Welcome back, one and all, to The Webcomics Weekly! This week we have a look at 2019 “Best Webcomic” nominees as Gustavo Lodi returns to “Tiger, Tiger” and Elias Rosner looks at “The Contradictions.” Michael Mazzacane wraps up his coverage of “Blood Stain” … for now. Dexter Buschetelli goes “Ugh … Vampires” with more coverage of “Sam and Fuzzy.” And things get theological in Robbie Plesant’s thoughts on “Order of the Stick”
Schedule: currently on hiatus
By Linda Sejic
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
And so we come to the end of “Blood Stain,” for now, technically Linda Sejic has updated to strip #86 and the rough start to chapter four but this is the best place to end things. These final 10 strips are the culmination of everything Elly, and in Vlad’s case much, much, longer, have been building towards. In a note at the start of this final batch, Sejic noted that she broke things up into three strips due to character interactions. That was a great call as it gave us pretty much one scene a strip and everything flowed together beautifully. Webcomics that lack satisfying episodic chunks can make for frustrating readings.
Vlad is often joking referred to as a “mad” not Mad™ scientist, but the humorous designation also covers up for the fact he’s an asshole a fair amount of the time. While this strip has primarily about Elly’s job search and building up self-confidence, he’s a co-partner in things and his journey has been one of slow, often obstinate, self-awareness. Using Serge as the method to call out Vlad’s cruelty, in a pair of strips entitles ‘clash of the titans,’ was highly effective. He’s the kinda side character you often forget about in these kinds of stories, standing up to his boss was a moment that recognized his own humanity and not just his mechanical function within the home/story. Serge calling him on his bs wasn’t enough to spark new awareness, Vlad has to do that himself.
The middle strips, as Vlad realizes that he may in fact be an asshole sometimes, are this excellent bit of storytelling. After discovering a note from Elly, he is prompted to both reconsider past actions (Vlad with short hair is a bad look) which forces him on this path of discovery and physically recognizing the praise he said in Elly’s favor to Serge strips earlier. Showing things in a physical manner is a nice counter to the normal talk it out method of character development.
Linda Sejic’s style is a fun bright representational style, but man the way she does character acting is just perfect. While her husband has a tendency towards literalism and layered expression, Linda Sejic’s character acting is brought about more through repetitive panels and the form of a comic. The opening 6 panels of strip 71 ‘realization,’ as Elly goes through a range of emotions after Vlad yelled at her, makes perfect sense in the horizontal strip presentation. The way her reaction forms a slow wave helps to accentuate her expression. The collection reprint follows a similar, but less intuitively effective presentation. That sense of quick repetition is also evident in Vlad’s failure to write a letter as he goes to bed. Placing things in a flat left to right reading orientation also helps to enhance the feeling of disconnect between Vlad and Elly as they talk while separated by a door in strip 78. Sejic’s storytelling fits the medium it’s being presented in.
Reading “Blood Stain” as its original web strip also shows how much Linda Sejic’s methods has changed. These last strips look pretty much like the reprints, with clearer line work and less muddy coloring. I do miss some of that muddy application of color, it made the backgrounds stand out against the figure work.
By Sophie Yanow
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
Last time I covered the now Eisner nominated “The Contradictions,”, the black and white, autobiographic webcomic had just launched. It was a strong debut, showing off Yanow’s use of negative space and clever page layouts to establish the thoughtful, meditative tone of the work. Now, about a quarter of the way through the planned story, this tone has remained, bolstered now by the simpler rhythm of the paneling and the effortless presentation of humanity on display. These most recent 6 pages say a lot with very little, a theme that is present throughout “The Contradictions.”Continued below
Pages 42 & 43 are a masterclass in this, giving us a one-sided conversation between Sophie and their mother. The empty space speaks volumes; the short snippets of dialog filling in all the rest. It’s an interstitial scene, used to capture the internals of Sophie’s thoughts & actions when they are alone, as listless as they were at the start.
What I really love about this scene is how well the near static nature of these twelve panels captures the feeling of the conversation. The mundanity of it is cemented by the static, mid-shot framing along with the lack of motion; this is what it felt like to them, and what it feels like to us, to have this type of conversation in a new place with old insecurities, with an energy that has been drained by the day. Using this as the transitional scene, it also brings into relief some of the worries that plague Sophie and follow them, unwittingly, into their interactions later on.
But beyond that, the follow scene continues to show Yanow’s strengths in setting a mood through minimalist line work and shorthand, without sacrificing environments nor readability. The jagged music drifting like smoke on the top of the panels, intruding on the backgrounds but somehow welcoming. Unimportant dialog is represented with small, empty boxes, the rounded corners populating the panels without distracting. It’s a fantastic use of a 1st person POV, further cementing us in Sophie’s mind. Whatever they hear and see, we do too. Whatever they don’t, we don’t. But if they can see it but not hear it, that doesn’t negate its present.
I also have to gush about the website again. It continues to be a smooth reading experience, with a sleek design that reflects the sleek comic. Every page is numbered and it’s a breeze to find the end, the beginning, or even page 18 (just hit ctl/cmd+F and search the page number to jump to the top of that page.) It invites rereadings without the usual friction of having to click a link for each subsequent page and creates a flow that is somewhere between the scroll of a Webtoon/Manhwa and the flip of a traditional page. What better design for a sleek comic, wherein each page is complete and complex while remaining simple and part of a greater whole — a lovely contradiction.
By Rich Burlew
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
If someone were to ask me my religion, I’d say I was raised Jewish but I don’t worship. But deep down inside, I think it would be hard to deny that a part of my worships Banjo the Clown, God of Puppets.
There are two parts of these five pages worth noting. First, we have Elan slowly building the church of Banjo, and showing a surprising amount of business sense with a little bit of critique for how religious sects form. Some are in it for the smiting, others for the money, and religious scriptures can be surprisingly malleable to appeal to whatever the worshippers want. (And when all else fails, there’s also espresso machines.) Bringing the joke to an end with the dread Banjulhu to one day make is return is a cherry on the top of one of the most revered running gags in the comic.
On the other hand, we get Durkon and a defining character moment. He is a dwarf of duty, and has been carrying out his job outside of the dwarven lands faithfully. In contrast, we have Hilgya, who ran away from her home and clan because she valued her personal freedom more. We can’t really say that either is entirely right – while we can agree with Hilgya disliking having an arranged marriage, the flashbacks show that her husband is a pretty nice dwarf and she still tried to poison him (which is a great use of the “unreliable narrator,” as illustrated by flashbacks). Meanwhile, Durkon’s devotion to his duty is clearly a burden, but we can see how it weighs on him and drives him forward.
In the end, it’s hard to be happy about Durkon’s decision to ask Hilgya to leave, but it’s still one that we understand. The choice clearly pains them both, but we can understand why he makes it.Continued below
It’s a great portrayal of dwarves and their sense of duty in the Order of the Stick world, establishing much for the character.
Edwin parts 1-5
Updates: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
By Sam Logan
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli
Though Fuzzy echoes a sentiment many of us have felt since the Twilight films came to prominence “Sam & Fuzzy” throws out an amusing take on the vampire trope in the beginning of this arc. The opening sequence featuring titular character Edwin is reminiscent of the humor of Jhonen Vasquez, creator of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim.
As Sam himself puts it, Edwin “thinks he’s acting dark and romantic, but it’s actually just incredibly creepy.” This plays on the romanticized ideals of vampires that actually predate Twilight in pop culture stalwarts like the work of Anne Rice. While the darkly dashing devourers might have made a 14 year old girl squeal in a puberty-influenced haze of delirium pre-2006, the world has caught up to the reality that vampires are just weirdos in frilly shirts writing bad poetry and drinking Clamato.
It may be considered trite to malign vampire culture in 2019, as it has all but disappeared from popular culture at this point, but had I read this strip in 2009 I would have been in stitches. It is a wonderful send-up of the genre that reinvigorates my interest in “Sam & Fuzzy” as I continue to review it for this column.
Couple that with Aaron’s impression of a goldfish–which Dev is unimpressed by and asks him to stop–and “Sam & Fuzzy” has me once again laughing out loud while my cat stares at me with his head sideways.
Updates: Weekly, multiple days
By Petra Erika Nordlund
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi
When we last checked on the adventures of Ludovica and Jamis, they were still figuring out their roles on their forbidden journey, as Ludovica (pretending to be her brother Remy) convinced her newly-anointed fiance to commandeer their family ship. On this update, they find themselves struggling on the day-to-day management of the vessel, while they deal with their own personal feelings.
“Tiger, Tiger” works on many levels. Most obviously, is a beautifully drawn and painted series, able to mix a more realistic style with some cartoony intakes, specially used to convey sharp changes in emotion. It is very smartly applied and not over-used, so that when it happens it pulls readers in, rather than removing them from the narrative.
Second, “Tiger, Tiger” is not afraid to take its time revealing character’s motivation and inside on their minds. Take for instance a sequence where Ludovica is paying her tributes to the entity protecting the ship. These are pages on an enclosed setting, with only character talking to herself. And yet, it shows a lot about Ludovica’s beliefs, desires, and style.
Finally, there is a sense of playfulness, of offering the unexpected, that is absolutely refreshing. Within this update, Jamis undergoes a dream sequence that allows the artist to flex muscles not yet tested, as the reigns of reality are released and more outlandish visuals can be used (a dream-like boat as its front figures jump out of the page. And, at the same time, that dream sequence is used to further develop the character and hint of things to come for the plot.
Beautiful, wee-paced and with deeply compelling and fleshed out characters, “Tiger, Tiger” is a joy to return to. Don’t miss it.