Misfile is a webcomic written and drawn by Chris Hazelton. The comic follows the adventures of teenagers Ash Upton and Emily McArthur after they have been misfiled by the angel Rumisiel. He worked in Heaven’s filing department and misplacing files there causes real world changes. Emily lost two years of her life going from senior heading to college to sophomore, while Ash goes to sleep a man and wakes up a woman. Rumisiel is also kicked out of Heaven for slacking on the job meaning he cannot simply change them back. The three remember the changes but everyone else does not. The story focuses on adjusting to their new circumstances. Emily is forced two relive to years of studying, looking for colleges, and dealing with her overbearing mother. Ash learns what it’s like on the other side of the gender pool, gets a better relationship with his parents, various surprises derived from Girl-Ash such as his best friend being “her” first lover, and his attempts to remain a “he.” They are joined by Ash’s father (a gynacologist of all things), his mother (a model who wants her daughter to be girly), Missi (a girl Ash thought could be his first girlfriend), Vashiel (Rumisiel’s older brother who’s madly in love with Ash), Cassiel (Rumisiel’s ex-girlfriend and niece of Satan), among many others. In addition, many story arcs deal with driving and racing as it is Ash’s favorite past time, before and after the misfile, and Emily is learning to enjoy it.
Misfile is currently my favorite reading obsession. I have gone through many different webcomics. Some have been better than others. I like that webcomics offer things than published comics, things major companies don’t deal with. I’m not really sure why I started reading this one. I think it was an ad on my then-favorite series Questionable Content which is now my second favorite after Misfile. Normally I ignore ads, but I guess seeing two women in swimsuits somehow hooked me. I like the comic because it has an actual story, rather than random ideas featuring the same characters. And I like that it’s not just a bunch of pop culture references that will be lost in a couple of years. In fact, besides the rare reference there’s hardly anything to actually date the story besides being sometime in the last decade. Stuff like Penny Arcade requires too much knowledge of what’s going on, or requiring reading the blog. Ctrl+Alt+Del used to have a story that author Tim Buckley abandoned and is now heading towards that Penny Arcade style. VG Cats is funny in its randomness but is infrequently updated. The only other webcomics I regularly read that have an ongoing story is Dangerously Chloe, Hazelton’s 6 Gun Mage, Shotgun Shuffle, and Questionable Content. While all are good, none have quite the intrigue as Misfile. It’s that comic that really makes me wish I had the money to buy the books to show my support.
The comic has been going on for ten years, the anniversary being today. The artwork is a little rough in the beginning but by Book #3 it cleaned up. Now the art is terrific. The lines are much cleaner. The characters look amazing, especially the woman. Though they clearly have been given more time than the men. The backgrounds and environments are excellently detailed. The look is obviously inspired by anime, particularly the eyes and occasional chibi-style art. There’s also some nice subtle touches, like the way Ash is progressively making more feminine poses.
The series is divided into books, about two per year. The first twelve books are available on the site’s store. The books end with little rhyme or reason. It probably has to do more with reaching a certain number of comics as they sometimes end after a story concludes or in the middle of another.
The story primarily focuses on Ash’s situation. Most of the stories deal with his situation, family, and events. While Emily is a major character, her situation does not seem so bad. She has admitted several times that she would be fine reliving her lost two years and may even prefer her new life. Of course, Ash is having a hard time because who would want to have to see a face in a mirror that isn’t yours and live a life that never happened. His life is generally the same as a girl. He still likes to race, still lives with his father, and still has bad grades. But it’s the little differences. Like how Girl Ash mailed a letter to his mother that Boy Ash threw away, or how Girl Ash maintained a good relationship with her father while Boy Ash let it fall apart. These subtle differences eventually snowball into major changes, like how his mother bought him an engine for his second car. The comic is really good at making you look at your life wondering how things would be different as the opposite sex. Reading the comic, I’ve often wondered how different I would be as a woman, how my relationships would change, who my friends would be, where I would be, etc. I have always been fascinated by alternate universes (Marvel Comics, Star Trek, It’s a Wonderful Life, Sliders) so the comic really drew me in with that simple idea.
The real meat of the comic is the love story between Ash and Emily. Ash never had the luck to find a girlfriend and Emily never felt she had the time. It started off usual enough with Ash having a crush on Emily. Of course, since she only knew him as a woman she stopped his advances. As the months go one they became closer, overcame various identity crisis, and eventually started covert dating. If you’ve been following from the beginning it is nice to see the two together. Though let’s hope they don’t the Sam-Diane/Ross-Rachel/J.D.-Elliot/on-again-off-again thing. There are constant concerns that should the misfile be corrected they won’t remember anything, including their relationship. The two are terrific together so let us hope that should it be corrected they find a way to be with each other.
A good deal of the story is about identity. Ash obviously faces a completely new identity, though Emily has heavily reevaluated hers. Before, she was a self-admitted bitch, hanging with the popular crowd, and making the snarky remarks. I’m sure you knew the kind. While she has physically de-aged, she has mentally grown and realized just the kind of person she was and who she was with. She is no longer concerned with being popular and focuses on what really makes her happy. Emily is a better person for it. Ash, however, is harder to see change. Over time he has started forgetting who the Boy Ash is. He’s slowly accepted his new body including bra shopping and periods. He dislikes it, but has little choice.
There’s a subplot dealing with Heaven, missing angels, and something happening in Ash’s hometown of Tempest. It’s quite interesting and seems like it’s building towards a big epic conclusion. However, it’s a little hard to follow since issues dealing with this plot happen so infrequently. It was fine when I was reading them all straight threw, but once I caught up I had trouble remember who was who and why they were doing what.
I really only have two major complaints. The first is the racing comics. The thing is, racing is fast past, highly kinetic, and quickly moving. Comics conversely are static. They don’t move. Motion lines can only do so much. Luckily, the races don’t take up that many comics though it still takes a while to get through them. On a related note, the occasional technical car jargon can sometimes lose those who aren’t really into cars.
The other is a more general problem I call the Voyager Issue. See, Star Trek: Voyager is a series that started with one particular premise, get back to Earth. The show would end once they returned home and any possible route home would inevitably end in failure so the show could go on. Certainly not the open premise of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. That’s the problem with this comic. Eventually you want to see the misfile corrected and Ash turned back into a boy, even if Emily doesn’t want those two particular years back. They say it’s about the journey not the destination. However, you do eventually want to get to the destination. That’s the problem with the Chekhov’s Gun. If you use it your story is over. If you never use it your audience gets annoyed. If you delay using it your audience eventually gets bored. Some years ago it was stated that Rumisiel could get back into Heaven in seventy years, but then little has been said about that since. Progress needs to be made towards that inevitable conclusion. Eventually Frodo did make it to Mount Doom. Eventually the Rebel Alliance did defeat the Galactic Empire. Eventually Roland did get to the Dark Tower. I really enjoy the comic and look forward to seeing a new comic every night, but I wouldn’t want it to go on forever. After all, Breaking Bad had a terrific conclusion and while we miss the show it was nice to see it wrapped up so well.
The comics are released every Sunday through Thursday night, or Monday through Friday morning if you will. I do appreciate that while it’s been ten years in real time, it’s only been a year in-universe time. There is a lot of exploration of the characters taking their time to flush them out. Haezelton most recently started a comic titled 6 Gun Mage. I hope it does well. It doesn’t have that same hook Misfile does, but it is just as well written. I want it to succeed so that maybe Misfile can finally come to a satisfactory ending. All good things must come to an end, and I hope this one is worth it as it’s already been an incredible journey.
Posted on March 20, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged 10th Anniversary, Ash Upton, Chris Hazelton, comic, Emily McArthur, Misfile, review, rumisiel, Tenth Anniversary, webcomic. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.