The Sprawl: Review of the Sci-fi/Horror Webcomic – By Enjy

by Patch O'Furr

Welcome to guest author Enjy. Yesterday’s post was Enjy’s interview with comic creator Snowdon – now here’s how it rates for reading. – Patch

Now that we have spoken with the artist, we can look at his work and tell you, our readers, how it stacks up with the other furry webcomics out there. Is Snowdon’s dedication to his work and his storytelling skills enough to place The Sprawl at the top of the pile?

The Artwork

First and foremost, the most important thing about a comic is its artistry. This can go from amazing technical skills, such as the painting in Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido’s Blacksad, to the striking feeling of a style that is incomparable, like Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan. The Sprawl offers heaping helpings of both, especially in the latest chapters where Snowdon really finds his stride in creating a cohesive aesthetic. The amount of detail that goes into his backgrounds, the vehicles, and especially the space ships, is something to be marveled at and inspired by. I can only gape in amazement as I count every individual pipe, every screw, every seam of every piece of complex machinery that the artist created. Every character he creates, even ones that are used as cannon fodder in his Game Of Thrones-like glee for shredding people left and right, have personality and individualism that shows from their clothing, to their faces, to their body shapes. I believe this sets Snowdon quite apart from the crowd, because one trope I seem to see in furry media is that there is usually a character or characters in a central focus that seem to be always front and center, always paid attention to, like the world revolves around them. He also is quite proficient at the basics of comic paging, using great bubble and panel placement and lots of creative setups for his page layouts. You can tell at first glance that this comic was definitely created by an industry professional.

With the level of detail Snowdon shows and the amount of world-building he does with his pen, you are constantly immersed in the world itself instead of the characters inhabiting it. This is the hallmark of a truly great artist who is crafting a diorama for us to explore ourselves, instead of putting the blinders on us and trying to show us where to look. Rainy nights have a dark, brooding tint. The glow of a fusion reactor paints rooms in an amber hue. You can feel the ripping and tearing of flesh as a red mist settles over the scene of a vicious murder. I have experienced few artists who have a penchant for immersion or detail quite like Snowdon, and with the bar he has set with The Sprawl, newcomers to comics should use it as a lesson in how to build their worlds. The only issue I have with the comic’s art is that in the first chapter, it seems like the artist is trying to find his stride, and the world and characters aren’t as detailed as they become with the beautiful attention the artist gives them in the later sections. Snowdon recovers quite quickly from this though, seemingly going through an epiphany from the second chapter onward that slams every gear nicely into place and keeps it there quite firmly.

The Story

As I stated before, Snowdon subverts the trope of the “super group” or a hard “cast” in his comic, with each chapter loosely connected through lore and backstory but mostly focusing on different sets of characters. There is an overarching story here about an orb that is the harbinger of something terrible, but it takes a backseat for the most part as the characters in the world around it are affected by its presence, one by one. Due to their statuses as little people in the world, you feel like they are constantly in danger, never having the safety of knowing Superman will be there tomorrow or Spider-Man will always win. We are taken from a tundran expedition, to a detective agency, to a massive neon-futura colony city, to a laboratory, to outer space, to a mining operation, just in the first 5 chapters alone. Snowdon does a superb job of connecting these different set pieces with the orb as the lynchpin, while still allowing us to view his created world in a wider lens. He does wonderfully telling his story and making you fiend for that “next” button, ending nearly every page with a phrase or an image that makes you have to turn the page. I cannot comment on the story as a whole because it is not finished yet, but I can say that I was more than a little upset that I had to stop where I did. Once again, Snowdon has me anxiously awaiting what comes next, as he always had when I was playing catch-up. Snowdon leaves no stone unturned, no road untraveled, and definitely pulls the gloves off when it comes to fleshing out his universe.

As for the content, one thing you need to know going into The Sprawl is that it is adult rated in basically every single sense of the word. This is a story that doesn’t pull punches or hide the nitty gritty details, and it really sets the tone for the type of society that The Sprawl‘s inhabitants reside in. In the first few pages, you will be surprised by a woman who is topless for seemingly zero reason. The characters, however, are not. In creating his “libertine society” as he put it, Snowdon uses sexuality and violence to show us the seedy underbelly of a society with no dressing and no crash pad. It is quite refreshing to see a comic that is sex positive without being explicit, such as two characters fresh out of the shower explaining a horrible situation outside to each other while half nude and getting dressed. There is no overtone, it is a symptom of a society who has much more pressing problems than making sure you have your ankles covered and your cleavage closed. The orb, while affecting people mentally and starting a sort of cult, only exacerbates problems that are already present in the world. I sincerely applaud Snowdon for being brave enough to put this idea out there, and pulling it off perfectly as well.

One problem that the story suffers from, early on as before, is that Snowdon’s pacing could use a bit of work. There are a lot of establishing shots that we move too fast to see, and many, many full page spreads that truly aren’t necessary. While it is great to see his artistry on display, it bogs down the story a bit when there are so many full stops just to look at a landscape or assess a situation. As before though, he recovers from this pretty well after the first chapter, and follows it directly with my favorite part of The Sprawl, the story of Liam O’ Malley the P.I. cat. Not only is this my favorite part of The Sprawl, it is one of the best furry stories I have ever read, with an amazing ending you will not expect that shows just how much “feel good” that Snowdon is willing to sacrifice for a great payoff. I pray that anyone reading this experiences the second and third chapters for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

The Verdict

Although it suffers from an admittedly rocky first chapter, The Sprawl comes in like a jet engine from LOG:02 onwards and melts your face with its constant intensity. Every page end, every panel, drips with an ambrosia of style and shock that left me craving more. Snowdon constantly has you weaving from conclusion to conclusion, digging under your preconceptions about the current storyline to constantly pop up in your face and punch you in the metaphorical gut. You have no idea what will happen, you never will, and Snowdon constantly reminds you of that. His superb artistry will make sure that you feel every slice and slash that the world’s monstrous inhabitants inflict upon it and your expectations, and his attention to detail will have you hearing the thrums of booster engines and feeling the heat of neon lights. Rating The Sprawl against other furry webcomics is extremely hard to do, because there plainly is nothing comparable to its substance and scope. This is a graphic novel-quality story that is being delivered through a website for your viewing pleasure, and it is bar none my favorite furry webcomic and certainly ranks among my favorite webcomics of all time. If you can get through the hump at the beginning, what awaits you is something truly unlike anything I have ever seen or probably will see, and a mind-blowing experience from every angle that will delight readers and have them salivating for more. Get ready for this sci-fi comic to burst onto the scene and leave its competitors in its blazing thrusters, because it’ll take you out of this world.

Artistry: 10 out of 10
Story: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9 out of 10
(Yaffa: 11 out of 10, best girl)

Here are a few important links for you to visit: