Zach, if you’re not going to include the red-button panel on the RSS feed, at least provide an alternate feed with just comic links.

(From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Click for full-sized reality.)

I don’t have much more to say about Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal than I did back in March. I was trying to avoid saying too much about it then, to avoid giving away too much about the review now, but what is there to say? It’s a modern The Far Side crossed with xkcd, to the point that, while the comic I reviewed in March may have been xkcdlike, I have since found a number of comics in the archive that are out-and-out the same as an actual xkcd comic; compare this SMBC, only a year old, to this xkcd. But that’s not necessarily a knock against it, and in fact I’m about to say something that may come off as blasphemous:

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is, in fact, a better comic than xkcd.

xkcd is the vanilla ice cream of webcomics (much as I hate how “vanilla” has become synonymous with “plain” when it isn’t, it just doesn’t change the color of ice cream): it’s safe, inoffensive, and wholly middle-of-the-road and unremarkable. It plugs out a new comic three times a week without affecting much of anything whatsoever. In this analogy, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is more like chocolate ice cream: just as middle-of-the-road, but with significantly more flavor. Zach Weiner isn’t afraid to go with off-color humor in every other webcomic, make his opinion on religion very, very clear, or be far nerdier than almost any xkcd comic I’ve ever read. SMBC simply has more bite than xkcd ever had, and the result is that it’s more consistently funny than xkcd. Few comics have had me giggling as much as SMBC did while I was reading it.

But when I started reading it as it came out, I found that there, it had the same problem as xkcd. It doesn’t provide enough bang for the buck for me to consistently follow it every single day. Often it’s just a single panel, or a short progression of panels, and there just isn’t enough there to make an impact.

This may partly be because the comic is read better several at a time, but it may also be because the comic is pretty hit-and-miss, and may in fact have declined in quality just within the last year. It may also be a comic you can’t have too much of. Certainly if you’re the sort who hates Ctrl+Alt+Del, there’s certainly ammunition here for you, as the vast majority of comics will generally hit one of a few points: jokes about naughty bits, religion, academia, “graph jokes”, and at least for a while, out-of-order jokes, with the chronologically earliest panel moved to the end to change the experience of the comic. So you could say the comic is repetitive and that Weiner falls back on a few crutches.

On the other hand, it is a daily comic, so you probably can’t fault Weiner for resorting to those crutches, especially since it’s a strict gag-a-day comic with no continuing characters or storylines, meaning for all its repetitiveness, it can still shift topics on a dime. Besides, it still has those moments of humor that can reach a higher level than xkcd. I wouldn’t say SMBC is for everyone – if you get offended by certain sorts of jokes about God and religion (especially Christianity), SMBC isn’t for you, and the same goes if you’re offended by jokes about certain parts of the human anatomy. If neither of those weeded you out, and you happen to already like xkcd, I’d give SMBC a shot and see if it’s right for you.

That may sound like damning with faint praise, and you may have noticed that this post reads substantially shorter than other recent reviews. Well, I never liked xkcd that much, though my opinion of it has softened as time has gone on, to the point that I’ll admit that SMBC never quite reaches the sublimity that the occasional xkcd comic can. As such, I find I don’t really have an opinion about SMBC that much and I’m not confident of the opinion I do have. I’m conflicted about it, because I certainly enjoyed it, but I’d certainly never read it on a regular basis. It’s not really for me. Maybe if it’s for you, you’ll enjoy it and have a new favorite comic, but I’m going to go back to reading Order of the Stick, becoming addicted to Questionable Content, and trying to finish Erfworld before it comes back from hiatus.

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