Four Torches (Out of Five)
Suddenly, comedy-fantasy is hot, hot, hot.
It was inevitable, wasn’t it? After decades of oh-so-earnest fantasy in books and movies and video games, it stands to reason we would all simultaneously rebel at all the over-used fantasy cliches and conventions.
Couple the earnest-fantasy backlash with the omnipresent irony of the 00s, and you get TV series like last year’s Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, and the web series The Legend of Neil, Playing Dead, Doraleous and Associates, A Good Knight’s Quest, Ghostfacers, The Gamers, and The Guild.
Add to all those a new webseries, JourneyQuest, which is mid-way through its first season: the story of a hapless party of adventures on, well, a quest.
Like most of these projects, this one is a labor of love by those involved (who are also the makers of The Gamers). And like everyone else, they hope the audience likes it enough so they’ll contribute the cost of the first season, and enough to produce a second season as well.
What works in JourneyQuest?
First, for being made on a shoestring, the thing looks pretty damn good (it helps that they didn’t get overly ambitious in terms of settings — no medieval cities here!).
Likewise, the cast really sells it; they look like they’re having a good time, and that feeling is infectious (and can I just say? Unlike a lot of these webseries, the players are all solid; there is not one painfully bad actor in the bunch).
Much of the humor is genuinely witty: the idiotic warrior who kills everything he sees, the “tongues” potion that instantly turns garbled foreign speech into English, an orc named Dark Flays Children (”spelled just like it sounds!”).
Yes, most of the humor comes simply from putting a modern sensibility into a medieval setting — the source of humor for most of the comedy-fantasy web series. But hey, didn’t I just say that fantasy conventions were practically begging for satire?
What works less well? Unfortunately, the first episode is by far the weakest, with an awkward, overly-long framing device and poor set-up of exactly what the series is about (and even who the main character is).
But the biggest problem may simply be the fact that, after all those other webseries, JourneyQuest seems a little late to the fantasy-comedy game, and its satire doesn’t seem particularly fresh. Unlike, say, The Legend of Neil with its raunchy, absurd (and often hilarious) flights of fancy, JourneyQuest is playing it a little straighter, a little more conventional — Monty Python and the Holy Grail by way of The Office.
Which isn’t to say it isn’t worth watching. Just don’t expect a wholesale reinvention of the comedy-fantasy wheel.
Watch the first episode of JourneyQuest here:
Watch the trailer for the entire series here:
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