Friday, March 30, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Widdershins, The Wormworld Saga

Gah, I really wish I was ending this month on stronger reviews but I've just had a weird schedule the past few days with little sleep and no time to really write these in advance, I swear I will look over these reviews tomorrow just to make sure I'm reasonably coherent. Nothing like ending with a bang huh? Although technically I do have one more day and tomorrow I'm going to try and write about all of the various Nuzlocke comics I've gotten hooked on recently and why I like them so much. And what is a Nuzlocke comic you might ask? Well you'll just have to take a peak back tomorrow to find out.....
Last year's Ws, X, and Z reviews!

Widdershins by Kate Ashwin
Sidney Malik is an almost completely trained wizard and a performing magcian who loves his craft with one small exception, he has a curse of sorts which has him accidentally steal items left and right and has caused him more harm than good. So of course when his magic causes him to accidentally steal the wristband of the thief king he's none too happy about it but magical hunter Harriet Barber thinks that she can use his wristband to find the legendary treasure of the thief kings and Sidney insists that since it's his bracelet that he's coming along as well.

The story is actually focusing on some different characters at the moment who appeared in the background of chapter one but so far they've been rather interesting as well and it's always encouraging that an author can write multiple groups of interesting characters without having them appear to simply be expies of each other. Both stories so far have had interesting magic in them, well paced plot lines, and great background art so far so no matter who the story follows next I'll be sure to follow.

The Wormworld Saga by Daniel Lieske
Starting in the summer of 1977, young Jonas and his dad are about to spend six weeks at his grandmother's house, although he doesn't plan on spending it working on school work the entire time like his father expects him to do.  Instead Jonas plans on having adventures in the woods behind his grandmother's house and in a secret attic he discovered a few years ago which has become a bit more magical since his last visit.

Something that caught me off guard when I re-skimmed the comic is that Jonas is supposed to be a rising 9th grader, 14 is still a pretty young age but even I wasn't still playing with forts and such at 14 and I know none of my classmates were, I thought that Jonas was closer to 11 or 12. Part of the reason I thought that was because the comic seemed to be aimed at 11 or 12 year olds (and you generally age the characters close the age range you're aiming at for readers) because the portrayal of the adult characters is really childish. You usually find more simplified adult characters in MG or younger writing, my views on this could fill up an entire post on their own, and here Jonas dad and grandmother come off as flat, two dimensional characters and, since the main conflict so far is between Jonas and his dad, it makes the whole conflict really hard to take seriously. I like how this comic is laid out visually so far, much like The Pale each chapter is one long image (this time it's a vertical image however) and perhaps the upcoming third chapter will change my view on it but honestly I don't expect to follow this story to the end. 

This comic is also avaliable in German, Spanish, French, Brazilian (I guess they mean Portuguese?), Russian, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Bulgarian, Dutch, Italian, Croatian, Bosnian, Czech, and Korean.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Unsounded

Sorry this is up a bit late folks, I'm really busy on Wednesdays (hence why I normally don't post on Wednesdays) and twitter is being weird and not letting me post tweets either right now (or even reply to people) anyway. It's also messing up my timeline a bit which makes me worried, as you guys have seen I follow more webcomics than one person can keep track of (updates for) at once and I use twitter for a lot of my updates, including for this comic, so hopefully this resolves itself soon....
Last year's U review.

Unsounded by Ashley Cope
Setta Frummagem is the lion tailed daughter of the thief king whose been sent with a mission to get the annual cut of money owed to the king from a cousin who's "gotten too fancy for this pants" and accompanying her is the Galit Duane Adelier. Setta thinks he's too stuffy and never does anything fun and Duane considers his young charge a hooligan whose more trouble than she's worth but for the moment they're stuck together on what is turning out to be a longer than expected journey.

I wasn't expecting the setting for this comic to end up becoming so wide and diverse, especially with it's magic, and as someone who loves setting this is always a plus. I know it sounds odd that, as a fan of fantasy who reads a lot of it, it sounds odd that I keep praising how people use magic or fantastical elements  but I can't help it, there really are a lot of creative people out there making webcomics and it makes me happy! It did take me a bit of a while however to get used to Setta's dialect, a lot of people like her relationship with Duane from the beginning but it took me a while to warm up to their banter which makes up a good part of the story, and I seem to recall that I found some of the text a bit small and hard to read. Looking back however through the early parts the text all seems to be of reasonable size, I might have just been tired the first time I tried this comic. And the art has even evolved from some very nicely drawn parts in the beginning to absolutely gorgeous pages currently, it's got one of the most polished art styles of any comic I currently follow and I can only imagine how amazing it would look in print.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Thistil Mistil Kistil, Toilet Genie, Transpose Operator

Still got another few days left, and dreading writing Saturday's epic-length post, I think by now everyone can see why I generally have to write reviews pretty soon after I finish a work. Well that and why watching eight or so different tv/anime shows a week doesn't phase me, although I have certainly found that it takes more effort to review the comics that either have a lot of different plot-lines or take a lot of breaks and I generally don't have that problem with anime. In any case, last year's T reviews.

Thistil Mistil Kistil by Sarah Schanze
Coal is a fallen warrior on his way to Valhalla but things aren't going as planned. As he is informed by a few angry gods his special pendant is not a replica of Mjölnir but actually a piece of it stolen by Loki. It turns out that Loki has also stolen small pieces from other weapons of the gods and so they appoint Coal to find Loki and track down where these missing pieces have gone off to.

This series definitely gets points for having a different setting, aside from Tolkien's works I can't think of that many stories that have heavy Norse influences* and the art also has a distinct look, I believe it was inspired by The Secret of Kells which was inspired by illuminated manuscripts of the time which makes it all the perfect choice. A really big reason I like the comic however is because of how Loki is portrayed. My first brush with Norse mythology, way back sometime in elementary school, had Loki as a trickster but not a "bad guy" so I've always been rather partial to that interpretation ever since which fits this Loki rather well. I really like the banter he and Coal have and I'm curious how to see how the other main characters who have yet to be introduced will fit in with the rest of the story. 

*you guys would not believe the stuff Tolkien stole, it's rather amazing.

Toilet Genie by Cari Corene
The first installment in the DOOR series, Skittlze was an average pug (loved her owners but rather dumb over all) who stumbles across a man chained to a toilet who grants her three wishes, the third of which turns her into a girl. Before Skittlze goes off to discover just how well this last wish will turn out she asks the man how he ended up being chained to a toilet which is an interesting story indeed.

This comic is a lot more "artsy" than most comics I read, both in the actual art style and in the way it's creating it's on overarching mythology, and I'll admit that it took me a few tries to really get into the story but now that there's a good chunk out I think it's easier to get into. Part of the reason I had a bit of a hard time was with the art actually, the character designs are very stylized but by now they've grown on me and I really like how the mythological parts of the story are done in watercolors instead of the normal coloring style. This story is one that's better to be read in chunks than in single page updates but when read together it's weaving together an interesting mythology and history and I'm curious to see where it goes next.

Transpose Operator by Roxy Polk
Sometime in the future everything went to hell and Earth is now a wasteland where the atmosphere kills you and there are mysterious androids running around with seemingly sinister plans. It's in this situation that our heroine wakes up, has no idea who she is or any knowledge of the world but she's determined to survive and find out anyway.

The protagonist of this story is one of the most badass characters I've ever seen, how many characters could wake up in a strange hospital, know absolutely nothing about themselves and the world, be chased by TWO groups of strange people and get through all of that without having a break down (and nearly managing to evade both of them wearing nothing but a hospital gown to boot!)? That's really what attracted me to the comic when I first came across it and even the horror aspects of the story, a genre I normally don't like, added to the setting and made me more intrigued. I've read plenty of dystopian stories and some of them have had horror elements as well, nothing says the future has gone wrong like disturbing medical experiments after all, but it doesn't mean it's any less effective here. Oh and it's total conincidence that the comic came off of hiatus today, I honestly did not plan that.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Sfeer Theory, Snow by Night, Spare Keys for Strange Doors

Tonight's reviews reminded me that I'm always amused when I come across really similar settings in webcomics especially since it never seems like creators are copying each other. Such as the example tonight, every time I come across a comic set in colonial times there's always an element of fantasy to it (such as characters who are cats or time-traveling), although I'm also curious why I find so few straight up historical settings these days (in both comics and YA books) so that might be the case here. Again, I'm pretty sure none of these creators are copying each other, or possibly have seen the other comics, so it really makes me wonder if somehow our current, overall pop-culture is somehow inspiring all these people to do similar stories/settings, I find it interesting to muse about in any case.

Last years Ss (which I accidentally linked to yesterday, changed that) and the other part (since I had to split it in two last year).

Sfeer Theory by Alex "Muun" Singer and Jayd "Chira" Aït-Kaci
Luca Valentino is a foreigner to the Empire of Warassa and as such cannot apply to be a student at it's schools for magic and instead works as a technician in it's premier school, Uitspan Academy. And after two years of working there when the empire has reached it's height and his talents as a Cyclist* seem to have finally been noticed....

The artist here is the same one who works on The Fox Sister and again I love fluid motion all of her art seems to convey, for a comic that centers around magic that moves it's the perfect choice. When browsing the site I was interested to see that this part of the comic, called Uitspan Era, is going to be a prequel to an even larger story so I'm quite curious to see where it goes. I already really like the characters that have appeared and the magic system seems rather unique, I haven't seen any ideas quite like it before, so I'm excited for the rest.

*mage, sfeer means sphere and all of their magic is worked in circles hence the term Cyclist

 Snow by Night by Eric Menge and Brittany Michel
In an alternate world and time similar to the early American colonies, Blaise and Jassart are a pair of thieves who are living a rather good life until another thief starts stealing their targets and leave no clues how they did it. The two set out to catch this thief and find out why and discover a very different story than what they were expecting.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I've read a few other webcomics set in colonial times but none quite like this. It has a semi-fantastical setting, and it's clear that the creators have put tons of work into it since they update an almanac with backstory every week in addition to regular pages and have had a number of guest comics with even more backstory, and I like how they've created a mythology of sorts that wouldn't feel that out of place in Trickster. I would like to see more stuff with some of the side characters in the comic since I find them pretty interesting as well but the comic is still young so I'm sure that will happen sooner or later.

  Spare Keys for Strange Doors by Lucy Lyall
Toby Hathaway and Marion Sark are, specialists, at handling the mysterious and uncanny bits of normal life, if your definition of normal life includes ghosts and spells. They take on quite a large variety of jobs, some begin and some dangerous, and life for them is never dull.

While I see plenty of anime that revolve around a central cast dealing with cases that involve the supernatural with story arcs that generally don't overlap I don't see many webcomics that follow that format and, since I enjoy that format quite a bit, this makes for a nice change of pace. Each story has managed to be fairly different so far which is nice and, unlike a number of anime that follow this set-up, the two leads are both rather likeable characters who have their good moments and their grouchy moments. I think these stories never work as well if the leads are good so with solid leads here I think the story is in very good shape.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Webcomic Review Month: Runewriters

I was looking at my blog statistics earlier today and found that I had gotten a few hits from some forums where someone was doing a review of my reviews (is this a thing now? It all sounds rather meta to me). One thing I did notice about those reviews is something I should probably repeat here, I am doing quicker, more informal reviews than normal this month to try and help promote all of these webcomics. Sometimes it might not be quite clear why I like a particular comic but I come across works in every medium where I like them yet can't explain why since it's generally something I don't like (I was under the impression this happened to everyone from time to time). Oh and I am aware that blogger likes to go and double space some of my reviews for no reason, if a review appears to have been double spaced no I'm not trying to fill up more space on the page, I've argued with blogger and simply given up after five or ten minutes of trying to reformat everything.
Last year's R reviews.

Runewriters by Shazzbaa Bennett
Magic can always go wrong and for Tareth's friend Severian it seems to be doing nothing but go wrong for the past few days. His spell casting has gone wrong, he's been mistaken for a aberrant (demon) by hunters and what the two of them don't know is that something else seems to be going wrong behind the scenes as the hunters are noticing that their own motives seem to be changing as well.

Another young series so I might have inferred too much with that last line but there have already been a few hints that there is something at work behind the scenes, and that itself is a fairly common staple of fiction, and those hints are one of the reasons that this series caught my attention. The other reason is because of the main character Tareth, she's deaf and I can't remember the last time I read a story with a main character who was deaf* and so far Shazzbaa, who also does the webcomic Today Nothing Happened, has risen to the challenge of showing how Tareth deals with the problems this creates. She's hardly helpless, right now she's actually a lot less helpless than Severian whose a mage, and I can't wait to see where their adventures lead them.

*actually, the only time I can ever recall was a short story in the literary magazine for kids Cricket and that must've been close to a decade ago.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: The Pale, Plume

Wow, only one week left of webcomic reviews, it's going to be so odd switching back to regular reviews after this (especially since I have to read so much for them). I'm actually starting to get a little worried at how much anime I'll have piled up to review, this break to let me catch up on stuff may have worked a little TOO well....
Last year's review here.

The Pale by Cody Coltharp
Neurologist Charlie Bell is a talented doctor who after starting to treat a young girl with vivid and reoccurring nightmares finds himself having strange dreams. As he explores his dreams they seem to be connected to the young girl's and his brother might also be in his dreams, the brother that died years ago.

One of the most interesting things about the comic isn't necessarily it's plot or it's art but it's format. Each page is one long spread that you scroll across by hovering with the mouse so at times it feels more like a silent film than a comic. The amount of planning that must have gone into each page to make sure that each panel flows smoothly into another must have been astonishing and I've never seen another comic quite like it. I'll admit I'm slightly fuzzy on the details of the plot right now since the comic hasn't updated in a few months (which also makes me worried) but I liked how the plot was moving so far and really hope it returns soon.

  Plume by Kari Smith
"My father once told my that revenge is like a plume of black smoke. It seems tangible but when you reach for it you're grasping nothing but air. But really it's not like you're going to stop trying." And trying is what Vesper Grey seems to be doing as she sets off on a journey into the wild west to recover her father's life's work along with Corrick, the guardian attached the mysterious medallion her father once gave her.

This is a bit of a young comic but since it's already had a kickstarter for the first issue (where I stole that quote from) and I really like it so I wanted to bring it up. For it's short length it has had quite a bit of establishing information (there have been character introductions, hints at what the main plot is about, and an introduction to the setting) but the main plot doesn't seem to have started yet. Given it's quick pace I'm sure that's not too far off so once the comic resumes I'm sure things will pick up quickly and I'm really looking forward to it.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Outsider

Hmm, more musing on names but I'm surprised that last year I didn't have any webcomics that started with "N" or "O" yet this year I had a few (couldn't review one since it appears to have vanished off of the internet but it still counts). Actually, I had simply forgotten about this comic last year since it's one with a very strange update schedule, according to tvtropes the comic started back in 2001 but only averages 8 pages a year (it appears there's also a bible of sorts for the series to make up for that but I have yet to find out if it's actually online or not). I still like the series and, obviously since I'm reviewing it here, do recommend it but potential readers should keep all of that in mind.

Outsider by Jim Francis
 In the far off future humanity has begone to colonize and expand out into the wide universe only to discover that not only does other life exist but it's engaged in a brutal, long war. There are two sides to the war, the brutish Umiack and the mysterious Loroi and neither side acknowledges neutral groups so humanity must soon make a choice whom to side with if they wish to live. However it seems like Ensign Jardin, a low ranking officer of a survey team, may have accidentally made first contact and discovered that things look even bleaker for humanity but that humans have a few tricks up their sleeves yet.

While not a common story it's not an unheard of plot premise, a raging alien war with humans stuck between a rock and a hard place just looking for a way to survive. I like that so far the comic has gone to lengths to show that there is no easy/good/right choice, although there are hints that not all is lost however which I also like. Jim Francis admits that the series has a lot of artistic influences from a lot of sources including anime which shows in the art, even though the page orientation are much more like a Western comic than an Eastern one the art designs have some anime touches for sure* which, given my taste in comics, doesn't bother me at all. As stated earlier, despite it's age the comic is still on the shorter side (just a hair under 100 pages) so currently it doesn't take long to catch up and if you like sci-fi set in space with aliens and inter-galactic conflict I say give it a shot and just check back in every month or so to see if it updated.

*I'm actually watching the space opera Crest of Stars right now so I think the Loroi look a bit like Abh, probably simply because of the blueness and elf-ears, it's not among the influences listed in any case.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Namesake

Another shorter entry but honestly since school is going to really start picking up now (some of my friends like to call this part of the spring semester "Seven Week Hell"which speaks for itself) so that's probably for the best. And I am glad that I have a little more time to talk about today's title since it's one of my favorite webcomics out there. Sure I like all of the ones that I've talked about so far but there are some that I'll find and wonder why I didn't find this gorgeous thing earlier (I don't follow many non-anime reviewers and simply haven't found a ton of people who talk webcomics) and plot how to convert all my friends to my new-found love.

 Namesake by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon
In this story stories aren't just the words on a piece of paper but actual other worlds which sometimes need someone to come along and help play out the story again to keep everything moving smoothly. Those people are called Namesakes and Emma Crewe is one of them, despite the fact that there has never been a namesake called Emma, the organizations that monitor namesakes never predicted this and that she is now stuck in a version of Oz long after Dorothy came and went*. So while she has to navigate through this strange new landscape, without any knowledge of namesakes and the like, her sister Elaine is stuck on Earth and discovering that she might have some special talents as well.

This comic has the wonderful combination of a really neat, interesting plot and lovely artwork to back it up which, while not necessarily for a good webcomic, definitely helps. The art isn't full color but spot color with only certain elements in a scene having color which certainly gives the comic an interesting feel and a very distinct visual style. I do feel like the comic might be trying to balance too many different plot lines at once, there are actually four distinct groups of people with connected plots and the two that I didn't mention in the summary really don't get quite enough page time. In fact, Elaine's developments also have been pushed to the side to focus more on Emma, who is the main character and has the most going on, and the fact is that we the readers still don't know that much about what happened in the first chapter to start the story and it's clear that there is an even larger plot connected to that which is going on in the background. The story is interesting and engaging enough that normally when reading the comic I don't even think about that but it is frustrating to be speculating about the story and then realize just how much we're still missing at this point. Despite that I do really love what the story has done so far and, based on all of that, I'm confident that when everything does come together it will be amazing and make the story even better yet.

*I believe they are following L. Frank Baum's Oz canon through the sixth book or so and then veering off so the Oz here is quite different from that in the Hollywood movie.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Mahou Shonen Fight, Modest Medusa, Monster Pulse, My Finn

Just moving right along here, I've honestly run out of witty things to say about webcomics here by now (except that yes, I read some really odd ones but I think I said that at the very beginning) so let's keep this brief, provide a short link to the comics from last year, and then move onto all of the lovely comics here today.

Mahou Shonen Fight by DustyJack and JadePrince
Mike just wanted a normal life at his new high school, something average and boring. However, as luck often has it for heroes who wish for ordinary lives, he instead gets an exciting, adventure filled life as he is possessed by the spirit of summer who, along with the other spirits and teens possessed by them, decide the best thing to do in this situation is use their powers to save the world.

This comic is simply fun, although this is coming from someone who really likes magical girl stories and still starts giggling whenever she finds magical boys. The art is cutesy and the story is a bit cheesy but that's what you need in these situations, magical girl shows usually have an overall light-hearted tone so why shouldn't a magical boys series? I am glad that the series seems to be introducing a main antagonist however, now to see if it really follows in the vein of magical girl stories and has one boss after another until the series finally ends....

  Modest Medusa by Jake Richmond
One night Jake came home to discover that his toilet had flooded and there is now a child gorgon living in his house (since his toilet is the portal to another world, who knew?). They're none too polite, eat all the chocodiles, have no idea how this world works, and act like a general freeloader. But at the very least Jake and his niece Marah are getting some exciting stories out of this.

I swear, I feel like I walked into an alternate world and found their version of Squid Girl, it's a bit unnerving. Comparisons aside, Modest Medusa is a comedy which sometimes has arcs, it's currently in it's longest arc to date, but often the day to day gags are unrelated and it works alright. It's not my favorite comedy comic out there, some days I simply don't find the strip amusing, but it's not terrible by any means and considering how subjective humor can be I'm sure that plenty of people will love it more than I like it. And on a side note, I had no idea chocodiles were real until I put together this review, guess that's what I get for living on the east coast.

From the creator of Bobwhite a very different kind of comic, a fantasy story where various kids have had body parts (a heart, an eye, etc.) changed into monsters and they both fight and try to evade the government agency that made this happen.

The premise is a simple one but still rather neat, I can only think of one story with a similar premise* and it's certainly unlike most for kids/all ages comics I've seen. For one thing the story fully embraces the creepiness and horror of kids suddenly having their body parts come to life and the fact that this was done on purpose by a government agency, the story wouldn't be nearly as interesting if the government had been sympathetic or if the story had been more light-hearted. The comic is still in it's early stages but updates regularly and is paced briskly so I can give it a very solid recommendation regardless of that.

Set in an alternate fantasy world version of Ireland called Glen, Glen is a peaceful island nation which has recently come under attack from the invading nation in the south, Sem Icim. Along with the also un-conquered nation of Patrio the people of Glenn start to fight back and at the center of this conflict is a young girl named Lalin who has no memory of her past but apparently did SOMETHING big....

I'll admit that part of the reason I started reading this webcomic is because I find the art adorable, the style looks a bit like the "made in America manga!" which were all the rage five or six years ago but the style works well here. The plot is also interesting, it moves quite quickly (it doesn't seem like who Lalin "really" is will be a secret much longer and that's normally a plot point that really gets dragged out), it's always nice to see more than two sides in a conflict, and it's simply unusual for me to enjoy a story where "it got worse" seems to be a running theme. Sometimes it's hard to take a story of invasion seriously where the invaders are roundly trounced every time they fight the "good guys" but so far that's not what's happening here and I'm really curious where everything is going to go next (as a quick warning though, the story is currently on hiatus and stopped at a rather dramatic point so potential readers might want to check back in at the beginning of April to give it time to get going again).

*Variante which is an older and kinda obscure title that's currently out of print 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Lintier and Loldwell!

I believe that by this point I'm over halfway done with webcomic review month 2012, wohoo! Hoping that everyone has liked at least one comic I've talked about so far and if not, well, that's why we're not done yet there's still plenty of time left! And of course you can always see what I reviewed last year too for even more ideas~

Lintier by Colby Purcell
A direct sequel to Lint and therefore spoils the ending of the original (ie, if you plan on reading Lint just skip this paragraph), Sangwine is now king and dealing with this whole running a country business while he is still visited in his sleep every night by the now deceased Bactine. But there are plots brewing again in the background and who knows what old enemies might be planning....

This comic has produced an interesting conundrum for me, it's snappy and witty so I like it and want to recommend it to people yet you really should read Lint before it (who starts reading in the middle of a series anyway?) but Lint can be a bit of a slog in it's early bits (there is a video that compresses the entire comic into 8 and a half minutes but you'll have to pause a lot even, I found it too fast to read at many points). In any case, Lintier isn't that long yet (the creator is dealing with a lot of school work at the moment) so there's plenty of time to catch up and so far it's proving to be a satisfying sequel, almost all the important characters have made a reappearance and the story is starting to explain a few things from Lint so for the moment I'm happy with it.

Loldwell! by Caldwell Tanner
A comedy comic that doesn't focus on anything in particular except stuff the internet may find funny.

I first found this comic from the "brojos before shoujos" strip which I think in an odd way sums up the humor present in the comic. There aren't any real reoccuring characters, plot lines, or even running gags, something that would normally annoy the heck out of me but here the humor is just so spot on that I don't mind it. I would recommend that anyone who likes the comic to follow it's creator on twitter since he also does some work for, most of it in the same vein, it's like having extra updates for the comic.     

Friday, March 16, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Knite

Another short entry today, I'm finding it kinda interesting to see how there are simply more titles out there that start with certain letters than others and that sometimes it's not even the letters you would expect (for instance, I've got several titles this year that start with W but none with J, I just find little coincidences like that interesting). It seems rather appropriate that I'm thinking about titles today since the title for today's webcomic is not only a portmanteau of the English words "Kite" and "Knite" and if I'm not mistaken also manages to incorporate the simplified Chinese character for wind in it's logo, I just love it when titles have multiple meanings like this.

Knite by Wenqing "Yuumei" Yan
In modern day China there is a group of people, the Knites, who fly kites with lights on them every night to try and bring the stars back into the night sky. But if only it was that easy to fix the world's problems, something that lead character Sen is all to painfully aware of.

This webcomic is laid out in an unusual format, instead of the usual page or strip with multiple panels each chapter is presented as a series of single panel images in a flash animation. There's not a lot of animation in the series (especially when compared to something like say Homestuck) but the bits that are there are used nicely and makes the series feel more like a movie than a comic. The fact that each chapter is presented as a single flash file means that it's much longer than it first appear. Although only three chapters are out each one of them is of a good length and the in progress fourth chapter (of which yuumei has been posting stills from as she completes them since August) is over 80 pages long already, it'll take a little longer to get through than you first expect. As for the story itself, I really like how the characters are having to face the harder side of life without it coming off as unrealistic. Chapter four especially has shown that real life problems are rarely simply and easily solved and that some solutions are only contributing more to the mess, a bit of a deep message for a comic which caught me off guard but I liked it. The art is also quite lovely, the images feel more like traditional art than digital and I really like how the lighting is used in a lot of the scenes, especially the many night ones. So for having an interesting format and the story to back it up this one gets a hearty recommendation from me!

Has quite a few translations, I have no idea how complete any of them are and no way of knowing their quality, in 22 different languages besides English which is by far the most I've ever seen for any webcomic, I don't even know how many traditional printed comics can boast that many translations. They're all collected here and this is also where people can find the in-progress pages of the latest chapter being posted as well. Yuumei has also already completed a few other comic projects, also in the same presentation style of Knite, and here is a link to the complete list which also mentions her future projects and estimated dates on those as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Hark a Vagrant

Another shorter review today, I had been considering lumping together all the comics done by Humon (Scandanvia and the World, the Niels storylines), since I do like all of her comics yet there's not a ton to say about each, yet it didn't seem quite right to do it like that. Maybe I'll have that figured out by next year but in the meantime I still like them quite a bit and her somewhat controversial journal postings as well. I was also considering something similar for the hiimdaisy comics (same person who currently does Cucumber Quest) but realized that I've really only read the comics she did for Persona 4 and that really wasn't enough if I was going to talk about all her comics in general (and as before I did enjoy those so I recommend them and really recommend people look up the fandubs on youtube of the comics, they mange to make even even better).

ANYWAY, last year's comic reviews and then the lone entry for today (apologies that the spacing is a bit weird, blogger is simply continuing to mess with me on the finer points of formatting):

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
A collection of comics, some standalone and some part of a series, joking about and poking fun at history, literature, and occasionally Beaton's own life.

I'm sad to say that, unlike the rest of the world, I don't enjoy this comic as much as I had expected and hoped, I think the hype surrounding the first printed edition raised my expectations a bit too high. And perhaps the printed edition of this reads a bit better, I was frustrated at one point where it was a series of one panel jokes which I couldn't make heads or tails of but that could've been taken care of by just editing which strips made it into the book. I'll also admit that I'm simply not as big a fan of strips Beaton does about her everyday life (which is odd since I generally like journal comics and I like a number of her non-history related writings on her tumblr), this just seems to be the odd case where I don't like something that I really should. I still do like a number of the comics she's done (especially the ones on Wuthering Heights), it's simply not one of the comics I wait for on baited breath.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Gaia and Godseeker

Starting this week I'm also going to be posting updates on Wednesday otherwise the month will be over before I get to everything (and really need to start writing up reviews for everything else I have backlogged, I've got at least eight things already) so hopefully everyone can remember to come over more often (or just come and find two updates on Friday, that works too). The reviews from last year.

Gaia by Puri "Powree" Andini and Oliver Knörzer
Recently there have been growing tensions between the nations of Midgard, a long powerful country, and Cania where our protagonist Ilais Oter and his friends go to school to study magic and martial arts. But there is more to life than just school and sometimes that life can be rather deadly....

A younger comic but since it seems to be both moving and updating at a brisk pace, has already established a conflict and has introduced a number of characters I'm going to take the plunge and recommend it anyway.  The original concept was for a video game, not a comic, and while that can be seen in areas it's actually not a bad thing (I can see a few things going on in the background which I guess would have been side quests in the game and I think that right now they just add a bit of character and make the comic a bit more fun). At this point it's a bit hard to tell where the story is going but I'm hoping it's a grand, world-saving adventure like the synopsis hints at.
Gaia is also published in German and fans are welcome to submit translations of the page beneath each page.

Godseeker by Lisa and Lee Blauersouth
 Long before modern history the gods created the world and humans who would worship them also came into existence. Time passed and now the fertility goddess Sombath has been called to Earth again only to discover that her powers are weak, her priest is trying to manipulate her and that something has happened to her memories as well. She does remember enough to realize that something happened differently from the myths told so she and the girl who called her, Myna, set off to find the truth.

I can't think of many other stories set in the stone age* and I rather like that the story has such a distinctive setting. I do however see a number of stories with gods in them yet it's unusual to see stories where the gods are active, central characters like Sombath is here and it's interesting to see how mortal she seems here (not in the sense that the Greek and Roman gods were with their decadence and imperfections but in the sense that Sombath is not all knowing and must seek out the truth about what really happened with her and the other gods). I also really like the artwork, there's a real variety of body types and everything, from the clothes to the setting, look natural. The story also has the feel of an old world epic, one where the characters challenge the gods themselves, and I can't wait to find out what is really going on behind the scenes.  

*other than the Clan of the Cave Bear books which I will NOT be talking about again, oi.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Fall On Me, Fishbones, The Fox Sister

Since one can never have too many webcomics (okay yes you can but roll with me here) I found out about this webcomic tournament over on ComicMix this morning and encourage everyone to go over, see their list of nominations (which I believe is over 200 comics) and if you have any comics to give them a vote. I don't really care who wins in the end but it's a great way for smaller comics to get exposure, all of the comics are currently updating ones which is more than I can say for some of my reviews, and I was even able to find out that a comic or two I liked had come off of hiatus thanks to the list, so go on over there!
Side note, I think I have the creators of The Fox Sister correct but I'm still really tired so if I got them wrong someone please correct me sooner rather than later. Last year's reviews.

Fall on Me by Adriana Blake
 A simple autobiographical, slice of life comic dealing with daily life for Adriana Blake and her husband.

There are a surprising number of (semi-) autobiographical webcomics out there, tvtropes calls them journal comics as a catch-all term, and what's even more amazing is the amount of variety you can get from a rather mundane and ordinary topic. This one chooses to focus on the cute moments between Blake and her husband and succeeds in being cute but not overly sugarly. It's perhaps not the best comic to marathon in one go, it reminds me a bit of Aria in the sense that it's much more about the interaction between the people and there's no "plot" to connect everything together, but it's a nice pick me up to read a few times a week. The series is also translated by the author into Spanish, I don't come across many webcomics that have been translated so I'll try to note that whenever it comes up.


 Set in a fictional city on the east coast of the US back in 1999 Ferris Levinstein would be perfectly content with a quiet, everyday life but with family in the mob that sometimes seems like a pipe dream. Of course, no one has ever asked him to join the family, or even talks about it in front of him except for his friend Demos, but who knows how long that will last.

I only warmed up to this series recently, when I initially tried it there wasn't a lot published and so far the story has been very character driven and you need a solid amount of page/screen time to establish a character. I do hope the story becomes a bit more plot driven later on, it involves the Mafia after all, there's just so much room for fun there, but the characters have interesting dynamics and I'd like to see a lot more of those explored as well. No clue where the story will end up going but for the moment it's an interesting read and I'll be continuing with it. It also appears to have a Russian translation

Set in 1960s South Korea, Cho Yun Hee and her sister seem to be the only survivors of a fire that killed their parents but Yun Hee knows the truth, it was a kumiho that killed them and it seems to have taken the form of her older sister in the mean time. It's been years since then but it seems that the kumiho is still stalking her and trying to finish what it started while also becoming close to an American named Alex who has taken an interest in Yun Hee and her dog.

Another comic that is still relatively new but it has a good start under it's belt and it seems like a number of things are about to be explained so I feel confident recommending it to people. It's not obvious from the banner but the art has a very nice feeling to it, it's not quite as detailed as some other comics but the smooth lines manage to convey a lot of motion and emotion in the characters so I feel like too much detail would actually clutter the art and take away from that (and it's not like there is no detail work in the comics as well, there's actually a surprising amount when you look closely at the artwork). I'm also really curious about the setting, since I don't read as much manhaw as I do manga I almost never find stories set in Korea and I never find historical fiction set after 1940s, period*. I feel like those are enough reasons to recommend this comic, even if it it's a bit on the short side now, and hope that it continues as strongly as it started.

*ironically enough, many American school never find enough time to really teach any history after world war II as well so without a textbook or historical fiction my knowledge of the time period is especially sketchy, hence why I'm excited to actually see a story set then. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Earthsong, Erstwhile, and The End

My brain is mush so I don't have any attempts at witty banter today, throwing a wedding does that to you, so hopefully three comic reviews (and my three from last year) will make up for that (or who knows, maybe everyone skips this bit anyway, not like that will stop me from writing these intros).

Earthsong by Crystal Yates
In a universe where the planets themselves are sentient a great crisis has arisen, the planets powers are seeping into their creations which gives them soulstones which bestow great powers but also leads to their ultimate destruction. In an effort to save their people, it was decided to move all the effected people off planet to a world that doesn't yet have this problem, Earthsong, where their soulstones can be removed and then returned to their worlds as the rest of the planets search for a cure. Most of the people have vague memories of their previous lives but newcomer Willow has none which leaves her even more confused by the situation. Things have also become more complicated lately as another planet, Beluosus, is also gathering these children with new powers for his own twisted reasons and a full-blown war between the worlds seems to be on the horizon.

The comic has been running for a while but it's finally revealed a large twist which, as all good twists do, explains quite a bit and creates another dynamic for the story, so if anyone wants to try out the series and catch up this is probably the best time to do it. The story manages to have both a wide, epic-feeling scope yet the story never forgets that this isn't just the story of the planets and their children but specifically Willow's story as well. Willow goes through a lot of believable emotions about waking up in a strange world with no memories and conflicting stories around her and it's her viewpoint that really helps keep the story center.

From the collections of the Brothers Grimm, lesser known folk stories and fairy tales written and illustrated by a group of comic artists. Some are amusing, some are disturbing, and only some of them have the morals that everyone today associates with fairy tales.

It seems like everyone is adapting the same five or so fairy tales these days so it's great to see people doing lesser-known ones, the stories actually remind me of the ones I grew up reading (an obscure book called The Lamplight Book of Fairy Tales), and since I was only familiar with Gina Biggs' work it was also a nice way to introduce me to two other great webcomic artists since everyone switches out between writing-adapting/drawing the stories (which also leads to every story having a different art style which I think is really fun). I believe that they have also agreed to only do stories that have an ending and I hope they all have the time to continue this project for another few years.

 The story begins with the alien species of the Flah starting a grand mission, one of many they have done, to rescue the human race from extinction by taking a part of their population and putting them a colony world to start over. The problem for the humans is that this isn't some far off future where Earth is a desolate wasteland and people would be glad for a chance to start over, it's the modern day and the Flah have accidentally overshot their landing place and ended up at a local convention. Things only get better from there for the Flah and for the humans who accidentally find themselves on their ship....

The story is a lot more science-fiction than my premise makes it sound, especially since the story currently isn't set on Earth at the convention but rather in space, and I will also vouch that the convention scenes are a lot better than it sounds. I'm VERY picky about stories set in conventions and really dislike the ones that aren't done well* and here the setting works. The plot has been a little slow to get going since the story has done a great time introducing it's good-sized cast but I'm really enjoying the setting they're creating and can't wait to see more of the plot that involves all the alien species and how all of that fits together. It can be a bit hard at times to remember which human character is which but if I actually used the character page on the wiki they've set up I imagine that wouldn't be a problem anymore.

*coughGeektasticcough. For the record I think that DramaCon is one of the better stories set at a con for having the right mix of strangeness and ordinariness side by side without over-glamorizing the convention and The End does something similar. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Dream*Scar

Apologies that this is a bit late folks, I've got family over and there's a wedding going on twenty feet from my bedroom tomorrow so I'm likely to be updating late again then. I swear I love these comics and am not trying to slight them or anything, life is just a little hectic now (plus I am home for the first time in two months, I'd like a few hours of laziness).
Anyway! Just one comic tonight since my other either finished/I wanted to give them another year to see what they would turn into, I'd much rather review a comic after it has really gotten going and I can say with confidence that it's worth seeing where it will go rather than recommend one more on feelings/predictions. And last year's review here.

Dream*Scar by Heather Meade
Vix has grown up in a world where vampires, werewolves, and all sorts of magical creatures announced their presence to the world years ago but, even thought there have been hints that she's not entirely human herself, she never really thought that world concerned her. But after a tragedy at her school she has to go on the run, discovers that she's not human and that she's possibly someone vital to bridging the gap between worlds.

I'm guessing on that last line there but there have been enough hints that Vix is even more special than simply being not human, one being that she's the star of a story, that I think it's a reasonable guess. So far the plot hasn't really stood out from many other "character discovers they're not what they thought they were" story but I really like the characters and especially how they talk. The way the characters interact and talk, especially the teenaged ones, really has the kind of silly, realistic feeling to it. It's not a style that everyone likes but I do. Currently the art looks gorgeous and it didn't start off to badly either. It's certainly gotten much more polished as the series goes on, the coloring and shading have improved the most, but the original art is also nice enough that it doesn't feel like you have to drag yourself through the comic to "where it gets good" (and I have had to do that with some comics because of their art). The story has moved a little slow so far but I'm confident that even at this slower pace it's worth following and keeping up with.   

Monday, March 5, 2012

Webcomic Review Month 2012: Cleopatra in Spaaaace! Cucumber Quest

It has come to my attention that my links/post titles on the main page of the site look a bit weird these days and are in hard to read colors but unfortunately I haven't been able to figure out why and fix that yet. I've checked my settings but no luck, apologies but I have no idea why blogger decided to make my links bright blue/purple instead of the lovely sea-foam green I selected which actually shows up against brown.

So, enough about how blogger is being weird, it's webcomic time! Bit of a smaller update again today but I still have last year's review of a favorite of mine for perusing as well.

Cleopatra in Spaaaace! by Mike Maihack
Before she ruled Egypt Cleopatra was a normal teenager, well until she was pulled far from Earth and faaaar into the future to fight alongside P.Y.R.A.M.I.D. against the evil Xaius Octavian. This would all be going much better if Cleo wasn't inclined to go off on missions on her own but what else do you expect from a 17 year old?

It's an odd mash-up of ideas but it's a fun comic so it doesn't take much time for the reader to go along with the idea of "what if Cleopatra was really a time-traveling, astronaut who fought crime?" I found it to be a really fun all ages comic with a neat art style (currently the comic is showing guest strips so check the archives to see what the regular art looks like) and I can easily see this in the youth comic section of any of the libraries I go to. I'm really excited for this one to start back up but for the moment I'll have to content myself with the cute Supergirl and Batgirl comics he's made*.

Cucumber Quest by Gigi
Cucumber just wanted to go to his school for the super rich and/or magically gifted not go off to save the world, his sister Almond is much better suited for that anyway. But life and everyone around him seems to be conspiring against him and he finds himself starting out on that journey anyway.

The comic isn't a full on parody of the "regular kid goes out to save the world" genre of storytelling but with all of it's self-aware jokes it comes close at times. I like seeing self-aware characters so I enjoy the parts where the characters point out how unlikely or suspicious something seems instead of being annoyed by it but it's certainly a kind of humor that won't appeal to everyone. I also enjoy the cutesy art style the comic uses, at times I suspect the art is being used to mock the genre even more, and it's a rather distinct style from the majority of other comics out there, at times it's hard to believe that it's done digitally. It's also hard to believe that the comic is still in it's early stages (it's just now started Chapter 1) since so much has already happened and I'm curious just how long the comic will be since it seems to be setting itself up for a long run.

*also, none of this praise has anything to do with the fact that I won an awesome commission from him on twitter, although it is super awesome especially considering he didn't know the show at all.