Welcome back, one and all, to the Webcomics Weekly!
How’re you all doing? Settling into the fall season (or the spring for those in the southern hemisphere?) I know I am. It’s the harvest season, the time for Sukkot. A time to reflect, shake some branches and a fruit, and sit in a temporary shelter, reminding us that our works are all transitory but that makes them no less beautiful or meaningful.
Just a thought.
This week, we bring to you mermaids and more in “Sink Your Hookteeth,” some “Principles of Magic,” and Archie comics’ collaboration with the It Gets Better project as well as our returning coverage of “A Better Place” and “Order of the Stick.” Let us know if there are any newish webcomics you’d like to see covered, or any one’s we covered before to make a return.
Archie Comics: #ABetterUniverse
Schedule: Oct. 11, 2019
By Dan Parent with Bob Smith
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
As part of National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, Archie Comics released a series of web strips in conjunction with the It Gets Better Project. The strips are set in the #ABetterUniverse and feature various queer characters coming out or clarifying their identities to various Archie Comics cast members where they are than accepted and appreciated by those around them. Dan Parent’s involvement makes a lot of sense considering they introduced Kevin Keller, Archie Comic’s first openly gay character.
There is something fitting to the team up between Archie Comics and the Better Project, while the aesthetic history of the publisher is set in a nostalgic vision of America that never really existed. It is perhaps the comics publisher that is built around the nebulous idea of Americana. Aesthetically the strips are not set in the more recent modern “Hot Archie” version of Archie Comics, they are done in the classic style. This classic style ties into it that idea of Americana and expands it to be welcoming to queer folk. You could argue that vision of Americana is historically not welcoming or representative of the population as a whole (very easily), but artistically it makes sense for the publisher and the nature of the strips themselves.
The series of strips are not connected beyond the motif of coming out and shared length, four are three panels long the final one is two. This limited panel space gives all the strips an understandable and efficient rhythm. The first panel often starts with an assumption on the part of an Archie cast member, Betty sees Claire furiously texting and asks if she is texting her boyfriend. The second panel features the clarification, Claire isn’t texting her boyfriend, she is texting her girlfriend. The third panel accepts this knew information with the Archie cast member often wanting to meet this unseen person. The strips are slightly different in the two Kevin Keller strips that involve two students telling them about the pronouns they now use or their name, but never the less end with Kevin enthusiastically accepting them.
The strips are simple and get the point across. Coming out is a somewhat weird anxious ritual. Much like getting into comics there’s no one “right” way. Some people make a loud statement about it others not so loud as individuals navigate their specific circumstances. Building a series of strips around that concept is perhaps much but the core point of this team up is correct: everyone deserves to be loved and respected. That’s what happens in these strips, maybe it is a bit naïve and fantastical but it serves as a quick ideal to strive towards.
A Better Place
‘Tiny Terror’ – ‘Sub Space’
By Harrodeleted (Harry Bogosian)
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
After Nina’s serious beat-down last time, “A Better Place” takes the pedal off the gas just a hair to reveal her survival, much to the surprise of one Empress Computer. While it would’ve been strange to have her actually be killed, a part of me wondered how the story would have progressed. Would we have shifted over to Nina’s sister? Would we have jumped back to Hannah? Maybe Theo will return from wherever Hannah has banished him. But that’s all idle speculation now. Instead, Harrodeleted seeds these pages with a bit of mystery and a couple steps forward for our dear protagonist.Continued below
I’m conflicted about these pages. On the one hand, the level of detail and the depth of field the coloring brings to them is staggering. You can get lost in each panel, something I found myself doing on ‘Amongst the Clouds.’ I adore this page, the quiet of it all, and the slow, creeping dread that the final panel creates. On the other hand, the reduced number of pages per update means that I cover smaller chunks of story each week, an already accelerated rate from anyone following week in and week out, and so the slower pace becomes noticeable, and thus somewhat less satisfying. Not wholly, as the slow burn gives rise to speculation and a greater sense of place, but it shouldn’t go unmentioned.
Additionally, the sudden shift from full color to greyscale with red highlights was far more jarring this time around. ‘SubSpace’s’ linework has the same high level of quality but those red beams don’t have the same definition as Empress Computer’s red or even the beams of the previous page, making that first panel feel like a step down in quality rather than a simple shift in appearance. . . a feeling which is remedied by the final panel.
In fact, these page ending cliffhangers are on the money, week after week, which I think is a large contributor to them feeling satisfactory and keeping me engaged. There’s the drive to know what’s around the next corner, what we’ll learn about the world next, and the desire to see Nina reach her next destination.
Oh, and there’s also that creepy bunny with a cape and big terrifying teeth. What’s their deal?
Order of the Stick
By Rich Burlew
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi
One of the best aspects of “Order of the Stick” is how it consistently nails the comedic timing of it’s script. Comics are not a medium that is controlled: unlike a movie, readers can pause, rewind and fast-forward anytime they so choose by only looking at different parts of the page. So pacing on this form takes new requirements, such as the way the art guides the eye, panel layout, and the sheer drawing of it all.
There is a bit towards the end of this update that put all of those elements together. Add very charismatic characters and one has comedic gold.
In addition to that, “Order of the Stick” is very clever on how it inserts social and political commentary, without feeling heavy-handed or full-blown revelatory. It is more of a pervasive, even subversive way of doing it, that will have readers smirking as they realize what the message really is.
This time around, the plot moves forward quite a bit as well, with the adventure of the party on the bandit’s camp nearly coming to a close. There is quite a bit of soap-opera elements sprinkled in as well as one characters realizes her feelings for another… and is utterly unable to deal with it properly.
Fun, often laugh-out-loud, clever, filled with charismatic characters, and told in an art style that fits it’s narrative, “Order of the Stick” is week in, week out, a blast.
Principles of Magic
Chapter 3, Pages 78-84
By Sarah Hopkins
Reviewed by, Jason Jeffords Jr
Signet is an all girls school for the magically gifted, except it’s not one that excels their powers. Instead in the world of “Principles of Magic”, magic was never meant for humans, but only human women have problems with it thus making Signet a school taught to suppress magic. “Principles of Magic” follows new school member, Avery Marsh, and her roommates: Peregrine ‘Pepper’ Vanguard, and Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Evans as they grow up in a world afraid of their magic.
The theme of stripping women of their ‘power’ is heavily emphasized through “Principles of Magic”, but none more than Aurelie and Hyacinth’s conversation. But, that’s getting a tad bit too far, as a huge revelation transpired the pages before. Pages 78-84 begins as the trio make their way out of Aurelie’s classroom, due to her usage of magic. In these moments Hopkins addresses the revelation that the school can’t, in fact, rid you of magic, instead it helps control it. In the beginning of “Principles of Magic,” Signet was labeled as a school that rids you of magic, but as the kids find out it’s more helping control then the other. This might have been the school lying, or an oversight from Hopkins. . .as Hopkins states so in the comment section. But hey, mapping out an overarching story while writing is hard.Continued below
The revelation of the teaching is a huge factor, being a large plot point that’ll help push the narrative going forwards, but the next scene is just as, and maybe even more, impactful, that scene being the aforementioned Aurelie and Hyacinth conversation. In these few pages of interaction, a multitude of information is dumped: their past relationship, Aurelie’s true personality, how men feel about women’s magic, and most importantly how they learn to control, not rid themselves of power.
On the art side, “Principles of Magic” is simple yet gets the story across. With a story that only has 84 chapters, it’s nice to go back and see how Hopkins has progressed in the art department. One great example is when Hyacinth mentions how small the room is and Hopkins switches to an overhead shot to showcase this.
“Principles of Magic” could go a multitude of directions, which is a good thing, but it would bode well if Hopkins has a plan and sticks with it. A long running story is hard to do, exponentially harder to do without a blueprint, which it seems Hopkins may not have had from the get-go.
One of the coolest things about “Principals of Magic” is that Hopkins has a transcript at the end of each page. Might not seem like much, but little extras like that are quite lovely.
Sink Your Hookteeth
Updates: Infrequently but will feature a new installment by the time this publishes
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli
“Sink Your Hookteeth” is an odd series. Visually, it is a gorgeous piece of art as its painted nature provides an immense amount of depth to each page. The use of color and brushstroke is enough to make the art school nerd in me squeal. Eli has an immensely compelling style that makes each page and panel a work of its own. Couple that with moving panels littered throughout — I’ve not seen used much in my time reviewing webcomics — and you have a title that truly should be taken note of. I would be hard-pressed to think of anything I have reviewed for this column that is aesthetically pleasing as “Sink Your Hookteeth.”
But it is in the content that Eli’s work makes some unusual choices. This is yet another “if Tumblr wrote a comic” moments yet for “Sink Your Hookteeth” there is something about it that just works. It is described as being “A Cosmic Horror/Love story about eldritch merfolk that fall for a pair of humans, meanwhile, those humans want to catch and study mermaids to cure a supernatural illness” which is just–to use some of the dialogue choices therein–a “whole-ass” mouthful.
There are trigger warnings, notes on character’s preferred pronouns, and moments where it stops to present world-building explicitly, rather than through subtle spots in character interactions and conversations. “Sink Your Hookteeth” essentially breaks a lot of established rules for storytelling, and quite intentionally. It wants you to know it cares not for your structures and kicks them over like Betelgeuse in a model graveyard yelling “nice fuckin’ tree!”
This is especially effective during the ‘Little’ arc where Fallon explains her life, face, and friendship with Mordecai while drowning. The main characters are best fleshed out in this storyline as we learn about Fallon’s cleft palate, realization she is a trans female, and contraction of barnacle breath, a condition in the story that causes the mouth, trachea, and lungs to liquefy, leaving the afflicted to drown in their own blood.
While some of the character development is shallow in the early installments, “Sink Your Hookteeth” really sinks its teeth in–I’m sorry for that, really–by the time it reaches ‘Dare You’ and I look forward to reading more of this quirky indie horror comic. After all, we’re in the Halloween season, so make sure to check out Eli’s Patreon Page and give them some money. You can also buy her some coffee if you’re keen to.
[Edit 10/15: Edition title originally read #58, which was in error. Does anyone really care besides us? Nah. But I’m always looking for an excuse to write more y’all]