Oglaf (Book One) – Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne

5 out of 5

There might be other strips out there like Oglaf.  I’m not sure; the X-rated sex-romp isn’t often my forte – generally because the humor is dumb – so I haven’t explored too deeply.  But if that aside isn’t an indication of the quality of those strips I have stumbled across (and no, I can’t name them, as they made no clear impression beyond “nah”), then I’ll make it clearer: Adult humor, as I’ve seen it, is often boobs and butts first, the rest an afterthought.  Oglaf, meanwhile, not only manages to out-titillate these genre peers, but do so while crafting an amusingly lush set of characters and concepts.  Those concepts might be cumsprites, but they go far beyond the one-stop gags they could be abused for (…no puns intended there) and developed into contextual humor, which is all sorts of strange brilliance when sandwiched between erections and bodily fluids.  This allows our creators to jump between fantasy riffs (barbarians; fountains of various powers; fairy-tale riffs), one-shot strips, and the sort of ongoing foibles of virgin magician’s apprentice Ivan and his amusingly cruel “teacher,” Mistress – …and Oglaf, who appears, like, three times – without having to always include sex, or even a punchline, because the quality of the strip is so consistent and rich.

Having the first 200 or so strips collected by Topatoco shows a slight shift toward more linear story-telling, but there’s not the usual quality hike one sees over the duration of a webcomic; the creators knew their craft from the start: Characterizations are perfect, the purple / pink / brown palette rich and masterfully applied, and concise, well-placed dialogue – nary an excessive word or stretch for a joke.

The rectangle shape of the book replicates the web format, with thick pages and sturdy, though flexible, covers.  A few extra strips are included.