Nice Teeth is a nice surprise.
It is a glaring truth that the Internet’s favourite form of humour is absurdism. From the cluster of webcomics following the thunderous footsteps of Penny Arcade, to YouTube, with the asdf movies, Jack & Dean and Bravest Warriors, even unto the lolcat itself, the Internet brims with humour tuned to the absurd. Indeed, there is so much that sometimes the Internet can seem like a kid who has just discovered jokes, and, finding one he likes, repeats it over and over and over.
It’s not that I don’t like absurdism. Grow up on a diet of classic British comedy and the taste for zany never leaves you. It’s more that any kind of humour loses impact after sufficient repetition, particularly that which has no point beyond ‘look at this thing. It is a strange thing’. So it was that my first thought on starting Nice Teeth was ‘Oh. This again.’
Specifically, the comic’s opening pages (in which the reader is introduced to Dr Nubs, a purple demon-lookalike creature with a portal in his mouth and a borderline annoying manner of speech) reminded me of Looney Tunes. The Doctor initially appears to be insane in the bouncy, Daffy Duck sense, being similarly fond of costumes and cartoonish violence. He eventually runs into Shell who is also a bit of a nutter, if less hyperactive. Several pages in and the comic feels like yet another iteration of Internet standbys, right down to the animal-people and the Goldmember-ish celebration of its own strangeness.
Still the look of the comic kept me reading. Nice Teeth has the aesthetic of a hallucinogenic ramble through a tropical country, and the sheer variety of bright warm colours was enough on its own to appeal. Combined with the distinctive, evocative character designs, Nice Teeth is at least visually memorable from the off. Also, bland though the story might be at first, it wastes no time, barrelling forwards at the pace of a good film script. So, while I was not initially impressed by Nice Teeth, I was not repulsed either. It was engaging, if not interesting, until suddenly… It made a point.
Nice Teeth is set on a magical Island where the food grows without cultivation, power seemingly comes from nowhere, and all survival needs are taken care of. It is a utopia free from want, and the stated result is that the Islanders have become lazy, shallow and stupid. Imagine an entire society where the standard personality was The Situation and you have the Island. With this stroke Nice Teeth breaks the mould. In drawing a causal link between existence without hardship and cultural collapse the comic moves from simple absurdism to sudden satire.
Taking things even further, the opening of the comic mentions how the smartest member of the island’s society reacted to living in a cesspit of idiocy by going mad. As far as I know this enigmatic opener refers to Nubs, though given how all the comic’s characters are at least a little mad that’s not a certainty. Also, said madness seems without fail to relate to a dissatisfaction with or alienation from the surrounding vacuity, inviting the question of whether all this absurdity is objective silliness or whether it’s actually sense that only seems strange due to opposing a prevailing norm.
The comic is not currently perfect. It has yet to actually explore its themes, though to be fair it has not been around for long. Still, as it is, Nice Teeth shows real promise. It has gone the step further. On an Internet where it seems you can have comfortable success telling the same joke a billion times (cough asdf cough), Nice Teeth takes the absurdist standby and actually does something with it. This is a webcomic that cares to have an identity, and that, combined with its mad-coloured beauty, keeps me eager for every new update.