Webcomic Book Club Full Reviews
of Bruno by Christopher Baldwin


Before I start the review, I must comment that I live in Greenfield, Massachusetts, the town in which Bruno (and the author of this comic) were born. Being about a generation older than I am, Bruno's Greenfield is a little different from my Greenfield. Still, I think both of us can agree that it's a cultural black hole that would prefer to stagnate in nonexistent tradition rather than move forward and become a town that people would want to visit. The youth (of which I belong) have become punkish and disaffected, as there is very little fun in this town, so they've turned to smoking pot. There is some progress being made to change all this, such as the recent opening of our Home Depot, but it's still not a place I'd brag about living in. Living in this town will make anyone jaded, and I think that's where Bruno gets a good chunk of her personality.

I figure I'm not going to finish reading the entire archives this week, and Bruno's move to Portland is a good place to stop and look back, so keep in mind that this review is of the comics up until the middle of 2000.

Art

The art is quite good. Backgrounds are very detailed, while you can easily tell each character apart from each other. Some of the characters such as Lenny have weird facial shapes, though, which makes it a little hard to take them seriously. On the other hand, sometimes I want to take the comic less seriously anyway.

Story

"Bruno" is the story of a girl named Bruno (after some old poet, no given surname) who was born in the town of Greenfield, Massachusetts. She later moved to Northampton. When the story starts she is visiting her parents' house in Greenfield and just goes on from there.

The story revolves around Bruno. Nearly everything in the comic is shown from her point of view. This can be a good and bad thing. On the one hand, I've gained a lot of insight on Bruno, as she is one of the most fleshed-out characters in webcomics. On the other hand, it's very easy to get tired of Bruno's elitist and self-defeating attitude. Sometimes I wish I could just give her a good slap to the head.

There is no particular drive to this story. This is very much like a soap opera in that once one problem is solved, another usually crops up in its place, so there usually is no sense of closure. Bruno falls in and out of relationships, friendships and arguments. She also travels a lot. The lack of drive in the comic is due to the fact that Bruno lacks drive in her life. She's in her mid-20's but she still doesn't have any idea where she's going, and the comic reflects that.

Characters

Bruno is what it's all about. She is a bisexual liberal girl who lives in Northampton. She feels the need to constantly analyze things, often resulting in a lowered opinion of who or whatever she's analyzing, including herself. This leads to the strange conundrum of her having a superiority complex but she still kicks herself over everything. She simply doesn't know how to enjoy life, as she's always looking for meaning in it. I'll tell you right now that those who search for meaning in life will never find it, so they'd be better off enjoying what they have.

Other characters pop in and out of her life, some more likeable than others. She falls in love with a bunch of men and women (which are easy to find in Northampton), has lots of sex, then breaks up due to her usually sabotaging her own relationship. Bruno also has friends that are more easygoing than she is. Of all the recurring characters in the comic, I think I most identify with Lenny. He's very easygoing, very realistic, has low standards but enjoys what he has and has bad luck with women.

One thing that irks me, though, is that anyone who has different views from Bruno (ie a conservative) is presented as a jerk or clueless. This may be due to Bruno's (or the author's) perception of those kinds of people, but I feel like if he wants to be realistic then he should try to present all people with equal fairness.

Another thing that I didn't realize until Benor mentioned it was that each comic does have a punchline. I never laughed at any of them, as they were too normal and pedestrian to be hilarious. They just seemed like natural conversation. Excessive sarcasm does grate on me, though, and Bruno is a very sarcastic person, so I can only take the strip in small doses, or maybe a large dose spread out over a few hours.

In General

Bruno is a very well-done comic, but it's definitely not for everyone. People who disagree with Bruno or are annoyed with her will probably not want to stick with her for the long haul. She's not going to find true happiness anytime soon, so prepare for a bumpy ride.

I'd recommend this comic to any moderately liberal person, anyone who is going through angst or depression (so they could possibly relate or even see how silly they're being) and anyone who lives in Greenfield, as I've already done.
Review by Cobra Sat May 01 2004 07:24 AM

Art: The art for Bruno was decent. The backgrounds were probably the best part, because they often boasted a lot of detail. I wasn't as taken with the people, though; they all looked similar, with long, drawn-out faces. The only real exception was Louis, since he was wider.

Story: The story is usually focused on Bruno herself-and unfortunately, the story has its ups and downs with her. If she's spinning her wheels, so is the story itself; I didn't feel that it maintained my interest when she wasn't doing something. And even when she was doing something, there were times where the strips just dragged a scene out. I thought they worked better when it was just a snapshot of a situation.

Characters: The characters were interesting, but we only get to know them through Bruno. She's the one that brings them together in some way, and gives us a basis for interpretation. I think this limits some of them, such as Stanley.

Writing: The most interesting but least realistic part of Bruno. Everyone seems well read (within reason) and eloquent in this comic, and people are rarely lacking for a witty retort. Even when they say they don't have anything to say, they do. It's interesting, but is everyone that witty and quick on their feet? No, and that makes it tiresome after a while. I want to see more strips where someone doesn't have a glib reply,

Overall: I like "Bruno"; I can forgive any faults in the art, and there's something endearing about a main character who provokes such reactions in people. But after a while, the comic feels like it's going nowhere, and retreading familiar territory. 6 out of 10.
Review by Benor Fri Apr 30 2004 08:22 AM

Offsite Review Summaries

"It is a look at the life of a introspective young woman set in the real world. Bruno's theme differs from the usual webcomics that tends reflect video game or student subculture, and instead deals with real, often controversial, issues through the daily life of the main character and her friends. The comic is characterised by a great deal of sometime angst-ridden dialogue between the characters, and occasionally punctuated by a single panel with a contemplative scene without words. The comic, which often seems to have autobiographical elements, follows the life of Bruno from quitting college, visiting friends in various American towns, travelling to Europe, falling into and out of relationships, and trying to publish a novel." more...
Read Full Review by Wikipedia contributors at Wikipedia Thu Sep 23 2004

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