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Web Comic Wednesday: XKCD

As a student, I always hated math. It's not that I was terrible at it, I could just never shake the question of when in my life I was going to need to use cosine, or calculate the surface area of a pyramid. SO when I heard about XKCD, a comic entirely based on science and math, I was skeptical of my capacity to enjoy it.

Fortunately, my skepticism was soon quashed. Understanding of math and science isn't usually a requirement for understanding the jokes here, though it just might make the better. I wouldn't know. I don't understand math. Instead, the humor comes from, frankly, incredibly clever writing. Sometimes there isn't really any humor, but the writing and ideas are still interesting enough to keep you fascinated.

I realize that I'm not doing a great job of telling you what this comic is about, and that's because it's a very difficult thing to define. There are no main characters, no overarching plots, just whatever Randall Munroe thinks is funny or insightful at the time.

The Good
As I've said, the writing and ideas are top-notch, and will almost certainly keep your interest. Several times a comic will get incredibly deep or existentialist, then be brought back to humorous through the sudden use of water guns or carnivorous dinosaurs.

Others that don't have humor at all are more of experiments with the art form of online sequential art. Notably, one comic titled “umwelt” displayed a completely different comic depending on your browser, location and IP address range. Others will take advantage of zoom, panoramic view or gifs to make their joke.

If it seems like this “the good” segment is relatively short, its because its hard to put into words what makes this comic good. Do not misunderstand me, this comic is better than good, this comic is great. But the existential nature of a lot of them, combined with the lack of overarching structure makes reasons and themes somewhat difficult to pin down. At the end of the day, all I can really say is that each comic will leave you feeling...something. Even if you aren't sure what that something is.
I THINK I was amused...
The Bad
If you're looking for a comic with a load of deep characters or a complex plot line, look elsewhere. Likewise, many may be turned off by the stick-figure art style, or the comics that are all text. If visual art is what appeals to you, well, maybe this isn't for you either.

There are also a number of comics that remind me of those “inspirational” posters you would see behind a manager's desk. They're more heartwarming and tell the message better, but you can't shake the feeling that they're telling you “what life is all about”. Some people really get into that kind of things, I'm just not one of them, I suppose.

Lastly, for the sake of fair warning, the first comics on the site are not indicative of the entire thing. They're doodles from Munroe's school notebooks, and if you skip until you start seeing stick figures, you'll be at the actual comic.

The Verdict
Read this comic. Seriously, at least give it a good chance. It makes you think, makes you chuckle, and makes you...well, we'll just say “other”. There are reasons you may not get into it, but from what I can tell they're few and far between.