• Columns 

    The Webcomics Weekly #38: Vampires, Jazz, and Magic (6/04/19 Edition)

    By | June 4th, 2019
    Posted in Columns | % Comments

    Welcome back, one and all, to The Webcomics Weekly! This week Vampires continue to plague “Sam and Fuzzy.” “Leftovers” (no not that Leftovers) asks if you like Jazz. To which I saw is it bio-digital jazz man? Things are slowly getting magical in “Agents of the Realm.” “The Last Diplomat” leaves you in the dark.

    Agents of the Realm
    Pages 12-22 (Ch. 1)
    Schedule: Tuesdays and Thursdays
    By Mildred Louis
    Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

    Y’all, I don’t think Professor Blackwater is on the up and up. For starters Mildred Louis always draws her with the light reflecting in her glasses, which has the effect of blocking out her eyes. She came in with that glow. She wanted Norah’s brooch, which continues to emit magical sparkly light. And most of all: she told the class they didn’t need to take notes on the movie they were watching! This is college an expectation of notes is a given. Professor Blackwater could take a Queen Skyla turn or transform into Queen Beryl, but there is something not quite right about her.

    The introduction of Professor Blackwater is nicely paced. There isn’t anything spectacular about the page designs, a series of panels that methodically show Blackwater setting up. But the lettering of the onomatopoeia give everything this staccato. It also visually setups Blackwater as something of an act or persona.

    Louis makes good use of the classroom setting to both introduce more supporting characters, Norah’s fellow students, and setup the mythological and magical nature of the “Agents.” Calling role is a perfect in story way to get everyone to say their names and put it with a face.

    It also lets Louis continue that hapless humor that Norah seems to attract with expressive lettering. Louis is good at making dynamic faces but the lettering in the exchange between Norah and Blackwater do all the storytelling. Blackwater’s is constantly several times bigger, while Norah’s is smaller and being overwhelmed by Blackwaters balloons. It visually tells you the level of their voice and setups the nice page turn for when Norah finally speaks up. The choice of font color warm red(Blackwater) against an approaching neon pink(Norah) is a bit visually confusing. One of the things Louis did when she remastered the series for the collected editions was the lettering, I’m curious to see how that looked originally and its level of effectiveness.

    “Agents of the Realm” continues to build, it isn’t barreling into the magical but odd stuff is certainly popping up.

    The Last Diplomat
    Pages 1.01-1.10
    Updates: Completed
    By Cat Farris
    Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi

    There is something to be said about series that open up and intentionally leave readers in the dark about its overall missions statement, themes, and plot. It can make for compelling story-telling when properly balanced and keep the mystery going.

    However, it can also go the opposite way, and leave its audience too much at a lost as to what is occurring. Such is the case on the opening ten pages of “The Last Diplomat,” where despite the introduction of its two lead characters and some hint at their relationship, there is little more to be seen.

    Trying to read between the lines and further into their descriptions, it is clear that the artist has a much broader back-story to them, their world, and mythology. It is just puzzling that the choice to introduce them is so mundane, like readers have just bumped into them by accident in the middle of their adventure. True, it does give a sense of intimacy for seeing them on their ordinary meanderings, but it fails to capture the attention for future updates.

    On the visual department, “The Last Diplomat” fares much better, with a mix of a cartoony aesthetics and cel-shaded backgrounds, with the protagonists clearly fleshed out with inspiring designs.

    All in all, this series makes a serious gamble to hold back on their main plot, rather choosing to focus on the daily interactions of their characters. While it succeeds in connecting its audience to them, it might come too short on the other departments to more quickly establish a following.

    Continued below

    2-07 Unfinished Business – 2-11 Lament
    Updates: Infrequent
    By Dawgofdawgness
    Reviewed by Elias Rosner

    Comics and music rarely play nice. Conveying the proper mix of tone and mood and rhythm without also writing the songs to the quality the work needs them to be can be challenging and using pre-existing lyrics runs the risk of the reader being unfamiliar with the work. Attempts at representing it run the gamut from the purely symbolic, with notes and wordless balloons and others reacting, to full poetic notation to the more abstract, of colors and metaphors. However, with the webcomics, one is able to supplement a work with music, creating a unique experience that could never be done prior.

    “Leftovers,” at least on a computer, does this with various jazz arrangements from a whole host of sources, making, not a score, but instead a page by page playlist that enhances the moments we’re watching. And what moments they are. “Leftovers” tells the tale of Frances, a college student and jazz player, trapped by unfortunate happenstance in the lowest level music class and, because of her hubris, is unable to play her instrument.

    Because of this, Dawg has situated the comic not on the musical aspects of this story but on the interpersonal relationships of Frances and others, such as her roommate or new boss, and on the deep character flaws inside each of them. And these characters are deeply flawed people. They are selfish and stubborn, listless and crushed by the weight of the world and the fickleness of the industry. It makes for a compelling read in a genre that is less prominent here in the states, channeling a story like “BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad” or other slice-of-life sports manga.

    Dawg’s word balloons and lettering are something to point out. The font choice, san-serifed, thin, and modern, compliments the jazz aesthetic, bringing a clean but non-sterile look to the dialog. The tails take on a life of their own, becoming almost extensions of these character’s breaths, dragging their thoughts out and into the world. They tell as much about the character as their physicality, which is always on point, and the environments around them.

    It’s a shame that this comic doesn’t update often but that is the life of a webcomic. Where we are now may be the perfect place to be left dangling, with narrative threads coming to a head and character backstory on the horizon. And why wouldn’t a free flowing schedule fit a comic all about jazz?

    Order of the Stick
    Pages 96-105
    Updates: Varies
    By Rich Burlew
    Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant

    After 100 pages, the battle with Xykon is about to begin! But not without a few more traps, twists, and general villainy.

    First, we have Xykon and Redcloak preparing for the Order of the Stick to appear. It continues Xykon’s streak of not caring about his soldiers by tossing goblin mooks into the sealed gate for fun, while at the same time showing a bit of cleverness as he used information Nale dropped earlier to figure out the way to unseal it. But we also get more out of the Monster in the Darkness, who’s trying to come up with an appropriately dramatic entrance line. (Personally, I’m fond of “Your broken corpses will taste delicious lightly seasoned with nutmeg.”)

    There’s also a little more metahumor as the exposition ends, and we return to the Order of the Stick making their way through “The Corridor That Takes Three Strips to Walk Through.” The diabolical trap that lies in wait is one that I’d love to spring on my players sometime: it’s a dungeon trap that sprays them with barbecue sauce, to season them for the monster ready to strike. It’s both funny and a clever way of spicing things up. Pun not intended.

    After a little more fun with the goblin teenagers, wherein both Haley and Elan show off their Charisma-based skills in distinctly humorous ways, we get a quick filler joke strip about the Great Cleave feat and cleavage. Even if the pun itself is low-hanging fruit, the way the characters react to it is what sells the joke. Elan and Belkar find it hilarious, while Roy’s just waiting and waiting for them to stop laughing.

    Continued below

    But at last, they enter the chamber for the final battle. There’s a nice little jumping back and forth between the two sides preparing for the final conflict that humorously juxtaposes Roy’s speech with what’s actually happening; it delivers solid comedy while still serving as a dramatic buildup. Finally, it brings us to a panel that fills half the page, showing Xykon and his forces as the Order of the Stick gets ready to fight their way through a crowd of goblins, zombies, and goblin zombies.

    Are you excited to see where it goes? Because I sure am. So go and read Order of the Stick, you won’t regret it.

    Sam and Fuzzy
    Edwin parts 16-27
    Updates: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
    By Sam Logan
    Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli


    ‘Edwin’ may very well be my favorite arc of “Sam & Fuzzy” so far. The satirical take on vampires tropes has been refreshing for a series that had become a bit stale throughout our work on this column. “Sam & Fuzzy” is a series that works so deftly when it is at its best, but can falter a bit during filler installments. Like many properties, it can dip in quality at times and feel like a chore to stick with. You know something better is coming down the pipeline, but on occasion, Glenn is hiding under a dumpster after a zombie-death fakeout.

    All that said, ‘Edwin’ breathes life back into this webcomic. The titular character is an hilarious send-up of properties like Twilight and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, which features works like Interview With the Vampire and Queen of the Damned. Edwin himself is played as a creep and other characters are used to riff on the obsession with the Victorian-esque bloodsuckers of the nineties and naughties. This allows for punctual moments and jokes like Edwin’s bite victim and girlfriend deciding not to seek a cure for lycanthropy because they are “into that.”

    Creator Sam Logan is at his best in this arc, engaging in absurdities as well as deconstruction of genres to the utmost effect. The visual flair is standard for “Sam & Fuzzy” but the facial expression have steadily improved from the introductory installment to the conclusion of this arc. Seeing the faces of the now-living-as-a-werewolf victim of Edwin, his girlfriend, and Sam is simplistically hysterical as well as Sam’s reaction to Fuzzy’s use of dart on civilians because they are expensive.

    As a reviewer following this strip, I can only hope that ‘Buyer Beware’ is as good as ‘Edwin’ because, so far, this is the pinnacle of what I have experienced from “Sam & Fuzzy.”

    //TAGS | webcomics

    Michael Mazzacane

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Media & Cultural Studies-Man Twitter


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