Webcomics Wednesday: 2/8/2012

It’s Webcomic Wednesday again! Before I start the reviews, a question: have you checked out any of the comics I have reviewed so far? I would love to hear from you if you have, or if you would like to suggest a comic I should check out.

Derelict

First up today is a curious post-apocalyptic comic called Derelict, which is written and drawn in full color by Ben Fleuter. Why do I describe it as curious? For one thing, I could not even tell if the comic was being updated at first. The commentary beneath each page of the comic is the same, one entry for “January 4thth- 2011” and one for “December 12th- 2011.”  The only sign at first that the comic is still being updated is the fact that the copyright changes from 2011 to 2012 on the more recent pages.

Also, this is not a straightforward tale and it is not filled with a bunch of exposition to help the reader along. Lucky then that the artwork is so good and the story so compelling. You may not know what is going on or how it all fits together, or even what order the events occur in, but you want to keep reading to figure it out.

It also helps that our viewpoint character, Dang Thu Mai, seems like a real person dealing as best she can with an intolerable situation. She lives a solitary existence as a scavenger on her boat, barely eking out an existence (the girl has cat food and not much else in her cupboard). From time to time she heads on to land to scavenge, and neither land nor ocean is free of dangers, including other humans and also monstrous Gargoyles that are vulnerable to UV light. Are they aliens? Vampires? Mutants? Creatures that lived underground until after the apocalypse? All of the above? It is not yet clear.

To share more would be to give away too much of the story (but keep an eye out for that pinwheel on the left, it is kind of an important story element). Trust me on this one, just check it out. Maybe do like I did: give it a quick read-through, then head over to the forums to see the fans discussing each page and what secrets it might reveal, and then go back and read the comic more carefully. There are a lot of details and clues in the story, lots of mysterious unexplained happenings, and beautiful artwork throughout. I think you will find it intriguing. There is some graphic violence and nudity, so if that is not your scene, best to skip Derelict.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (henceforth DD) literally had me scouring the website for a link to buy this webcomic as a physical book. Sadly, it is not yet available, but the FAQ reports that, as of September 2011, an English-language version is in the works (and Book One of a French version was to be released in October 2011). So what had me looking for a shelf copy of this comic so quickly?

As written and illustrated by Tony Cliff, DD is a true delight to read. It is the story of Selim, a lieutenant in the Janissary Corp who is a gentle, refined soul who can make a mean cup of tea. His life changes drastically when he encounters Delilah Dirk, a world traveler and adventuress who I would describe as a more lighthearted version of Elektra from Daredevil. The story focuses as much on battles of manners as on battles with swords and cannons as Selim is unwillingly drawn into Delilah’s life of adventure.

Before I even got into the story, though, the artwork pulled me in. Each on-screen “page” of this comic is actually two pages at a time, allowing for expansive spreads, and DD starts off with a gorgeous two-page spread of Constantinople as seen from off-shore, with boats filling the water, and a partially overcast sky shadowing the city below. This first spread is a promise of a beautiful comic, and Tony does not break that promise. The dude can draw cities, boats, vistas, people, clothing, animals, intricate architecture… dude can draw! (For more of his artwork and some great DD posters, check out his Flickr, DeviantArt and Tumblr pages.)

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is a fun-filled, action-adventure, historical romp. If the rest of this review wasn’t clear enough, I highly recommend it!

Modest Medusa

Here is another comic I found through Kickstarter. Modest Medusa is the story of Jake, who comes home on Christmas Eve to find that his toilet appears to have overflown. Except what actually happened is the cutest little Medusa you can imagine has traveled from her dimension to his via his toilet bowl (yes, the comic is that weird, and fun). The story and art are by Jake Richmond and he describes the comic as autobiographical “except for all the stuff with the Medusa.” The format is a four-panel, vertical, black and white comic that switches to color a short way in, to good effect.

While the comic is “autobiographical” in the sense that many of the characters are his relatives, the goings-on quickly veer into the realm of bizarre, and hilarious, fantasy. While the comic does have an overarching story, each page is often a gag in itself as Jake and the Medusa get used to living with each other and Medusa becomes acclimated to a life of Chocodiles, Pokemon, and an X-Box that does not work the way it is supposed to.

Overall, this comic is just so damn cute, mostly thanks to the innocence of the Medusa, that it is hard to resist. It does take a dark turn later on with the addition of Chainsaw Unicorn to the cast. Yes, the dark turn happens when a unicorn with a chainsaw for a horn shows up. Like I said, this comic is just that weird, and good.

Update on Battlepug

I mentioned Battlepug in my very first pseudo-Webcomics Wednesday (okay, I think it was a Tuesday and I hadn’t decided to do weekly updates yet, but you get the point). Anyhoo, the first year of Battlepug plus some extra material is being collected by Dark Horse Comics and is scheduled to be in stores on July 4, 2012. Congratulations to Mike Norton and the rest of the Battlepug team.

Webcomics Wednesday: 2/1/2012

For today’s Webcomics Wednesday, I decided to catch up on The Bean, a comic written and drawn by Travis Hanson. First, some history: My wife and I first met Travis while at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. It had been a bad couple of years for us and we went a little crazy with the retail therapy at the Con. One of our purchases was a print by Travis. From there, I discovered his website and his long-form webcomic, The Bean. My wife also recently commissioned a print for me from Travis, which turned out great, don’t you think?

Since that time, I have backed two of his projects on Kickstarter, the first two volumes of The Bean in print. Volume One, available at the Bean Leaf Press store collects the first 150 or so pages, and it wasn’t until I received and read that volume that I decided to go ahead and catch up with the rest online (believe it or not, I wasn’t really into reading webcomics before then. Travis, The Bean was a gateway drug!). In this post, I will stick to discussing Volume One.

The Bean starts out in what feels like your typical fantasy world set-up. There are humans, ogres, elves, and goblins, and the story is centered around an orphaned human boy named Bean whose father disappeared, resulting in Bean having to work as an indentured servant to an ogre who runs an inn. Bean is soon caught up in an adventure that deals with an evil, rhyming troll (my least favorite character of the story, due to the sometimes forced nature of his rhymes) and a revelation about Bean’s missing father.

So what elevates this work above other Tolkien-esque fantasy stories? Travis’ artwork, for one thing. His landscapes (both above and below ground, but more on that in a bit), the fantastical flora and fauna that inhabit them, the run-down feel of the world the characters inhabit, and the style of the characters themselves, all work together well. I find myself examining every panel for the details it holds, rather than simply rushing through the story. Travis is able to breathe life into the world and the characters, so that you believe in and connect to even the most inhuman of characters (see this page toward the end of volume one for a touching example, but if you don’t want to spoil the story, read everything preceding it first, of course).

I especially enjoy the underground worlds that Travis creates, both in this story and his prints. I love stories, fictional and true, about underground environments hidden under the world we know: unused subway systems, the tunnel system under Paris, the under-city in Seattle, even the tunnels under Disneyland (which I like to imagine are much more extensive and nefarious than Disney would have us to believe). Once The Bean heads underground, you have caverns full of decrepit statues, endless staircases, rusting pipes, ancient hieroglyphs, and hints of monstrous things lurking at the edge of darkness.

The other thing that kept me reading was a second plot about a ranger who goes searching for Bean only to stumble onto a larger threat facing the region, which may just loop back around to tie into Bean’s own hidden history. There are also hints of influences of Michael Moorcock and even The Legend of Zelda thrown in here (those might just be my perception), and by the end of Volume One, the series was hitting all the right notes to entice me to read on.

The Kickstarter project for Volume Two of The Bean has funded and is closed, but you can catch up on the adventures of Bean at http://www.beanleafpress.com/, and then perhaps support Volume Three on Kickstarter when it is ready to go.

I followed a link off of the links page on The Bean to Twilight Monk, because it sounded cool. Twilight Monk is written and drawn by Trent Kaniuga and it reminds me of Naruto so far, in a good way. The impish lead character is named Mao, and he is a goof-off who wants to be taken seriously as a hero. He is friends with Rin, a big oaf whose special attack is certainly one I have never seen before, and Nora, who unfortunately seems to exist to be the nagging Jiminy Cricket of the group when she is not fulfilling the Princess Peach role. (The story is still in its early days and I hope to see Nora grow into a more fleshed-out, unique character.)

There is a lot of good humor in this webcomic, both physical and in the dialogue, and some well-done action scenes. And a talking turtle with an attitude, which is a nice addition.

The art is in black and white but uses a wide range of greys; I am not an artist, so I hesitate to use art terminology I may be getting totally wrong, but I would describe the art as having an ink and wash style to it (feel free to correct/educate me on this), rather than just crisp black and white lines. Some dramatic examples include this and this. Indeed, that second link starts a whole flashback sequence that is framed in vivid, thick black brushstrokes that appear to be scraped out of ink (or perhaps blood?).

The backgrounds are usually loosely sketched and then painted in light grey, which lets the more-detailed foreground action stand out clearly against them. Just as with Travis Hanson’s The Bean, the landscapes in this comic are well-detailed and delightful to examine. I like that the village where the story takes place seems to be built into a craggy mountain area, with wood-slatted ramps and ladders connecting everything. It looks like it would be a fun place to explore.

It looks like this webcomic had a lengthy hiatus from June to nearly December in 2011 but is back with weekly updates since then. Twilight Monk has had a great beginning, so I hope Trent is able to sustain the work over the longer term so I can see where this is going (and eventually have a copy for my shelf).

Webcomics Wednesday: 1/25/2012

I checked Kickstarter for comics for the first time in quite a while and found a slew of them to check out. Here’s a couple that I checked out today:


Namesake (W: Megan Lavey-Heaton, A: Isabelle Melançon) is about a girl who discovers she can enter literary worlds (a story which I always enjoy) and has black-and-white art with select splashes of color for emphasis. I have only read the Prologue and the first chapter of Book One so far but it has hooked me and I look forward to catching up (about 200 more pages so far). The Kickstarter project is to put Book One in print (144 pages). I pledged $5 for the PDF version. With a month to go, this project is at about $4,000 of a requested $7,000.


Plume (W/A: Kari Smith) is still in its infancy (about 40 pages up so far), but is a well-drawn manga-ish webcomic set in an alternate early 1900s with some magic thrown in. This one has potential and I hope to see it continue. The Kickstarter project will collect the first 24 pages in print and has met its funding goal. I have not pledged for this one; $10 for one comic book is more of a donation than I feel like making. (I submitted a question to the creator to see if a PDF could be made available for $5 instead.)

Speaking of comics I did not Kickstart but that are cool, check out this update for an adaptation of the Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Even though I did not Kickstart it, I have since pre-ordered it through Midtown Comics. It looks great, and I really enjoy Lovecraft’s dream stories, so I can’t wait until April when I get my hands on this.

Late to the Webcomics Party!

Okay, so I read Penny Arcade and I am vaguely aware of some other webcomics out there, mostly by seeing them trying to put out print versions through Kickstarter. But I unlocked a whole new corner of the webcomics universe today, thanks to a Google+ post by +Eddy Webb, who shared the latest Battlepug strip.

Where to begin with Battlepug, written and drawn by Mike Norton with color by Allen Passalaqua … It is the story of a warrior whose mother, along with the rest of his people, was murdered by a giant, cute seal (yes, a gigantic killer seal with kawaii eyes). The warrior ends up enslaved to the Northern Elves and their red-suited, un-jolly master, before setting out on his own and running into a giant dog, the aforementioned Battlepug. The comic manages to skirt the fine line between silly and serious as the warrior learns more about the greater world and the magic forces that destroyed his village and set him on his current course.

Oh, and the story is told by a naked woman to two talking dogs, one sweet, the other sarcastic. This is my kind of weird.

Battlepug, in turn, led me to Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, which looks to be a science-fiction/steampunk/western combo replete with airships that float through the aether, western towns, sword fights, gun battles, fortune tellers, gas-mask clad bad-guys, and the violin-playing Lady Sabre herself. The art is clean and colorful and reminds me of the old full-page Sunday comics from before my time, like Flash Gordon or Terry and the Pirates. Lady Sabre is written by Greg Rucka with art by Rick Burchett.

What I only discovered as I writing this and doing a little research, is that these are all creators who also do more traditional comic book work , so it comes as no surprise that these webcomics seem so professional. The surprise, for me, is that there is such well-done, free comic fare out there. And each site links to more webcomics, so it seems I have plenty more to discover.