Webcomic review: “Shotgun Shuffle”

Okay, I know I set myself up to review my favorite webcomics here, and it’s been way too long since the last one, but I’m going to try to make a fresh start, to keep this from being an annual thing (and no, “New Year’s Resolutions” is right out).

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 3.21.11 AMSince a little before Christmas I’ve been reading a webcomic called “Shotgun Shuffle” by Chris Rusche. It’s a “slice of life comedy” comic, mostly about Ellie Buckingham and her roommate Quinn Nicks, both college-age girls reluctantly thrown together again for the first time since high school by circumstances, Ellie because her mother kicked her out of the nest, and Quinn from a broken home trying to make it through school (mostly) on her own. Both girls have pretty unpleasant aspects of their personalities, Ellie is a self-centered, unmotivated post-high-schooler, and Quinn is short-tempered, judgmental and prone to misunderstandings about people, including Ellie. What keeps the girls from being completely unlikable is the fact that both are growing somewhat as a result of their interactions, their fights, and the wise advice of their older friends. After an impressive knock-down-drag-out fight, much of the air between them was cleared, and they’ve settled into a much more accepting relationship as roommates and even as somewhat friends. Quinn is still snarky, and Ellie is still somewhat lazy, but some of their edges have been worn (or beaten!) off. The fact that they are now much less 2-dimensional as characters is what makes you want to see what happens to them.

The comic takes place in a small Florida college town, and there is a fairly large supporting cast of characters, as well, including Ellie’s family, which consists mainly of her parents and her six sisters. Their father as been driven over the edge by the sisters’ actions over the years, and so they’re referred to by their characteristics: The oldest is “The One with the Kids”, Ellie is “The Lazy One”, one of her sisters is “The Slutty One,” etc. There are various male characters with whom the girls have varying degrees of success in developing relationships with, and some of those interactions lead to very funny plots. Rusche has a way of creating some very interesting minor characters as well, that he brings in for comedic effect when he needs them.

He also has impeccable verbal timing, and his artwork is incredibly expressive and subtle, even though it’s somewhat simple it enables him to show nuances of expression, but also wild exaggeration. He really draws his female characters well (the Buckingham sisters are particularly cute!), and all are very distinctive, so it’s not hard to tell them apart. He weaves together multiple plot and sub-plot threads, revealing parts of one story while casually bringing in another piece of a separate plot every so often. The story flows like a piece of baroque music, and you can tell he’s really worked out a lot more of his story’s world than he’s revealed so far. Some of the things probably won’t ever be revealed, like why the Buckingham father and daughters and grandchildren have letters and typographic symbols on their cheeks, or why Ellie’s cat is so fat it looks exactly like a ball (or a Squishable).

Bottom line, if you like mostly funny stories about mostly real people in mostly real circumstances, then I highly recommend this comic. Shoot, even if you aren’t a fan of that kind of comic, I highly recommend “Shotgun Shuffle,” start with the archive and binge away, it’s easy to navigate and you won’t regret the time.

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