"Problem Sleuth" is webcomic by Andrew Hussie, and was the third comic in his "MS Paint Adventures", after Jailbreak and Bardquest, but before the wildly popular Homestuck. It ran from March 10th, 2008 to April 7th, 2009. The format of the comic was a panel with some text description below, like much of Hussie's work, there is no speech baloons. Also, like most of the MS Paint Adventures, it was based on submitted user suggestions, which explains much of the seemingly random plot. Unlike Homestuck, the story never utilizes either flash or sound, although it uses increasingly sophisticated animated gifs towards its end.
The story starts as a send-up of noir detective stories. The adventure begins with the titular character, Problem Sleuth, inside his office. He tries to leave his office, a process that is thwarted for scores of panels. Along the way, the "hard boiled" aspects are phased out in favor of an increasingly zany and hard to comprehend plot. He forms a team with two other Private Eyes, Ace Dick and Pickle Inspector. Together, they explore ever-weirder fantastical worlds, before finally, in a "climax" that takes half of the run of the comic, confronting the insidious Mobster Kingpin on an astral naval battle that involves all of time and space.
I liked Homestuck very much, and decided to read Problem Sleuth both because I was hoping for more of the same material, and because much of the riddle of Homestuck has its roots in points in Problem Sleuth. I was disappointed with the first half of Problem Sleuth: I thought the story was full of the type of disjointed absurdist material that passed for "humor" in much of the early internet. The story didn't seem to make sense, even by its own internal logic, and the characters were crudely drawn caricatures, in both senses of the word. It was only during the latter half of the story that I started to get all the plot points and intricacies, and started to understand what was happening, and to care about the outcome. It is amusing just how many cosmic strings are set-up, pulled, and then revealed to be a red herring in this story, which started out as just the story of a guy in a room.
Although "Problem Sleuth" does not have the character development and thematic depth of Homestuck, and also hasn't had the cultural impact, it is still an interesting story that stands out on its own, for those readers who can invest the time into it.
"Problem Sleuth" can be read here: