Channel Awesome
Homestuck, Act 1

At4w homestuck act 1-1024x453.jpg

June 22, 2015
Running time
Previous review
Next review
You are watching an internet video about a guy who reviews comics.
What will you do?

Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Patreon-sponsored review time once again, and we got us a unique one for it, as anyone who is looking at the title of this episode can probably tell.

(A shot of the web comic website Multiplex is shown)

Linkara (v/o): See, while I'm reluctant to review web comics, because they're more often than not a labor of love versus someone's career...

Linkara: And the ones that are someone's actual career tend to be the ones that are really good...

(Cut to a shot of the title for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines)

Linkara (v/o): ...the Patreon stuff ensures that people can pretty much request anything, provided I don't say no to it. And while this wouldn't be my first choice for an episode...

(Cut to a shot of an issue of "Youngblood")

Linkara (v/o):'s a different sort of thing to look at, and there are only so many times you can hear me complain about early Image or Frank Miller or "The New 52" before it becomes repetitive.

Linkara: Which is why I'm sure those subjects will never be brought up again. (smiles and nods creepily)

(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Homestuck")

Linkara (v/o): But even for a web comic to review, this one's pretty interesting in terms of its concept. On the off-chance you've never heard of it, this is "Homestuck". To be accurate, "Homestuck" is actually just the most popular in a series of web comics called "MS Paint Adventures"...

(Shots of other "MS Paint Adventures" comics are shown)

Linkara (v/o): ...including "Problem Sleuth" and "Bard Quest". They're based on old text-based adventure games. You know, the ones where you'd have a sentence on the screen that said "you're in a room" and you'd have to say "go left" or something.

(Cut to a clip of a review by the Angry Video Game Nerd of The Count for the VIC-20)

Linkara (v/o): The AVGN spotlighted one briefly a long while ago in his video on Dracula games.

AVGN: (typing on computer) "Eat pillow." (reads text which pops up in response) "Yuck!" Okay, so I ate the pillow?

Linkara: And already, I'm just curious where I should go to avoid being eaten by a grue.

Linkara (v/o): Unlike actual text adventure games, though, the idea here is a kind of reader-and-author interaction, wherein the readers suggests directions, or things to pick up, or pillows to eat, and the author of "Homestuck", Andrew Hussie, decided which stuff to do and where to go from there. "Homestuck" was different from his other projects in that he actually had some stuff planned in advance, and has since evolved to the point where the reader interaction is not as prominent simply due to how popular the series got and there were too many commands coming in. It also evolved to the point where people kept telling me that reading from Act 1 of the comic was a bad idea, since there's not really much in the way of story for it.

Linkara: However, call me old-fashioned, but I think if I'm going to read a story, I should start from the damn beginning of it. Let's dig into the first act of "Homestuck".

(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Room of Angel" from Silent Hill 4 playing in the background. Cut to the beginning of the game)

Linkara (v/o): The story begins with this kid in his bedroom. It's his birthday.

Text: Though it was thirteen years ago he was given life, it is only today he will be given a name!

Linkara: What exactly was he called then for the last thirteen years? (calls out) Hey, Square Eyes! Yo, Three Teeth! (shrugs)

Linkara (v/o): The first choice offered is to give him a name. Naturally, we go for the most mature possibility for that name... (types name in above this kid) "ZOOSMELL POOPLORD".

(The following text pops up in red, as if spoken by this kid...)


Linkara: (pointing to camera) You don't get a choice in this, Zoosmell. If your parents are too lazy to do it, you've got to settle for what you got.

Linkara (v/o): Anyway, his actual name is John Egbert, which... eh, I think Zoosmell Pooplord was memorable at least. Also, yes, the comic is made with animated GIFs, which I think is a clever way of helping immerse the reader into the idea of an adventure game... albeit not helpful for me when trying to collect screenshots for this review. Other times, it's a full-blown Flash animation, which gives the sense that this is less a web comic and more a web series in general.

Linkara: However, it's a web series that is not about reviewing comic books. Therefore, I win. (crosses arms proudly)

Linkara (v/o): We then get a better view of his room, which include some interesting elements, including very eclectic movie tastes: Con Air, Ghostbusters 2, Mac and Me and Deep Impact. Explains the Slimer t-shirt, but I'm noticing a distinct lack of more Nic Cage everywhere else. Also, he has two cakes. That's what happened to the cake from Portal: Zoosmell stole it! The text description says that John is an aspiring magician and has a taste for terrible movies. And yet no mention of his love for tetanus, based on those loose nails on the ground he can step on. Other things in the room include a chest that contains materials for an amateur magician, his computator, and a poster for Problem Sleuth.

Text: There is a nice spot on the wall next to it. You've been meaning to hang another poster there soon.

Linkara: (holding up AT4W poster) Well, then, perhaps you should get an Atop the Fourth Wall poster, purchasable at any convention I'm attending. (smiles)

Linkara (v/o): To further the trend of excellent parenting on display so far, John's father left a note for him: "Happy birthday son. I'm so proud of you."

Linkara: (as father) But not proud enough to say it in person.

Linkara (v/o): The readers can be real dick sometimes, though, like when they instruct him to "squawk like an imbecile and take a crap on his desk".

Text: This is the dumbest idea you've had in weeks!!!

Linkara (v/o): Apparently the narrator is a colossal douche. Give him a break, man! He only just got his name.

Text: And yet the polished surface of your desk... It beckons.

Linkara: (narrator voice) And your last name is Pooplord...

Linkara (v/o): It's around here where we do encounter one of the more... frustrating parts of "Homestuck". Given its nature as being based on a text adventure game, it's probably unavoidable, but I did look ahead to the most recent pages, and it still incorporates this style, despite long since having gone into more author-made storytelling instead of the adventure game: the dialogue boxes. See, unlike a normal comic, which incorporates dialogue into word balloons...

Linkara: (frustrated) Or an abnormal comic like "Marville #3", where the dialogue is just pasted over the artwork off to the side for no reason...

Linkara (v/o): ...the dialogue is put into a show/hide box below the comic page and written out as script pages. And of course, it's rather tedious to read, especially for longer bits of dialogue. Hell, there aren't even spaces between the people talking; it's all just one big blob. Although, at least it's in a different color for the characters talking to make it a little more interesting. And this long, scintillating dialogue from what looks like AOL Instant Messenger is about... Little Monsters, and how Fred Savage has a punchable face.

Linkara: (laughs uproariously) Violence against the then-thirteen-year-old!

Linkara (v/o): Speaking of thirteen-year-olds, that's how old Zoosmell has turned today. He's eagerly awaiting the arrival of a video game, SBURB, and notices the mailbox outside has its flag up.

Text: The little red arm-swingy-dealy thing or whatever it is called is flipped up! What the hell is that thing called anyway.

Linkara: (stunned) Flag.

Text: You do not have time for these semantics.

Linkara: Yet we do have time to contemplate pooping on the desk. (points to camera) That's where we should be focusing our attention.

Text: The red flippy-lever thing means you have new mail.

Linkara (v/o): Erm, unless it's different in certain parts of the U.S., the flag being up is usually a signal that there's outgoing mail. In any case, it is decided not to go outside since his dad just got home from the grocery store, and if he goes downstairs, his dad will talk to him for hours.

Linkara: Considering the note he left for you, I find that highly dubious.

Linkara (v/o): Sometimes you feel like you are trapped in this room. Stuck, if you will, in a sense which borders on the titular.

Linkara: Shouldn't this be called "Roomstuck", then?

Linkara (v/o): Also, don't worry about getting out of here, man. In a little bit, a mysterious hole will open up in the bathroom wall and you can just climb right through. One of the other objects in the chest is "Colonel Sassacre's Daunting Text of Magical Frivolity and Practical Japery". Or as I like to call it: "We Had Terrible Graphic Designers For Our Cover and Hate the Human Eyeballs". Oh, and one useful bit of information we get from the wall of text from his buddy on AIM: how to properly use his inventory.

Linkara: Well, John is thirteen now. I think he's old enough to learn about these things.

Linkara (v/o): The excitement doesn't stop there, since he next reads from a copy of... GameBro Magazine? Ah, the demographic that truly needed their own gaming magazine: the bros.

(Cut to two bros (one played by Brad Jones and the other by Sarah Gobble), both wearing baseball caps backwards and both with arms crossed)

Bro 1: Not me, bro! I stopped reading GameBro Magazine when they said that the best Mountain Dew to drink when playing Madden was Whiteout when it is obviously Code Red!

Bro 2: Fake bro boys!

(Cut back to the game)

Linkara (v/o): Oh, and to really add to the trauma for this poor kid, not only is there more cake downstairs, but his father has this obsession with harlequins. Look, I'm a defender of clowns, but when your birthday present to your son is a huge harlequin doll, I think you might be a little obsessed. Oh, and some of the pages of the comic include sound, once again just for the immersion experience of the game aspect of it. However, the "Haunting Piano Refrain" is not aided by the presence of a dude in a jester hat on the wall. Oh, and just so it isn't annoying, the good Mr. Hussie leaves a marker to indicate when the next page will sound, just to make sure you aren't surprised by it or something. Kudos. Eventually, John manages to reach his game, which is a beta... after a pastry fight with his faceless father.

Linkara: Explains why he only communicates with notes, I guess.

Linkara (v/o): And after some adventure game hijinks, he eventually installs the game. He's helped through it with a friend of his, TentacleTherapist, over AIM. We soon see that SBURB is a bizarre little game in which reality itself is altered by its interaction, allowing him to move objects within his room with his mouse.

Linkara: So it's basically The Sims if the people were real. (looks up in thought briefly) When does the Grim Reaper show up, then?

Linkara (v/o): The worst part is that while this reality-altering feature is in the beta, I bet it gets cut out when the game actually ships. It even can add on areas to the house and drop semi-arcane alchemy devices into it. And yet, Zoosmell is unfazed by this happening right in front of him. I'm also half-convinced that TentacleTherapist is actually kind of a jerk, since she soon decides to start ripping out chunks of the bathroom.

Linkara: What did I tell you, John? Now you've got a hole in your bathroom! Now climb inside and go see what Walter Sullivan wants.

Linkara (v/o): They also become convinced that when confronted with a strange object with a mystical symbol on it, your first compulsion should be to hit it with a sledgehammer. However, that seems to do the trick, and a floating wormhole starts following John around. He throws the giant harlequin doll into it... which just makes it flash in an even more disorienting fashion. Yeah, I'm not letting this be animated just because it's that irritating. The flashing jester head is named Kernelsprite. And in other news, an asteroid is heading right for John's house! High-five, Kernelsprite!

Linkara: (stroking chin) I don't think it's a sound business strategy to kill your beta testers with an asteroid before they're finished playing the game. Although, it would explain how a lot of games have serious day-1 bugs in them.

Linkara (v/o): Utilizing the game tools, John gets to work on something that might destroy the asteroid, since they assume it's part of the game. However, due to TentacleTherapist losing her Internet connection while trying to repair the bathroom, a bathtub accidentally gets stuck in front of John's door, keeping him from even being able to escape from his house.

Linkara: Okay, this is an adventure game, so I assume you need to take your Con Air poster, your bedsheets, and the hammer, and turn them into a crude explosive to clear the door.

Linkara (v/o): At this point, we cut over to TentacleTherapist in her bedroom, and she worships Dread Purple Cthulhu. And we are asked to give her a name as well.

Linkara: (stroking chin) I'm going with... Petunia Lovecraft.

Linkara (v/o): Or Rose Lalonde; that works, too, I guess. Anyway, her house has lost power, and thus, she is no longer able to help John with his impending doom.

Text: You have a variety of INTERESTS.

Linkara: As opposed to normal people, who are only interested in (holds up index finger) one thing.

Text: You have a passion for RATHER OBSCURE LITERATURE.

Linkara: But thanks to Tumblr, now everybody knows the book (makes "air quotes") "Pounded In the Butt By My Own Butt".

Linkara (v/o): And the readers are just as sadistic as they were with the good Mr. Pooplord, instructing that Rose should "writhe like a flagellum and puke on your bed".

Linkara: At this hour?

Linkara (v/o): The player then makes her play the violin for forty seconds... and we cut back over to John, who is saying farewell to Liv Tyler on his Armageddon poster.

Linkara: And yet, this is still a better ("air quotes") "asteroid coming to hit the Earth" story than Armageddon.

Linkara (v/o) Aaand then back over to Rose. Thank God we had that one page interlude of John making out with a poster! Check it out: in Homestuckland, it's Fluthlu instead of Cthulhu. I dub this version "Fluffy". She also owns the book "Grimoire For Summoning the Zoologically Dubious".

Linkara: (stroking chin) So, like, rodents of unusual size? I don't think they exist.

Linkara (v/o): Rose's mother, to counterpoint John's father, collects lots of murals of wizards.

Text: And there is no doubt in your mind she stores these dreadful things in the house to bother you.

Linkara: Yes, because truly, there is nothing more heinous and bothersome to a young nerd than... (becomes confused) wizards?

(Cut to a shot of Gandalf from the "Hobbit" stories)

Linkara (v/o): Then again, considering Gandalf the Life Ruiner, maybe she should be wary of wizards.

(Back to the game again)

Linkara (v/o): To get a better Internet connection, Rose heads to her house's observatory...

Linkara: What, your house doesn't have an observatory? Mine is right next to the ballroom.

Linkara (v/o): Their neighbor to the apparent mansion she lives in is a laboratory, which has an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.

Linkara: Because these scientists are that smart, I guess.

Linkara (v/o) She's able to reconnect with John and get the bathtub out of the way and, using a few items from around the place, create a blue apple for John to bite. They hope this will somehow defeat the asteroid.

Linkara: At this point, I'd suggest getting Ted Turner on hand to karate-chop them, but that idea would just be incredibly stupid.

Linkara (v/o): And so, Act 1 ends with John staring at the apple... and then the asteroid hits and creates a nuclear explosion.

(Cut to a clip of Aliens)

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver): I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

(Cut back to the game)

Linkara (v/o): And the curtains close on this first act, inviting you all to get some refreshments from the lobby.

Linkara: (holding up... nothing) This web comic's first act is... (notices that he's not holding anything) not bad. I also really need to get my hands on more physical media for some of these Patreon reviews.

Linkara (v/o): When I first announced I was doing this, needless to say, I had a lot of people giving me their feedback, from people who absolutely despised "Homestuck" and thought this would be torture, to people who were just confused why I chose the first act... (softly) The Patreon sponsor was just asking for a single act and didn't specify... (louder again) when, by their own admission, the story doesn't really pick up until later. Well, to address the second point, as I said, I prefer to start a story from the beginning. And honestly, for all the remarks people made about the apparent slowness and lack of story in the first act, I don't think that's the case at all. Sure, there are some silly diversions on occasion, like the "fight" with John's dad, pointless joke commands from people, and other minutiae of that sort, but this actually moved pretty briskly for me. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a bit more familiar with this type of game format I found it pretty amusing. The story itself, while being slightly absurd due to stuff like "game is altering the fabric of reality itself, and nobody thinks any differently about it", is fairly basic, but gets in plenty of characterization and humor. And as they said, it's MS Paint Adventures, so I can't really rag on the artwork.

Linkara: (shrugs) I don't know, I actually kinda liked it. Maybe I'll check out the rest of "Homestuck" on my own. Maybe the rest of it is awful, maybe it's fantastic, but... this wasn't bad at all. Next time, we don't start from the beginning, because the Patron outright wanted this specific volume. It also features Lovecraftian themes... buuut also an atomic robot.

(End credits roll)

Homestuck Cosplayers: REMEMBER TO SEAL YOUR PAINT.

So where do the people in this world store their arms? They have them, we see them on occasion, but do they just fuse to their sides when not in use?

(Stinger: Footage of a summer-themed movie is shown)

Announcer: Ah, summer. A great time to go to the beach, make some s'mores, play in the pool, or maybe even just take in some sun.

(Suddenly, cut to Moarte, who is wearing summer attire)

Moarte: Or, you know, you could do something not boring. (cackles)

(Cut to the Longbox of the Damned title, with additional text on the bottom)

Announcer: Longbox of the Damned: A Midsummer's Nightmare. All throughout July on (cackles) (Cut back to Moarte)

Moarte: (looking inside his coffin) I think I got sand in this thing.