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Choosing a strip for the start of this review was a no-brainer, seeing as I have a framed print of this one in my house. Just makes sense, really.
Lots of comics have a “random” button, but in Wondermark it might as well always apply.The common element in all of the strips is the art style: figures from Victorian-era woodcuts and engravings are the characters, and are rearranged and repositioned as made necessary by the dialogue or narrative of the strip. This is already quite an unusual choice, but the “humorously weird” dial is turned to eleven with the addition of eccentric dialogue which ranges in topics from Disneyland parades (notice the strip’s tags: children, corpses, popular media) to Jinxing people (with the tag “bears in ill-fitting hats”, which has 4 related strips) to pretty much anything most people can think of – plus lots of things they never will.
The combination of the old-timey art, which is immediately associated with serious books in leather covers, and inane conversations about mundane or insane subjects, already sets the mood for the strip, and the dialog almost always drives it home: whether with a clever joke or pun; a business idea which is just a bit beyond “so crazy it just might work” and into the realm of hilariously bonkers; or one that is actually really smart and you wonder how come no one’s ever thought of it.
The line between amusingly weird and just bizarre is a very thin one. Though David Malki ! is better than most in walking that line, he does tend to stumble. Some strips are so wacky they forget to also be funny, and some consist of one nice joke which gets drawn out to the point of tedium. That last symptom is especially prevalent on the occasional series of connected strips, which usually runs for 3 to 5 strips, and is rarely as good as the standalone ones.
Most days, however, Wondermark is a wonderful detour into a slightly stranger – and a whole lot funnier – place. And, once in a while, a strip is so great, so well-put and hits the mark with such precision, that you have no choice but to buy a print of it and hang it on your wall.