Monday, May 29, 2006

Webcomic A Go Go - UPDATED MAY 29

Or: "The Journey of a Thousand Strips Begins With Bloody Eyes"

(New thread: the old one got a bit messed-up during a recent edit.)

My progress report thus far:

* NeverNever
* Kara, Kali and the Wind
* Return To Green Hollow
* A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible
* Irrational Fears
* Evil Inc.
* Bad Blood
* The Jaded
* Alpha Shade
* The Green Avenger
* Nahast: Lands of Strife
* RPG World
* Something Positive
* VG Cats
* Queen of Wands
* The Order of the Stick
* Road Waffles
* Sinfest
* Nukees
* Diesel Sweeties
* Mnemesis (My Paypal paranoia triumphs!)
* 8-Bit Theatre
* Gunnerkrigg Court
* Nausea
* Boy Meets Boy
* Basil Flint, P.I.
* Friendly Hostility
* No Rest For The Wicked
* 8/12 By Eleven
* Jack
* The Spiders
* Angst Technology
* Bob and George
* Questionable Content
* Demonology 101
* Kid Radd
* Unicorn Jelly
* Cutewendy
* Girly
* The Starship Destiny
* File 49
* 1/0
* Paper Eleven
* Exploitation Now
* Captain Spectre and the Lightning Legion
* Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire
* The Coffee Achievers
* Fallen Angels Used Books
* Mozhaets
* PHD Comics
* Least I Could Do
* Nana's Everyday Life
* Greystone Inn
* A Modest Destiny
* 319 Dark Street
* Bobbins
* Scary Go Round
* Arthur, King of Time and Space
* The Dreamland Chronicles
* Hellbound
* Starslip Crisis
* Wish3
* Lifelike
* Antihero For Hire
* Flatwood
* Captain SNES
* The Wandering Ones
* Strange Attractors
* Atland
* Dubious Tales
* Awesome Marcus Ninja
* Alien Loves Predator
* Everything Jake
* Checkerboard Nightmare
* Supernatural Law
* Femme Noir
* Kalmer Unwritten
* The Class Menagerie
* Roomies
* Coming Full Circe
* Boy Meets Hero
* Tom Sparks, Atomic Detective
* Home on the Strange
* Inverloch
* Nannah Laveaux
* Scandal Sheet
* Butterfly
* Weirdlings
* Mindmistress
* Achewood
* You'll Have That
* The Architect (when completed)
* The Hook (when completed)
* 5ideways (when completed)
* Avalon (if it's ever completed)
* RPGWorld (if it's ever completed)

Some reviews - though I won't be covering everything I've read:


"Boy Meets Hero" ( This could have worked. The most popular superhero in Golden Bay City is living a triple life - he's Blue Comet, defender of the people; he's Derek Maxwell, unassuming civilian; and he's Derek Maxwell, homosexual. But his closeted status is threatened when he falls in love with Justin Summers, an ordinary guy with a bit of a hero worship complex. So far so good, but the dialogue is simply atrocious. It reads like an especially corny romance comic from the '50s - "I can't believe I'm dating a superhero! He's so strong and muscular! I'm so lucky! I wuv you! No, I wuv you!" Gag me with a red-hot spoon.

"Home on the Strange" ( You know, the first thing that came to mind while reading this was Aerie's "Queen of Wands". It has a very similar style of humor, with the pop culture references and the gentle satire of geek culture, and the characters are entertaining both on their own and in their group dynamics. It's relatively new, so there's still plenty of room to see where it's going, but so far I like it a lot.

"Tom Sparks, Atomic Detective" ( This is a perfect example of one thing I simply adore about webcomics - the willingness to experiment with genres and forms. "Tom Sparks", for example, combines noir murder mystery, superheroics and B-movie sci-fi to create an intriguing story that smoothly merges its various inspirations into a cohesive whole.

"Checkerboard Nightmare" ( An absolutely hilarious strip by Kristofer Straub, poking fun at webcomics, celebrities, pop culture and more. Chex is a glory-hungry (and slightly reality-challenged) webcomics creator who wants to make it big, no matter what it takes. Unfortunately, his crazy schemes tend to cause more problems than solutions. This series is pretty impressive on a technical level, as Straub really manages to work every angle of the parody, from breaking the fourth wall to satirizing the very cornerstones of the medium - it's also a lot of fun to read.

"Supernatural Law" ( The high concept works - sort of an "Ally McBeal meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer" scenario where the lawyers represent "unusual" clients - but the writing falls flat, with the actual court cases being far too short and not taking enough advantage of the premise.

"Femme Noir": ( According to the author, "Femme Noir" is a sort of female answer to Will Eisner's "The Spirit". This is true, but it works both ways: on the one hand, yes, there is a competent appropriation of the quasi-noir environment and tropes, and the unnamed protagonist is every bit the '40s femme fatale... on the other hand, the series lacks any particular depth in either plot or characterization - in line with the Eisner tradition, certainly, but perhaps geared more towards fans of that classic style than other readers.

"Awesome Marcus Ninja" ( "Meh" about sums it up. Some nice gags with the ninja stereotype, but nothing particularly remarkable, and it felt pretty inconsistent while reading it through.

"Dubious Tales" ( Now this one is just plain fun. It's a bizarre soap opera, focusing on the lives of six quirky university students all living in the same house. The characters seem pretty weird at first, but it quickly becomes clear that you can identify with them all: they're very sympathetic and compelling despite of (or perhaps because of) their quirks. There's a bit of fantasy here, a bit of humor, a bit of romance... and it's all quite well-written.

"Captain SNES" ( A massive disappointment. The hook for this series is that it's an indirect parody sequel to the '80s cartoon "Captain N: The Game Master" - decades after that champion brought peace to Videoland, a new threat arises, and a new hero is recruited to fight it. The time gap is represented by the use of Super Nintendo games such as "Chrono Trigger" and "Super Mario World", as opposed to the Captain N adventures which took place in settings such as "Castlevania" or "Kid Icarus". The only problem is that Captain SNES, also known as Alexander Williams, is a foul-mouthed, washed-up college student who's a far cry from the squeaky-clean hero of yesterdecade. It's a good premise, and the first few storylines are actually quite amusing (especially the "Weakest Link" parody), but it goes off the rails quite dismally after that. The plot loses all cohesion, bouncing back and forth, and the author's repertoire of humor turns out to be rather limited. It's a shame, because the ideas behind the execution had a lot of potential.

"Antihero For Hire" ( Hmm. This one's on the borderline, really. On the one hand, it's interesting enough that I'm sticking around to see what happens next; on the other hand, aside from a few clever tricks there's not a lot here that isn't being done elsewhere. It's a superhero story, except the characters are largely aware of the conventions - you have the stereotypical mystery man who leaks bits of information, but here he acknowledges that yeah, he's doing it to be annoying and to drive the hero crazy. And the protagonist is in a rather amusing situation where he has one major nemesis completely out of his grasp, while every other villain he fights is comically incompetent. It's nice, I suppose, but not much more than that for now.

"Starslip Crisis" ( An excellent sci-fi comedy by Kristofer Straub, about the crew of the first starship museum in the 35th century. Straub does a really good job poking fun at the conventions of science fiction and satirizing 21st-century pop culture, and his quirky characters are quite endearing.

"Arthur, King of Time and Space" ( Hands-down, one of the best high concepts I've ever seen. King Arthur, having pulled Excalibur from the stone, finds the sword's power to be so great that his destiny is spread across various time periods. The author uses this premise to create a multi-genre retelling of the Arthurian legends: contemporary teen drama, space opera, fairy tale, western, hospital drama... each with parallels and differences, each telling the myth of Arthur in its own way. It's a magnificiently ambitious project, one that makes apt use of the enormous creative potential and even manages to squeeze in a daily gag.

"The Dreamland Chronicles" ( is relatively new, but so far I really like what I see: when he was a child, Alexander Carter dreamed of adventures in a magical land of fairies and golems. Then one day the dreams stopped... until eight years later, when a token from his youth suddenly propels him back into the fantasy. Is it just wistful nostalgia for lost innocence? Or is Alex really moving between worlds?

"A Modest Destiny" ( to Another "mixed feelings" webcomic. The first book, "Maxim Saves The World", is actually very good; cohesive adventure plot, strong humor, and a cast of very interesting characters. The rest is more problematic because the series makes a rather abrupt change in tone from comedy to dark fantasy midway through, and the shift hinges on a series of plot twists that come off a bit awkwardly. The third book is also incomplete, due to a lengthy hiatus on the author's part; however, production has recently resumed, so apparently it's going to be concluded at some point. I'm not too clear on whether we'll actually get closure to the entire series, though, so I recommend sticking with the first book - it stands nicely on its own.

"Greystone Inn" ( is the predecessor of "Evil Inc.", exhibiting much of the same style of humor, albeit modified to suit the different setting and characters. In fact, the two series are very similar indeed - they both work in a lot of allusions to pop culture, webcomics, movies and so on, they both use running gags to great success, and they both read very easily, whether they're mid-storyline or presenting standalong gags. Quite entertaining.

"Nana's Everyday Life" ( Easily the most disturbing webcomic I've ever read (pages 10-11 are particularly sickening). I'd love to be able to dismiss this as another excess of the anime/manga fandom... and yet... There's an almost naturalistic, Zola-esque flair to Nana's misfortunes - she sinks lower and lower and lower, and there's no real reason; people are ugly and depraved, but there's no psychology to explain it. You can't help being simultaneously revulsed and morbidly curious to see how bad things are going to get. It's not much of a tragedy because Nana isn't a very complex character - it's almost impossible to identify with her on an individual level. But as an icy, heartless story of a fall? Upsettingly compelling.

"The Coffee Achievers" ( Very frustrating, because while the story itself is good, the abrupt and unfulfilling conclusion pretty much blows the whole thing to pieces. When writing an ongoing series, it's no big deal to misfire on an arc or two; finite stories, on the other hand, carry a lot of weight towards the end, and this one dropped the ball in no uncertain terms.

"Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire" ( A fantasy epic by Michael Terracciano that hits all the right marks and makes a few new ones of its own. Deliberately bad puns, demons, sex, magic... it's all here.

"1/0" ( There's a very nice idea at the core of this strip, but I found myself losing patience with the story, which seemed to just drag on without ever really taking off - by the 150th strip I just tuned out. It just didn't click for me.

"Kid Radd" ( Excellence in a delightful little package. This original sprite-style comic dealing with video games, cyberspace and the quest for free will is, in my eyes, perfectly representative of the great strength of webcomics: the capacity to do so much with so few resources. Imagination is the only limitation, and Dan Miller certainly demonstrates how far you can go by providing such a funny, action-packed, well-constructed saga.

"Demonology 101" ( This webcomic borrows heavily from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in terms of character dynamics, philosophical debate, the mix of action and banter, and tight, cohesive plotting with a strong emphasis on foreshadowing future developments. The protagonist, Raven, is a 16-year-old demon girl trying to find herself in the human world. At the same time, she's at the center of a complex plot designed to tip the scale in the ongoing conflict between humanity and demonkind. Author Faith Erin Hicks does a remarkable job of appropriating Joss Whedon's strengths: recurring characters intrigue us and excite us when they reappear, Raven herself is very sympathetic, her human best friends provide much-needed comic relief, and while the mythology of the series is a bit less coherent than the Lovecraft-oriented Buffyverse, it nevertheless stands well on its own. Hicks manages to improve upon the formula by having her villains stick around for more than a single storyline - one of the very few flaws in Whedon's early seasons was the tendency to allocate one archvillain per season, severely limiting our exploration of these figures. Conversely, "Demonology 101" falters when it comes to depicting Raven's school life; aside from the evil principle and her two best friends, it often seems as though there isn't another human soul attending high school. Taking it all into consideration, though, I recommend this series for a highly enjoyable read.

"Questionable Content" (

"Bob and George" ( Lunacy. Utter, total, glorious insanity. And I loved every minute of it. Who knew time travel and alternate dimensions could be so funny? :)

"No Rest For The Wicked" ( is a lovely "remix" of popular folklore - a bit like Vertigo's "Fables", but much darker and with a much more concentrated scope: small cast, one primary plot rather than several competing for page space... it reads very easily, and I find myself intrigued by characters who, by all rights, should annoy me terribly.

"Friendly Hostility" ( is K. Sandra Fuhr's follow-up to her previous webcomic, "Boy Meets Boy". The series stars BMB veterans Fox Maharassa and his borderline-sociopathic boyfriend Collin Sri'vastra, along with a host of secondary characters including Nyarlathotep the Crawling Chaos, underage slave Bootsie and Fox's "uncle" Rafi, a con artist who moonlights as a Satanist priest. Fuhr's skills have developed nicely over time; "Friendly Hostility" retains its predecessor's range of humor, but it moves out of the romantic comedy genre BMB was so deeply embedded within. Granted that the latter was a great success, but as Fuhr herself discovered, you can only take the story of two people so far. Conversely, the first storyline of "Friendly Hostility" (titled "Problematic") begins years before either Fox or Collin are born. That's Fuhr's mission statement: this series isn't about Fox and Collin, the way "Boy Meets Boy" was about Mikhael and Harley. Here the emphasis is on a collection of quirky, funny characters; it's about the Maharassa family, and Collin's oppressive parents, and the demon living in their fridge and the slave they won at poker, and nobody really cares that Fox and Collin are lovers - least of all Fox and Collin themselves.

"Queen of Wands" ( I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, Kestrel is a very engaging protagonist, the humor is almost always dead-on, and author Aeire successfully tells a big, complete story in a relatively small amount of time (the strip runs from July 2002 to February 2005 on a tri-weekly basis, about 450-ish strips in total). On the other hand, I did sometimes run into credibility problems, as characters occasionally got entangled in some pretty unbelievable situations (ie: the revelation about Felix and Marie, which really came out of nowhere and ultimately wasn't necessary). As the series progressed, a heavy dependence on "DRAMA!" came about; I honestly lost count of the number of times Shannon was hospitalized, and Kestrel's joy de vivre gradually dies out, which hurt the overall atmosphere IMO. Granted that people grow and change - that's probably the most important theme of the work, and the crossovers with "Something Positive" accentuated it brilliantly by juxtaposing Kestrel and Davan, the man who will never change - but I think where Aeire went wrong was having almost everyone change in the same way, for largely the same reasons. It's a bit reminiscient of the sixth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", in which Marti Noxious interpreted the idea of "growing up" as "making everyone miserable", an umbrella that has to be bent rather out of shape to affect diverse characters in the same way. Angela is almost unrecognizable by the time the story ends, even though (by her own admission) nothing's actually happened to her that hasn't happened before. All in all, though, it's a rather enjoyable story, and the ending is particularly strong.

"Boy Meets Boy" ( is another one that needs its own post, both because it's really good and because I have a lot to say about it.

"PVP" ( I understand why so many people like this. I see how it works. But I don't think I'm the kind of reader Scott Kurtz is targeting.

"Something Positive" ( has its own post here:

"Nausea" ( Okay, I can't be objective about this, since it's written by a friend of mine. It's minty-new (only three strips so far), but it's got the zing the best humor strips are made of.

"8-Bit Theater" ( is another parody of RPGs, this time using actual game sprites from "Final Fantasy". It's pretty funny, and the author does some very inventive things with a handful of pixels, but the gag storylines have a tendency to run too long and wear the jokes thin.

"Gunnerkrigg Court" ( Eric Burns describes this webcomic as "Harry Potter as written by Lemony Snicket and set in an Industrial Complex designed by Lewis Carroll." That about sums it up, really: a surreal, steampunk-esque series that tells its stories in a very, very low-key fashion, which suits it perfectly.

"Sinfest" ( is a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, it's certainly got a streak of irreverent humor that makes it fun reading... but if you read a month's worth of strips, you pretty much get everything and anything "Sinfest" offers. It's very, very repetitive in terms of the gags used - more or less the same five or six jokes told in a cycle, with mild alterations. Which makes it not exactly the kind of series you want to follow in perpetuity. I recommend reading the first month or two, but don't go further if you're looking for anything more... well, more.

"The Order of the Stick" ( is a thing of utter brilliance. It's based on the "Dungeons and Dragons" paradigm, with which I'm not very familiar, but the humor works for non-gamers as well. The premise concerns a band of adventurers living in this RPG world of fantasy - but they're aware of the "rules" of D&D. It works far, far better than it has any right to, and while the structure may be a bit confusing (the strips aren't clearly divided in terms of chapters or storylines, even though there is a clear chain of successive plot arcs), it's one of the best webcomics I've come across so far. EDIT: This is so good I actually went to my LCS and asked them to order the two OotS trade collections currently available. I paid for an otherwise-free webcomic. That's how good it is. :)

"Kara, Kali and the Wind" ( is a short but evocative fairy tale that ends exactly at the right place.

"NeverNever" ( is a bit problematic because of what was going on behind the scenes. Basically, it's a comedy story where the Faeries have declared war on humanity, but because of the size difference, no one's actually noticed. It's very lighthearted, and makes rather interesting use of Arthurian iconography. The problems started when the creators lost interest, bringing it in and out of publication several times until finally ending it mid-story. Fortunately, the second-to-last strip still allows for some kind of conclusion, and it's still a fun read.

"Return To Green Hollow" ( is another short story modeled after fairy tales, but in a much more symbolic way: a young girl is enacting a bedtime story her late grandmother told her, while trying to move past her grief. It falters a bit because of the boy's presence - he's not really necessary to the plot because it comes down to the confrontation between the girl and the Forest Queen, and the emotional/mental subtext involved. Not a fatal flaw, though.

"A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible" ( is too fucking weird for my tastes.

"Irrational Fears" ( WOW. This was absolutely amazing. Ursula Vernon, writing herself as a female chupacabra with a beret, embarks on a delightfully surreal quest to learn about the monsters she's afraid of. What lies in the shadows under her bed? Excellent story.

"Bad Blood" ( starts off well enough, but falters in the second act when additional players are brought in. There's also a slight disconnect between the various subplots, in that the main character does some pretty terrible things one moment but seems to completely forget about them the next.

"Evil Inc." ( is a comedy series about corporate supervillains. It's highly intertextual (the secretary keeps getting calls from Kang demanding a refund on a time machine, Dr. Druid complaining about the typo in his "Summon Two Huge Beasts" spell, etc.), but even if you don't get the references, it's still quite funny. A few gags don't work, but most of them do, to great effect.

"The Jaded" ( didn't really work for me; a bit too pedestrian, and featuring characters that weren't very distinct or easy to tell apart.

"Alpha Shade" ( also didn't click with me, though I'm having a hard time pinning down why. It's certainly highly stylized, but it failed to speak to me.

"VG Cats" ( can be very, very funny... provided you're familiar with the various video games they're spoofing. If you're not, don't bother - the jokes don't work otherwise. Fortunately, the archives list the games the strips are based on, and there's no sequential narrative, so you can pick and choose.