Comic 77: Bored with the Internet
'But that was one of the best Xkcds!' I hear you say. Stop kvetching. I'm the one writing the review. The fact is, this would not pass as 'good' if it was released on xkcd.com today. At most, it would get a 2-page thread on the fora and a footnote on xkcdsucks.
Oh, and don't be thrown off by the appearance of Black Hat. He doesn't do anything Black-Hat-ish in this comic.
First, let's get the obvious things out of the way. C+ for artwork. Yes, The landscape is impressive, but only if you haven't read any other webcomics. It's just that every other panel doesn't measure up to it. Panel 3 gets a particularly crudely drawn crinkly line to represent a mountain range. F- for visual consistency. Furthermore, he can't seem to draw stick figures when they're walking. That is why they appear to be standing still in most panels, but Black hat is tripping over his own foot in panel 2, and doing some kind of athletic stretch in panel 3.
Now, are the two lines of dialog in panel 1 realistic? No, but at least it has few unnecessary words. And at least you can tell who's saying what. The final panel just has a line suspended in mid air, appearing to come from no one. D for clarity.
And I'm not sure if people thought this was fresh and original back in 2006, but I certainly don't. The joke is that someone tries to live without the internet, but can't. He actually did this joke again in 597, which was significantly funnier than this one. F- for humour. Don't worry Randall, at least you're not getting worse.
And the alt text? 'I used to do this all the time.' Really? I doubt it. F for lying.
Comic 72: Classhole
Uggh, a comic about two stick figures standing and talking in what may well be a white-coloured void. F-- for artwork, and I don't need to explain why. Oh, you want me to? Fine. It's that old rule of 'show, don't tell'. Randall never actually actually drew Black Hat's exploits. Rather he has Black Hat say what he's done. This, my friends, is bad writing. Couldn't Randall draw a rock, or a styrofoam cup? Of course he couldn't, and he still can't.
The dialog is stilted beyond belief. The like 'How did you spend your morning?' is a really poor exposition device. Its only purpose is to prompt Black Hat to deliver a fountain of exposition. And 'I am in awe.' is something no one would ever say. F-- for bad dialog, and F for wall of text.
And It bothers me that one of Black Hat's plans has the result of causing dumb people to have more babies. F- for bad family planning.
Most people think this is the first appearance of Black hat. But they are wrong. That honour goes to...
Comic 12: Poisson
A stick figure can not be a poisson distribution. Why should I even have to say that? And Black Hat made the poisson distribution guy... die? Disappear? Did he just frighten him away or what? And what's wrong with negative numbers. We don't know until the alt text EXPLAINS THE JOKE.
F+ for artwork. It's two stick figures meeting in a white-walled void. But it's worse because it's drawn on SQUARED PAPER. Even when he was doodling in class, he couldn't man up and get some plain A4. Even so, there are Photoshop filters that can remove blue lines from an image, have been for years. What is wrong with him?
He only gets the '+' because one of the stick figures actually appears to have a face. But that face is gone by the 3rd panel, and Black Hat never even had a face. So again, F- for visual consistency.
It almost goes without saying, but F- for Black Hat character consistency. He was flawed from the start.
There is no reason why he had to reference an obscure statistical concept for this. D for standalone value. I myself have studied poisson distributions at A-level, and there's nothing inherently funny about applying them to a negative value. It has real-world applications, so it would be like saying 'I have flipped a coin -1 times'.
He could have made the same joke about a more well known mathematical function, like a square root, which also does not work on negative numbers, and it would have lost none of its original meaning. G- for humour. G-- for explaining the joke. Erase those awful doodles from your notebook right now!