The Trenches is the kind of webcomic that really deserves a laugh track. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.
The original idea as I recall it was borne out of legitimately good Penny-Arcade comics: Retales part one and part two, detailing Gabe’s shell shock from working retail at a Toys R’ Us. Scott Kurtz and Mike Krahulik confided that they had scores of ideas for an entire comic series based on this concept, they just needed to write them.
When they finally launched a comic under the name of “The Trenches”, a lot had changed. When the original Penny-Arcade strips had gone up, the quality of the comic itself was already starting to get hit-or-miss, but in the two years intervening, the bottom had begun to drop out. Penny-Arcade was more miss than hit. A lot of factors could be to blame; I’ve seen some suggest the fact that Mike and Jerry became parents has had an impact on how they think about the comic. That has certainly manifested itself at least once - they clearly want to write stories about their offspring, and that doesn’t really mesh with the reasons I started reading Penny-Arcade back in 2002.
The point is, this comic is not “The Trenches” we were promised, nor is it even very funny. It’s like The Big Bang Theory for webcomics, which is to say hollow, predictable tropes and lazy, effortless “gamer comedy”. We mixed in this audio track of an audience laughing, doesn’t that inspire you to laugh along with them? Unfortunately, Trenches doesn’t even get that luxury. That’s not even touching the weirdly stylized, somewhat cheap-looking artwork, or the fact that they seem to be pushing to have a punchline at the end of every single strip they write.
The only redeeming thing about The Trenches are the “Tales from the Trenches" featured below the strip itself - they are frequently funnier, more emotionally resonant, and better-written than anything the strip itself could hope to achieve. Stories like those are the original heart of The Trenches - not the awful faux-sitcom they have crafted.
Also worth watching is this episode of PATV regarding the creation of The Trenches, which, for somebody who hates the webcomic portion, does nothing to engender me to their cause - they seem to delight in torturing Jerry with deliberately bad ideas, simply because they have majority vote and he doesn’t. Some degree of that might just be mugging for the camera, but it makes a bad webcomic look worse, regardless.