(I'm writing about the webcomic Scary Go Round. Details here.)
Chapter One: The Gas
Click on the above to read this chapter; when it gets all Victorian with Nerve Tonic being sold from a booth you have started the next chapter which is beyond the scope of this post. If for some reason, rather than reading the comic you want to stay here, at the bottom of this post is the plot synopsis and character list I made to keep everything straight in my head.
There are two threats to our heroines in this story. Firstly Rachel has to edit the university paper or she will be thrown off the course. Secondly there is the killing sentient gas.
The first one is mundane - a wacky, sitcom type of mundanity but a situation that is not completely out of the ordinary. Despite Rachel protesting "I can't put out a paper! What if I do it wrong? What if I fail?" it's not really a threat. Len hasn't asked for a good university paper.
Stevie Sprake, the gas, is a real threat. His body count according to the paper at the end is 16. However, partly because we don't know any of these people, partly because of the cartoonish style and partly because it's a very funny story I don't feel it. Sure, the girls are chased down a corridor by a sentient gas which will choke them to death. But it's no more than Scooby Doo scary because while they're fleeing for their live they're arguing if wind will effect a sentient gas held together by force of will. The gas is a silly villain and as it turns out they have a silly way of dealing with it.
Which is all to the good, because as well as being silly, it's also funny. As might be expected there's fart jokes and egg sandwich jokes. There's visual gags - the book of "How To Make Drugs" springs to mind - as well as jokes both about stereotypes and jokes about breaking stereotypes.
Rachel thinks the place to run away to to disappear is Wales. When I was at college our vanishing place of choice was, taken from the Viz Top Tips column, Fife.
Our heroines aren't actually that nice - both Rachel and Tessa use their feminine wiles to try and get their own way and despite it being Tessa who has freakish man strength, it's Rachel who threatens Barry Proops. However they are witty, are chased by a murderous and pervy gas-loser and Tessa has regrets, so they're definitely likeable characters.
The police take all this in their stride. The officer comments that "Actually it happens a lot more than you'd think, miss." Clearly strange things happen in Tackleford. Which is just as well for Rachel and Tessa as otherwise all they'd have to report on for the next issue would be the Science Fair (which I will blather on about next Tuesday).
Alternate Titles to This Post/Best lines
We are periodic table of the elements fans who want to know much, much more.
"You're... you're one of those vicious girl gangs!" "Yes, We're unruly." "We skateboard in prohibited areas."
Ah you sprayed de-ionised water on my trousers giving the impression that I have wet myself. Ha ha.
We wrote a note from Stevie saying he'd run away to join a cult that worship benzene rings.
I'm a sentient gas I follow so closely the laws of science.
"Well, if we could hit him with a big dense cloud of another gas, we could weaken him." "Long enough to assume new identities and move to Swansea!"
As a solid beautiful ladies were out of my reach. But as a gas, I could drift into changing rooms and look at them in the nudey. I could also see movies for free and explore chimneys.
Rachel and Tessa, journalism students, student journalists, investigators and barmaids.
Len Pickering, formerly editor of City Limits magazine, now journalism professor.
Cecil, his guinea pig.
Ralph, creepy lift operator. It's just possible we'll see him again.
Ryan, who has a scooter! And gives Tessa a lift.
William, University Librarian.
Krakkagar, a giant black beetle with glowing red eyes who skips from rooftop to rooftop looking for people to skin. His only weakness is sugar.
Dr Proops, a sad chemistry nerd.
Stevie Sprakes, chemistry nerd and gaseous murderer.
Rachel, a journalism student, is forced to become editor of the Tackleford University Clarion to make up for her coursework being a file with a happy spider in it. Recruiting her friend Tessa, they reopen the office to discover that the last paper was in March 1992, and the former staff are dead and skeletons in the pen cupboard.
Tessa investigates the last issue of the paper in the university library, but finds that William the librarian has been gassed and hospitalised. Rachel believes this is the work of the giant black beetle Krakkagar but Tessa disagrees. Looking through the last few papers they find that the paper was investigating the deaths of the Chemistry Society on a trip to an iodine factory. There was one survivor who is still at the university. They decide to interview him by pretending to be fans of the periodic table of the elements.
Meeting Dr Proops they get all bad cop on his ass and he tells them about the chemistry society. One member, Steve Sprake was the butt of their jokes. Somehow he got locked in the fume cupboard with some highly volatile compounds and vapourised him. As they leave the gas appears again and talks to Proops. It's Sprake, a living gas!
Proops has given away too much, so Sprake gases him and sets off after Rachel and Tessa. They run for the door, hoping the wind will disperse him, but have to take shelter in the caretakers cupboard. There they find a vacuum cleaner and use it to capture Sprake. They hand him over to the police. This makes an excellent piece for the student paper, so excellent that professor Len ignores the fact that the other 14 pages are made up of an interview with Ralph the lift operator. Then TWIST ENDING!