. Glad you like Zii; we like her too :) Cheers! --Gisele
From: nolittlelolita Date: June 18th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh gosh, I was actually really surprised to see a response from you G. I'm a big fan of P&A and CCS *gush*

This is a feminist oriented blog, so the review was much more critical than it would have been if I was reccomending it to say, a friend. And I was obviously mistaken on what instrument Zii plays, oops.

I agree that the comparison wasn't too great because the comics have different purposes and writers, but I was just trying to get across what sort of interaction I would prefer to see.

Thanks for the response :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 17th, 2010 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)

this comic is just big goofy fun.

Hey, give it a break! this comic is just big goofy fun. one of the few web-comics that has me laughing out loud on a regular basis. Art is a fun throwback to Archie which gives me a kick as well. it's not taking itself too seriously so why are you? It's Overt Sexism isn't reserved just for one gender, it's equal opportunity r rated smut that's FUNNY. I know that word is anathema to some who's forgotten the derivation of the word "Comic".
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