Dora Mitchell, of The Curse of Crooked Mile, is very nice to her patreon supporters.
The fox and the boat.
Dora Mitchell, of The Curse of Crooked Mile, is very nice to her patreon supporters.
The fox and the boat.
I’ve checked out Helvetica a few times over the last couple years, and I finally decided to read through the full archives to find out what the story is. It’s written and drawn by j.n.wiedle, who is also currently working as the colorist on Barbarous (reviewed here a couple months ago). The comic is very much off-and-on, having started in 2011, and only reaching 96 pages. The last update was in Dec., 2017, and there’s little evidence of a new page coming out in the near future. But, if you like Barbarous, Helvetica is worth at least a visit.
The story is simple – when you die, you go to the land of the dead, minus your memories, and the first word(s) you utter becomes your name. Helvetica is a recent arrival, and he’s obsessed with finding out what he’d been like when he was alive. Along the way, he befriends Autumn, a female dead that works at an ice cream parlor and fancies herself to be a detective writer. Additional characters include Good Heavens and Steak, the greeters that help Helvetica get his footing in this new environment; Lucy, a detective and Autumn’s inspiration as a writer; and a pair of thugs that want Steak to return to their gang under the leadership of the insane “Buck.”
Helvetica as a character is a whiny little brat, but the rest of the cast is more interesting, and the story concept still has a lot of promise, while the character designs and background artwork are good. This webcomic is worth putting on your radar. And, who knows, if wiedle gets enough patreons, she may afford to take it up again. Recommended if pink doesn’t bother you too much.
Every so often, I’ll click on different art links from whatever webcomic I’m reading to see what else I can find. I’m pretty sensitive to the artwork at these times, and the character designs turn out to be the most important part for me. After I’ve clicked on the link, I focus on dialog and story. Raruurien caught my eye in this way, and the first few pages I clicked through were absolutely gorgeous.
The artwork and story are by Ann Maulina, an Indonesian artist who also works as a freelance game and concept artist. The character designs are arguably influenced by certain hyper-realist shojo manga, such as Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story. Ann won bronze in the 10th Japan International Manga Awards in 2017 for this comic.
Raruurien is set in a fantasy world where humans and a kind of turtle-like non-human race coexist. The primary character so far is Riensha (Rien), a 34-year-old widow who works as an herbalist. Her husband, Raed, died at some point before the comic starts, and all we know about him is that he was good on horseback and a skilled archer. Rien has two sons, Rashad (Ra) (age 6), and Ruu (age 5). Ra has a fairly decent level of control over fire magic, and is a bit jealous of Rien’s doting over Ruu. The problem is that after Raed died, Ruu lost his ability to speak and walk, as well as any magic he’d used to have (he’s getting better, though). Ruu’s pale skin and hair are indicative of a master-level magic potential, so whatever happened to him must have been very traumatic. At the moment, the story is just about Rien’s interactions with the villagers and her children, with explorations into clothing styles and society as a whole. Very laid-back and slow-moving.
The Raruurien website started on June 20, 2017, and the comic is only up to page 91. It’s supposed to update Mondays and Thursdays, but it’s currently on hiatus while Ann concentrates on paying work. It’s definitely worth checking out, and I recommend this webcomic to anyone that likes Kaoru Mori, and is very patient.
While reading Prague Race, I found a mention of Namesake, by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melancon. I wanted to see what the artwork was like for it, so I went to the Namesake archives, and didn’t surface until I was fully up to date 2 days later. The character designs are very uneven, and occasionally I have no idea which one I’m looking at. But, the monsters and some of the backgrounds are really good, and I like the story (usually, when I can follow it.)
The universe of Namesake revolves around the idea that stories record what happens in the magical worlds of other realities around us. Writers document the adventures of the people visiting these worlds, and the Namesakes are people who fit the roles of the lead characters in these adventures. Often, there are entire generations of Dorothies (OZ), Alices (Looking Glass) and Jacks (The Giant Killers) that find themselves teleported into these stories and are not allowed to leave until the tale has been told for the latest revision.
Enter Emma Crewe, originally believed to be a young woman working in a coffee shop, that gets cast as the next Dorothy namesake. Her younger sister is a Writer, and their friend, Ben, turns out to be a “magic world diplomat.” In Oz, Emma befriends Warrick Chopper, the Wicked Warlock of the West, and his sister Selva, the Wicked Witch of the East. When things get sorted out, Emma, Selva and Warrick come to our Earth to join the Calliope organization, where Alice and Jack work to fight against their enemy, the Rippers. The Rippers steal the names of Namesakes on behalf of their leader, One. One of the other members is Emma’s and Emily’s father, #37 (Daniel Crewe). Eventually, we learn that One has the real Emma, and the Emma that we know is a little more complex than she’d been led to believe, and is now identified as a Skeleton Key.
The webcomic updates Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It first started in 2010, and often includes filler artwork, and announcements of con appearances. As of July 13, we’re just getting into a bit of One’s backstory, finally.
The pages here provide a lot of narrative backdrop, and some examples of my favorite splash pages. The characters are well-developed, but do include some LGBT interactions, if that’s something that you’re not comfortable with. As for me, Namesake was a fast, if confusing read, and I rank it up there with Atomic Robo and Gunnerkrieg Court for imagination and adventure sequences. Recommended if you like retellings of famous story retellings, meta-stories, and historical references to writers like Baum and Carroll.
I found Prague Race (Prace), by Petra Erika Nordlund, through a link on Atomic Robo. It originally started in 2014, then went on hiatus around 2016-17, and has only returned recently. It’s currently on a Wednesday-only update schedule, but hasn’t updated since April. The artwork has kind of a traditional northern European (I guess) gothic feel, and is billed as a horror-comedy.
The story essentially revolves around Leona, an impetuous young woman that discovers a black market shop, from which she buys a poster that turns out to contain a “harvester,” a magical parasite that digs itself into Leona’s back. The harvester provides her with extra hands that she can use to fight or defend herself with, but the trade off is that the parasite lives off her life energy and will probably kill her in one year. Leona’s closest friends are the finicky rich boy Colin, martial arts doormat Miko, and her evil cat Gabrielle. The reason I say the story “essentially” revolves around Leona is that the other key protagonist is Sela, an amoral human woman that somehow made it to the magic world, joined the Brigade force that prevents crossovers between our world and the magic one, and is the black market smuggler that accidentally sold the magic poster to Leona. Sela helped raise two trolls – Toska and Tahvo – and her main pet is the four-legged shark thing, Fishsticks. When Mika is nearly killed in a bar brawl, Leona asks the werewolf, Pam, to save her friend by turning him into a werewolf as well. Pam is the leader of a werewolf pack, and becomes Mika’s spiritual leader, of sorts.
While Leona is actually thrilled to be the host of the harvester, and thus being given a sense of freedom from society’s restrictions in exchange for a 1-year death sentence, she is extremely unhappy that Sela has fed Colin to Fishsticks (Sele orders Toska to kill Leona and Mika to clean up loose ends, and he fails spectacularly), who takes Colin to the magic world to be sold for parts. Leona and Mika go to the magic world to rescue Colin, but he’s been sold to Pikokai, an enchanted chicken that runs a floating gambling ship. Leona challenges the chicken to give her three tasks to complete so she can free her friend from his terrible contract (Colin is forced to wash dishes in the city’s kitchens), hopefully before her life runs out.
The artwork is erratic, with the appearances of the characters changing from page to page, but the big splash pages are pretty spectacular. Petra’s not a native English speaker, so there are occasional typos and spelling mistakes. But these are not all that distracting and can be ignored if you’re not anal about it. Colin’s insecurities do get annoying after a while, and neither Leona nor Sela are all that likable, but Toska is a fun character and I really want to see more of Pam. The magic world is spooky-creepy at times, and that’s where Petra’s imagination shines. Overall, yes, I like Prague Race, and I am hoping that the pages will start coming out again eventually. Recommended if you like she-wolves that can’t be bothered to shave their legs.
I’d mentioned with Supernormal Step that I’d been reading the Q&A for a recent Sam and Fuzzy strip. One of the readers had stated that with S&F and Strong Female Protagonist ending, he was wondering if Sam Logan had any suggestions for replacement webcomics to read. Sam suggested the soon-to-start Speak of the Devil, by the artist of Supernormal Step, and Barbarous by Ananth Hirsch, Yuko Ota, and J.N. Wielde. Barbarous is only up to chapter 3, and I think it’s going to take a bit to really catch its stride. So, I decided to check out SFP in the meantime. I raced through the archives in about 2 days, and got up to the end of chapter 7 (over 100 pages per chapter). The comic is on hold until middle-late July, and then will start the last chapter. Given the current release schedule, it will probably wrap up in under two years.
SFP, by Brennan Lee Mulligan (writer) and Molly Ostertag (artist) follows the life of one Alison Green, formerly a super-powered crime fighter by the name of Mega Girl, but now mostly just a confused university student. Mega Girl had belonged to the Guardians group, with Sonar, Pintsize and Moonshadow, but had gotten disillusioned with doing stuff that largely could have been done by the police and/or the military, and outed herself on TV during an interview before focusing on her private life. Initially, the artwork was pretty shaky, and Alison was spending a lot of her time balancing her studies with having to fight enemies that didn’t like her just turning her back on them. As time passed, the artwork improved, and the themes switched to things like “who watches the watchmen,” “why are heroes more screwed up than the villains,” “fate versus free will” and “who looks out for the victims of people that don’t have superpowers (i.e. – victims of rape and domestic abuse).” SFP has a strong feminist bent, but does raise a lot of valid questions. It also gets preachy to the point of inflated self-importance, but eventually that passes and the story starts progressing to the end game again.
One of the main plot points is that some years ago, there was a series of unexplained big storms around the world, followed by babies, born a few years after, beginning to exhibit strange powers. While the government claimed that these powers were surfacing when the kids got to about 10 or 11, at least one (the primary supervillain, the telepathic Nemesis) turned super at age 4. The U.S. government, and maybe others, knew about the super kids early on, and none of the kids ever developed powers that would have benefited humanity as a whole (providing free energy, curing disease or solving world hunger), and there has to be a reason for that. In the final chapter, we may learn about what’s been going on behind the scenes, whether the supervillains are really the worst guys on the planet, and if Alison can finish university without turning all the normals – students and professors – against her.
Recommended, but I would like to know why Alison looks so much like Tintin with a really long neck.
Just as an aside, there was a strip that ran on GoComics, named Starling, by Sage Stosse, back in November. I couldn’t remember the name just off-hand, however, the early artwork in SFP reminded me a LOT of the GoComics comic, and the storyline is kind of similar. Starling is also an insecure ultra-strong super heroine, but she spends a lot of time in therapy and takes large amounts of anti-anxiety drugs, while trying to cope with a backstabbing coworker. The comic is worth checking out.
Barbarous is another of the webcomics recommended by Sam Logan. It’s currently running on the Johnny Wander site. I tried going through the archives, and the really old strips are more kind of autobiographical sitcom one-shots. I jumped to the start of Barbarous, and that’s pretty much the part that kept my attention.
Chiaki Persephone (Percy) Mori – An impetuous magic user with a huge inferiority complex.
Leeds – A timid purple dragon-like familiar with super strength.
Cecilia – A beautiful woman with a gothic fashion sense, a strange sense of humor, and a skeleton for a right hand.
The basic story is that Percy is moving from place to place because she really can’t control her magic (kind of a series of colored strings around her wrist that can cast fire and do other things). She runs into Leeds while trying to stop a bag snatcher, and gets introduced to his employer, the landlord Cecilia. Leeds works as a superintendent (a super) at Cecilia’s apartment building complex, and Percy is hired initially to help with room repairs. The two get along badly as Percy tries to find different excuses to get herself fired so she can keep running away from herself. Eventually, we learn that Percy had attended the Academy (an elite magic users school) at her father’s insistence, and had dropped out.
In chapter 2, Percy hires on to help maintain Cecilia’s buildings, and immediately needs to cope with 3 very loud, very flighty female neighbors whose apartment is infested with mushrooms made of real magic. Percy uses one of her old textbooks to figure out how to eliminate the infestation, and overcomes the urge to use her magic to hurry up the job (a good decision). We get a bit of an introduction to her father (an overbearing authority figure that wants his daughter to get back into the Academy), and eventually Percy and Leeds bond a bit. Percy learns that Leeds is a familiar, and in chapter 3, she reads up on familiars – creating familiars in the U.S. is illegal and none have been created in the last century. So, either Cecilia is over 100 years old, or Leeds is an illegal. Percy then ends up cleaning a different apartment that turns out to be haunted, but that’s easily solved before the new tenants move in. The chapter ends with Percy debating whether to return to the Academy to complete the top-level “Pillar” program, then drinking too much and getting sick.
Actually, Is this what you wanted? seems to be running interleaved with Barbarous. ITWYW chapter 1 came out first (2016), followed by Bc1, then ITWYWc2, and Bc2 and Bc3. ITWYW starts with Fox, a man desperate to save one of his brothers, Kelly, by summoning a demon with the help of his younger brother, Ariel. Through a series of weird real life/MMORPG/dating website crossover references, a blue-skinned healing class female with really long hair shows up and saves Kelly. Additionally, she bonds to Ariel, and he names her Azalea. Chapter 1 ends at this point, with nothing explained and Azalea kind of at a lost for what to do next. In the subsequent character sketch filler pages, the brothers are given the last name “Price.”
In chapter 2, a month has gone by, Azalea’s been watching TV to learn about the human world, and Kelly’s gotten sick again. Fox is trying to find a new cure, and he sends Ariel and Azalea to what turns out to be an attempt to summon a blood-drinking demon. Some young guy has kidnapped a woman (Monica) that had been experimenting with dating websites in chapter 1, and he uses a bit of her blood to complete the summons. We get the text “Service Call: Destroyer Class”, followed by “Protocol breach, service call failure,” and the demon bonds with Monica while taking over the guy’s body. Ariel discovers Monica and forces Azalea to heal her, then the destroyer demon attempts to enter this world through the body of the summoner and to kill Ariel. Ariel demands that Azalea save him, which she does, and Ariel follows up with “I thought you were a healer.” Chapter 2 ends with Azalea asking if Fox really knows what he’s doing, and Ariel not wanting to question his brother. Over all, the artwork alternates between so-so and really, really good, but the writing and pacing are confusing. We’re missing backstory, and there’s nothing explaining how magic works in this universe in tandem with our commonly-accepted technology.
Over all, Is this what you wanted? has some promise, if only there were more backstory, or a fully-detailed cast page. The universe of Barbarous is a bit more fleshed out, but the artwork is more heavily influenced by a manga-silly style, although there are a few very well-drawn pages. Both are recommended if you’re really patient.