Longevity can be a dangerous thing.
The majority of webcomics are still in their youth, these days, but we have started to get more and more passing the decade mark. Which isn't a sign of old age, persay - but it does occasionally make me worry. How long until we have gag comics that go the way of Garfield, reduced to a formula and devoid of all real humor? How long can a story run before wandering over its own tail in complex plot after plot, needing to hit the reset button over and over again in the fashion of so many comic-book superheroes?
There are a lot of comics I have faith in to avoid such fates - but the more solid the world of webcomics becomes, the longer it survives and evolves, the more likely that many of my favorite strips see similar dilemmas to those that plague the newspaper strip and comic book industries.
Which is why it is often a relief to see a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and enters into the game fully aware of this fact.
Empty Words is one such strip.
Empty Words is a beautifully illustrated story that deals with some very heart-wrenching issues, and more importantly, some very realistic people dealing with those issues. And as of last week, the story has come to an end.
There aren't many characters in the story. There aren't many locations. The plot itself is driven almost entirely, intensely, by the people in the story and their interactions with each other.
Which seems perfectly appropriate, given the topics the comic is about. Loneliness. Family. Relationships.
The art is striking, and despite the almost hollow eyes of the characters, they convey a very real - very powerful - sense of life. The story adds that realism as well, with people and moments that connect the characters to a larger life, outside of what we see. They have a past, and seeing bits of those details helps ground the story in a much larger world than what we are shown.
Some pages have many words, and some have nearly none at all. Both have their place in telling the tale of Audrey, a young woman who works in a caretaking home for the elderly, and Greg, a journalist in search of a story.
As I said above, it is a very powerful story. At it's heart, it deals with the connections between people, both those they yearn for and those they try to run away from. Along the way it touches on motivations, infallibility... Life. Death.
Serious stuff, but it manages to deal with it without ever feeling forced, without ever feeling fake.
It took three and a half years for Ben Rivers to tell this story.
I'd say it was worth every minute of it.