After complaining about the update rate of my last review I’m reviewing the only comic I can think of that updates even more slowly and I can still consider a viable ongoing comic to read.
Having taken nine years to produce the first two volumes (well actually the 2nd one isn’t quite finished yet…) you have to wonder if we’ll ever see a conclusion to this comic. Still the author has now gone full time on Lackadaisy and has committed to producing two page a month. That still puts it on a fourteen year timeline if, and this is a big if, the story could be completed in a meagre six volumes.
It’s clear though, between the stunning visuals, and heavily researched source material that Lackadaisy is something that takes a lot of effort to be produced. So personally I think it’s just worth reading it for however much we get out of it.
The characters and comic concept
Set in the prohibition era, in the American city of St. Louis, Lackadaisy follows the fortunes of the staff of a once successful speak-easy that is being pushed out of business.
The story’s focus has shifted between a few characters so far. The speak-easy’s unlikely owner Mitzi May, her socially impaired but enthusiastic alcohol procuring staff member Rocky Rickaby, and an ex-employee working for the opposition, Mordecai Heller.
The characters are all interesting and likeable enough, though very much representational of the genre from which they come. With such a popular setting like the American prohibition we have certain pre-conceived ideas about the characters we’ll find in such a story and Lackadaisy deliberately delivers directly to those preconceptions for the most part.
Rocky is the most “fun” of the characters so far, he’s a comic relief character but with more substance than that implies, and a penchant for creative mayhem.
Mordecai is the most interesting of the characters; he’s quite a bit more complicated than any of the other personalities. He’s an outsider, even within the criminal fraternity he stands within, and there is a good amount of tension between him and pretty much everyone else in the story.
The character I struggle with a bit is Mitzi, arguably the most main character to date. It’s not that I think she is a poorly realised character or anything like that; I just don’t like her very much. She is the sort of person who always seems to relying on someone else to solve her problems. She seem to act more out of a sense of personal need than considered merit. Or to put it another way she seems to have decided on a course of action based on what she would like to happen rather than what will probably happen – and without any great consideration to the cost of those around her.
The story hasn’t progressed very far as yet due to the slow update rate. Despite that there is a quite a bit going on between the ongoing struggle to procure merchandise, Mitzi’s attempts to acquire funds to pay for said merchandise and the, so far mostly implied, threat of their business rivals. So there’s heaps of potential here for great plot developments.
The tone of the comic straddles both the serious and non-serious. The author describes it as part parody which feels sort of about right; there is a knowing use of elements from “classic” prohibition crime/dramas and the action is more cinematic than real world inspired. But then it’s also serious in terms of repercussions and their impacts on other characters.
The pacing tends on the quick side for the most part, though in a couple of places it dwells on a scene a bit longer than ideal. Reading back through the comics to date I did find myself wishing it would stop jumping between quite some many different locations and characters quite so quickly but it’s a minor quibble.
The comic has only covered a few days, maybe a week at most, of elapsed time so character development is not going to be huge. Still you can see certain characters are at crossroads in their lives or are being shaped by the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Dialogue tends to be quite good. The author has researched the language of the time and throws in a few anachronisms from the period, but not too many.
The art in Lackadaisy is very nicely done. The early comics are done in a monochrome and use “sepia tones” which were apparently used in photos of the period. The later comics are done in a slightly different style and start to have coloured elements. Both are good but the later comics are personally my preferred.
Some of the action scenes seem a little awkward in their choreography and layout. I had to re-read it a couple of times to figure out exactly what had happened. It’s not a big problem and something I suspect will vanish with experience.
Author, publishing and timeline
The author of Lackadaisy is Tracy Butler who previously worked in the game industry but now works full time on Lackadaisy.
Lackadaisy won a number of awards in the Web Cartoonist Choice Awards in 2007 and 2008. In 2011 it was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic.
Volume 1 of Lackdaisy is available for sale here or via the shop link on the comics main page.
As mentioned above the timeline for Lackadaisy is pretty extreme. Really, based on story development, I would have said that we’re looking at eight volumes minimum but then we’d be looking at 25+ years to complete the series at the present update rate.