Died in a Blogging Accident has lived up to its name and died... in a blogging accident. That is to say it has concluded. You can still re-live the magic by clicking here to start at chapter 1. For genuine criticism of XKCD, please click the top link to the right (XKCD Isn't Funny).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Comic 921: Rivendell Parcel Service

Raven said she wouldn't be able to get a review up until tonight, so, even though this comic doesn't really make me angry, I'll take over for now. I'm sure I'll find something to hate.

Title: Delivery Notification; alt-text: You can arrange a pickup of your sword in Rivendell between the hours of noon and 7:00 PM.

Wow, look at that! Color, shading, passable art in some panels? Which comic am I reading here? Oh. With the level of disconnection the guy's head has in panel 4, there's really no question. Yup, this is xkcd.

Okay, first complaint: The UPS form. I'm not sure how to feel about Randall free-handing it, since perfectly straight lines would sort of detract from the sketchy style of the rest of the comic. On the other hand, the bar code looks absolutely horrible, and there's obviously a pretty striking difference in art once we get to the elves. Okay, he should've used a freaking ruler.

Second complaint: Panels 6 and 7. This is unnecessary dialogue that exists only to set up the "elves make and deliver a sword" part of the strip. Randall SHOULD have expanded panel 5 to the end of the row, and had the guy saying, "The laptop is there. It's mine. I'm going to get it." There would be a beat, then he would say, "I'll need a weapon." That would have the bonus effect of giving more space for the sword delivery panel, which feels cramped as it is now.

Third complaint: The forging montage. It's a nice arrangement of pictures, it's looks alright (for xkcd), and it successfully conveys the feeling of narration over an otherwise wordless scene. So what could possibly be wrong with it? The text. The freaking text. The pictures provide a nice flow. So what does Randall do? He ruins the flow by cramming two sentences above the first image and leaving the last sentence until the third image. And he doesn't even get that right! The first two sentences respect the borders of their image (although I think the second sentence could be fit in two lines). But the third? It overlaps the middle panel! It looks darn ugly. A caption for one image should NOT begin over another one.

Fourth complaint: Maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but I didn't understand the last two panels on the first read. I thought the guy had come back from his trip to the UPS depot, still sans laptop, and as his roommate opens the door for him, we see that UPS tried to drop off his package again and left another note. Can you blame me? It would be funny ("ha ha look at this tool get all worked up and then have nothing come out of it"), and we wouldn't have to explain away the fact that apparently elves use the exact same notification forms as the UPS.

If you haven't gotten it yet, the actual joke is that the elves tried to drop off the sword and no one answered, so they left a note. The alt-text (done right for a change!) helps explain this. And you know what? That's kind of funny! I like that, or rather, I like the concept. It's humorous and it's backed by tolerable art. This could have been a good strip!

But of course Randall, being Randall, ruins it! He spends too much time getting to the point, and by the time we wade through the miscues of excess dialogue and badly flowing text, the punch (and the joke) feel lost. As has happened so many times before, it feels like he had an idea ("what if the elves reforging Andúril couldn't deliver it") but wasn't sure how to set it up. What he settled on wasn't bad, but it could have been better.

Case in point. I see from the xkcdsucks comments that Raven's going to disagree with me, but I really liked Anon552's edit of the strip:

Maybe it's just because the edit changes the punchline to match up with what I originally thought Randall was trying to do, who knows. On the other hand, it gets rid of an unnecessary elf sideplot, clears up the ambiguity in the punchline, and hits a lot harder and faster than Randall's version. It's what 921 should've been.

Why doesn't Randall just get an editor already?


  1. not being funny but you are well gay.

    way too serious. next time just write xkcd is crap you absolute chicken nigger.

  2. this was a pretty good post that outlined the problems with the strip pretty well.

    good job. keep up the good work you absolute chicken nigger.

  3. Thanks for explaining it -- I had no idea what was going on, but now I actually think it's kind of funny.

  4. Panels one and two seem like they are out of order. Shouldn't we get the close up of the form after he opens the door and looks at it? I suppose then you might have to reword some stuff or add in another panel, which would just make this even longer.


    Well, only about that one part -- the edit is awful and you're awful for posting/liking it. You're right re: aligning the three captions to the three panels [three sentences, three panels -- why didn't he line them up 1:1?????], and probably about taking out panels 6 and 7.

    At least he didn't put dialogue in the last panel.


    @Erebus: I guess we assume that just prior to panel 1 the door was already open. I admit that it's wonky, but if he put a panel beforehand we'd be bitching about how it wasn't necessary, so I think this is the best he could do, really.

  6. Randall wouldn't listen to an editor even if he had one. I 'm sure that the elves are not just a side plot, they ARE the intended point of this strip. The UPS stuff is just his way of setting up yet another lame pop culture reference (which I'm proud to say I don't get). Also, the silhouetted figure looks hooded - no doubt that's the sword-delivering elf below the narration about going to the sorting depot....

    (Spelling nit - how many fathers does Mr. Decapitated have?)

    I rather like Erebus's edit, but it does confuse panel 5. After the knock on the door, the dialog sounds like it refers to answering the door rather than going to the depot.

    capcha: crati - the pieces of the sword were delivered in multiple crati.

  7. Just a note here:

    This comic is massive GOOMH bait. Basically anyone who has ordered a package online and missed the delivery will have had thoughts run through their head like "Oh, the shipping depot is close to my house, I wish I could just drop by there and pick it up instead of having to wait for the next delivery day." Merge this with a blatant geek reference to LOTR, and the GOOMBAH is born.

    Also side note: Randy's got an even more specific GOOMH target in mind -> Ask yourself what would be a group of people ordering a laptop in the middle/ending of summer? Why, students preparing to enter college next year, of course, the very group of people who randy often pander's to.

  8. Ravenzomg = RIGHT

    "I missed them trying to deliver my laptop, TWICE!" is a terrible joke.

  9. The fact that there's clearly a laptop in panel four makes me wonder why any of this is necessary. The situation up to that point already feels stilted and contrived enough without throwing additional laptops into the mix.

  10. Ravenzomg = WRONG
    The original comic is a terrible joke.

  11. ""I missed them trying to deliver my laptop, TWICE!" is a terrible joke."
    true, but thats not what the edit does. it changes it to 'i missed their second delivery because i was far too busy being a whiney little girl about missing the first try'. i'm not sure thats much better, but it is a bit better.

    i think my real problem with this comic is thats utterly unrealistic. i've picked things up from depots loads of times, normally because i'm out at work (or they just fail to find my house ./sigh.). it normally requires you take some ID with you, and talk to a perso.... ah. i see where it all falls down for randal and his fanbois.

  12. I think this comic only works if you assume this guy is Randall, who is away at a wedding thingee and returning home -- the laptop he uses in panel X is not his, but his host's. And for some reason he has ordered a laptop to his host's house. This may or may not be an actual thing that happened.

    I've already said this to someone individually, but the idea that they'd try delivering again in the same day/after their hour of operations just doesn't make any sense. the time frame here is between [dark time at night] and [dark time in the following morning]. But then again, if delivering out of hours is unreasonable, why are there elves? Well, I'm pretty sure they're the point. I'm not saying the comic is great, but if you take out the whole elf bit it just doesn't flow at all and is basically uninteresting/pointless/fuck you. "XKCD Slightly Worse", except actually.

  13. Ha! Never even noticed that.

    "But they've got my laptop!" *goes to laptop for reference*

    I GUESS we could assume it was the host's, but most people I know don't just use other peoples' laptops like that.

  14. Panel 1: Man on phone says "I'll be home all morning for that delivery. I need that laptop before I leave town tomorrow."
    Panel 2: Man at open door looking at the missed delivery slip says "Crap."
    Panel 3: Man on phone says "I'll be home all evening for that delivery. I need that sword so I can attack the UPS sorting office. They have my laptop."
    Panel 4: Man at open door looking at two missed delivery slips says "Crap."

    I've never written a cartoon in my life and I can fit it in 4 panels. Sure mine sucks too but it saves everyone the trouble of complaining about how I didn't use a ruler or misalign my narration captions. Plus it takes 1/10 the time to read.

  15. @Anon 2:48, Raven, Gamer: You mean you guys only have one laptop? I have three. (OK, one's from work.)

    @Clomp: Your artwork is better than Randall's, too.

  16. My main box is a desktop computer, and I have a single laptop for portability (and when I'm home, it stays connected to my TV as an ad hoc media center). Why would I need more laptops?

  17. Dearest Gamer, I can't NOT link to at least one of these pages. Only real spoilers if you go two pages into the future (DONT DO 1T).

  18. @Gamer: Replace your main box with a laptop and there you are.

    The laptop to be delivered could also be a replacement for the one shown. (If so, the character should say "new laptop" somewhere, but that would require Randall to be competent at writing dialogue.)

  19. The edit works better if there is another "knock, knock, knock" in panel three. (not best, but better.)

  20. Never mind the nitpicking. The main problem is, joke doesn't work because it just isn't clear WTF is meant to be happening in the last few panels..

  21. The original comic just has too much crap going on.

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