Going back and reading these old reviews is something of an exercise in humility. I like to think I’m a fairly professional critic, but that hasn’t always been the case. My Namesake review reads as amateurish to me now; I clearly didn’t have a strong sense of what I wanted to say and instead used the review format to hash out my feelings about the comic, trying to divine some deeper mystery. That’s a weak review, so let me take this opportunity to strengthen it.
Namesake is… good. Is that stronger?
Okay sure, Namesake is complex, huge, sometimes confusing, sometimes hard to follow. Yes, it has so many characters with so many backstories that it can be difficult to remember what’s going on at times. But all that detail also serves to make it rich, and real, and alive. All those characters are unique and instantly recognizable, even if we haven’t seen them for three chapters. And you actually care about them. Namesake is a story about stories, so it would be disappointing if those stories didn’t matter, didn’t make you invested.
Namesake is also way, way gayer than I even realized in my original review. All Ozites are bi, which is frankly the most staggering power move I’ve seen an adaptation make. I made a lot of surprised noises originally about how much I cared about the primary romance between Warrick and Emma but surprise, they’re both bi too. Isa and Meg write some of the best romance out there; each of the many, many ships in this comic is compelling, even the m/f ones, and that’s primarily because there’s absolutely no room for macho bullshit or misogyny or masculine posturing in any of them. Something other writers of romance could stand to think about.
There is one lingering question that I have, however, even these years later. It’s unclear still what a Writer is and why they have to write a namesake’s story – especially if they’re not the first to write about a particular world. It’s not like Travis, the main Writer character besides Elaine, is publishing new books about Neverland or Wonderland or wherever, so what exactly is he doing with his time? Do namesakes’ stories have to be told? What happens if they’re not? 28 chapters in and still no clear answers. Maybe the 29th chapter’s the charm.
All that said, the core argument of my original review still holds strong: Namesake respects its source material deeply. In adapting old fairy tales and kid’s books, it never tries to change anything, instead taking the opportunity to deepen the lore and fill in blanks; fairy tales don’t tend to have strong worldbuilding. Neither is it a “Where Are They Now?” for beloved characters, nor a cheap nostalgia trip. Namesake is genuinely interested in the things that have been happening in these familiar worlds since we left them behind, and the additions it makes are true to the stories’ original spirit.
Namesake is the kind of longform epic that simply does not get made anymore. And yet, it’s also vastly better than any of those long-running webcomics from the old days. It takes their format – a story that grows slowly in many directions, picking up characters and elements as it goes along – and perfects it. It’s sprawling but focused, crowded but vibrant, convoluted but grounded.
And god damn if it doesn’t make my gay little heart feel gay little feelings.
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