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The Webcomics Weekly #211: Cutting That Crabgrass (11/8/2022 Edition)

By | November 8th, 2022
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Howdy everyone! Elias here to introduce this week’s comic: “Crabgrass.” Webcomics really got going thanks to the four-panel newspaper strip format and so I figured, what with the year nearing its end, I should find one that keeps the tradition alive. Wanna know what makes this one the one to watch? Read on, fellow webcomics travelers, and find out!

Crabgrass
June 27 – November 7, 2022
Updates: Daily
By Tauhid Bondia
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on Tauhid Bondia’s “Crabgrass.” In fact, I think we last checked on it around three years ago when it first launched. For new readers, “Crabgrass” is a webcomic strip about Miles and Kevin, two elementary school neighbors in suburbia, and the antics they get up to as well as their family and an ever increasing cast of characters at school. Think “Calvin and Hobbes” but instead of a boy and his imaginary friend, it’s a nervous nerd and a chaos gremlin.

It’s more than that, obviously, but those’re the broad strokes. It’s a refreshingly breezy strip and has grown quite a lot since its debut in 2019, both visually and in the tightness of its jokes & storytelling. Part of this is almost certainly down to the half-year hiatus “Crabgrass” took at the beginning of 2022 as it prepped to be syndicated in newspapers. Because of this monumental achievement – seriously, congrats Tauhid! – I figured that would be the ideal place to start seeing as how it’s basically a soft reboot.

Or maybe it’s a full-on reboot, seeing as how the very first strip is a redrawing of the original “Crabgrass” strip, with changes made to the dialog to better accentuate the current characterization of both Miles & Kevin (and Miles’ Dad.) There’s a greater kineticism to the strip now, capturing the boundless energy of children. I can see how Bondia’s also learned how to more dynamically pose his characters. Like instead of having Kevin just standing there, he’s popping in from off panel, his arms are held wide, and then he’s dragging Miles along after him with confidence and a grin while Miles stumbles along after, smiling just as widely.

Over the next few strips, Bondia better establishes their personalities, contrasting them while also highlighting where they are similar. Miles is far less willing to take risks and has to think things through but is very willing to entertain Kevin’s harebrained schemes. Miles is the straight-A student, the only child, and the only black kid on the block. Kevin is the troublemaker, one of four kids and from a relatively poor, divorced white family.

These last elements of each list are important, I should note, not because they’re the driving force of the comic, though they are integral to it, but because the comic uses these racial and class dimensions to create a more honest portrait of American life. To ignore those aspects would make it far more anodyne and thus flatten the comic. It’s a hard balance to strike because, as a reader and critic, I want to see honest and frank conversations of race and class when it comes up because they’re inescapable aspects of life but they’re also not the end-all, be all, every second of everyday type issues. “Crabgrass” gets this and shows us life, textured by these (sometimes) invisible yet omnipresent realities, but not overwhelmed by it.

Plus, when you’re ten, you care more about chasing ice cream trucks during the summer or the unfairness of being grounded.

Taking this big look at “Crabgrass” was interesting because you can see how Bondia held back on including multi-strip arcs for quite a while after the relaunch. The first few weeks worth of strips were either retooled past strips or new one-offs. Many are quite funny and there isn’t a dud in the bunch, though I can’t say I laughed too hard at all of them. My favorites were probably many of the Sunday strips. The added panels let the jokes breathe a bit more and lets Bondia get more creative with layouts and punchlines.

Interestingly, the colors are more saturated in this batch of strips. Everything has a bit of a shadow to it and is darker. I presume this is due to them being made not for the internet natively but instead needing to fit specifications for newsprint, which is notorious for devouring ink, especially color ink. It’s easy to get used to and doesn’t detract from the comic in any way. I just think it’s neat.

Once the big storylines do kick in, the strip to strip quality varies more, as there’s only so much information you can convey in 4-panel segments that need to end on a joke, but the larger arcs are great, building anticipation of how they’ll resolve and keeping you coming back week to week. Miles shaving his head and trying to hide it from his parents was particularly great. Oh, and the final strip I read for this. November 7th? That had me rolling on the floor.

“Crabgrass” is an excellent webcomic strip. The characters are great, the jokes are funny, and the art is simple and expressive. And if that was true for the start of this syndication, how much more true will it be after a year or more?


//TAGS | Webcomics

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.

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