Welcome back to the Webcomics Weekly!
It’s that time of year again. Time for spooks and chills, tricks and treats, Rocky and Horror, Pictures and Shows. In honor of the holiday, although mostly coincidental, our three new comics are of the spooky sort. One you will no doubt remember from before, when “Fantome Stein” graced our doors or when we took a synergistic trip to “Hell, Inc.” while the other is true-blue-new, a Younger Adult comic “Not Even Bones.” And, as always on odd numbered weeks, we have “A Better Place” and “Order of the Stick.”
What better way to spend the lead up to Halloween than with us, your best webcomic reviewing pals?
A Better Place
‘Home(?)’ – ‘A Safe Place’
By Harry Bogosian
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
Webcomics are. . .difficult. When returning to them as I am, it can be easy to look at pages with greater effort or larger updates, and lament the shifts and uneven pacing this creates for my artificial review blocks. Why are these sets of grayscale pages fewer than the early 5-pages-per-update ones? They’re certainly less intricate, though no less well crafted; in fact, I might go as far to say that these are more well crafted than those early pages as the panel to panel beats are stronger, more dramatic, and contain far more information in the little details such as Theo eating cereal from a sunny “Monday” mug. What, then, is the difference?
Well, what else with webcomics — the frequency of updates.
Early on, the five pagers were queued up, and then dropped irregularly, sometimes twice, sometimes once a month and sometimes once every three. Now it is a regular update, once a week, and so, all exchanges being equivalent, the number of pages have shrunk. The same is true for the reduced coloring, which is used to perfect effect as a highlight point in ‘Home(?),’ ‘The Clock,’ and ‘A Safe Place.’ Why isn’t it one page a week, full-color? Time, these things take time and when you’re not making the money from the project and must spend your time elsewhere, something, somewhere must go.
In my previous review, I worried that the story was moving a bit too slowly. While the pace has not accelerated, the more methodical pacing pays off with the revelation that Theo is still alive, much older, and living in a strange time-locked subspace with his and Hannah’s parents. What this means for the story and for Nina, we’ll have to wait until next time to find out. Wild speculation is the only correct means of discussion at this point, thanks in no small part to Bogosian’s fantastic page enders. It reminds me of a song but I can’t remember the name. Regardless, it keeps bringing me back and on that, you can rely.
Chapter 4, Pages 24-28
By Beka Duke
Reviewed by Jason Jeffords Jr
“Fantome-Stein” is a webcomic you click on for its unique, Gothic style art, then find yourself staying for its amazing story; that’s meant in the best way possible. From the beginning pages of “Fantome-Stein” the art was fantastic with Duke having a recognizable style. As each page released you can see Duke’s improvement, and artistic changes.
Past aside, let’s move on to the now.
Duke shifts the focus back on Raoul as he wakes up from his stupor. It’s been a few updates since we’ve seen him, so his return is greatly appreciated. More-so is the comedic movements he brings to the pages. With Raoul still feeling out of it, Duke portrays him as a bumbling, overacting character from a silent film. Duke’s art really sells this overacting, as each movement is hilarious, yet realistic. These pages do play off more as comedic relief as the pages before hand were heavy in drama and emotions.
Not much plot driving is showcased in these pages, other then Raoul litters. That’s not cool. But pages 24-28 feel more akin to a breather/filler story. It’s not bad, but Duke could’ve focused on Raoul, kept the comedy, while driving the story more. A plot break is nice for pacing reasons, but feels off here.Continued below
The art throughout “Fantome-Stein” continues to be fantastic, even when Duke doesn’t portray anything other than two characters horsing around. Yes, I made that joke because there is a horse in these pages. Do I feel bad? Neigh.
Side note: It took me way too long to notice the play of words in the title. And, it was by accident I picked such a spooky, Halloweenish Webcomic for the week of Halloween! Yay coincidences!
‘Seasons in the Abyss’ through ‘Hats, Crushers of Emotions’
By Jeff Martin
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli
Spooky greetings, webcomics fans. As this will be our final installment before the greatest holiday of the year, I thought I’d keep with the theme of reviewing something horror-related as I did with “Sink Your Hookteeth.” And what’s more horrific than working in an office? So I’m revisiting “Hell, inc.” The comic is centered around Doug, an employee of the titular Hell, inc. who spends much of his time trying to avoid his boss B.L. Zeebub.
When I last reviewed the strip Doug had been saddled with Sara the intern who he had “delegated” the responsibility of to a lower level employee which led to them all heading out for some candied sheep. Thus begins the saga of the annual candied sheep riot as everyone in Hell’s favorite vendor stand sells out. In the underworld, it is easy to imagine how important small comforts are to its inhabitants.
Visually one of the best gags of this arc has to be ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ that sees Doug aging into a bearded skeleton as he waits in line before being revitalized when he is finally called next. The real strength of “Hell, Inc.” lies in its humor but at times Martin’s art can leave something to be desired. The boldness of his lines can often make panels feel a bit too cramped and lacking in both detail and fluidity of line work. ‘Seasons in the Abyss,’ however, highlights the potential of his visual style when it is at its best.
Beyond this there are some great gags in an homage to a panicking Kermit the Frog, ghosts of the internet browser history, and poison fart monsters not really making the buses of Hell any worse than those of Earth’s major metropolitan cities. Another favorite moment is in the image I chose for this week’s column. The filth mine worker in the foreground of the panel who picks up an arm before realizing what it is and dropping it gives me a chuckle, especially since I did not notice it as the worker with candied sheep lung is the focus of the three panel sequence. It is yet another subtle but effective gag within a series packed with lots of jokes.
“Hell, Inc.” is a great series and one that could use your help to continue, as Jeff has to do a lot of commission work, which obviously impedes his work on the strip. So make sure to head over to his Patreon page and give him some money. Otherwise you’ll be haunted by the ghosts of his browser history. And no one wants that.
Not Even Bones
Written by Stephen Lamm
Art by Alai Cinreo
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
“Not Even Bones,” an adaptation of the Rebecca Schaeffer novel of the same name, is listed as a ‘Thriller’ on Webtoon. It isn’t a thriller in the more spectacular visceral sense of the word – a style that marked the genres shift more towards action oriented spectacle. I wouldn’t call it a psychological thriller, at least not yet, there is certainly room for that aspect to grow as the twisted mother daughter relationship is explored further. The opening episode, and three overall, feel like one of those 90s tense films thrillers that slowly built the thrill through a slow accumulation of tension until you as audience needed some sorta release or else you’d collapse. The opening chapter makes things appear one kind of twisted, a mother-daughter duo that harvests/autopsies monstrous creatures in South America, but slowly reveals itself to be another even more twisted story. That slow revelation is that slow accumulation of tension until you need a release, the end of the third episode and the lack of new ones to continue reading.Continued below
This process of tension is achieved through Alai Cinreo’s art and their sticking to simple and effective panel style and a couple of plainly good evocative images from imaginative angles. For a series with such a gruesome subject matter, if this wasn’t based on a YA book it would feel at home coming out of Skybound, Cinreo’s art is surprisingly cartooned. Their figure work for the mother and daughter has slight exaggerations to them, it isn’t too far from Shane Glines sensibility. It comes down to how everything is lit with these low pale lights that just covers everything in a sickly coat. With black gutters these pale light sources become even more prominent and reinforce how off and grungy and sick it all is. From the very start you know something is off. And than as that tension from the sick lighting builds and builds, they release it with these beautiful vibrant outdoors urban sequences that make good use of the vertical scroll as a mechanism to transport the reader through a space.
In the subsequent episodes the strip moves beyond being a very effective mood piece into something more concrete as the abusive relationship between the monster hunting mother and her scientist daughter come into play. This strip echoes Hannibal in many ways from its mood but most definitely the abusive relationship at its core. There is an elegance and efficiency the creative achieve at showing the readers the nature of this relationship. Cinreo’s body language in these sequences are what sell them, writer Stephen Lamm’s narration provides the context but their art is what sells a line about an unspoken promise being made. It is very messed up, but very well done. In many regards this is a very well done comic on a craft level about a twisted subject matter.
Order of the Stick
Pages 166 – 170
By Rich Burlew
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi
For this latest batch of strips from “Order of the Stick,” series creator Rich Burlew doubles down on the jokes that poke fun at classic RPG tropes, but leaves asides the more political and social jabs of past updates. This leaves the experience a bit more unbalanced, but entertaining regardless; it is just that this series had gotten so good at juggling those elements that it now felt a bit uneven.
The cast finally reaches a resolution of their bandit camp problem, with everyone coming together to defeat the evil sorceress that leads the pack. If one can imagine all the nonsensical components of turn-based combat on tabletop RPGs, this one has it. The repetition of useful spells. The inevitability of defeat when combating much higher levels opponents. How certain characters will be most surely useless… unless someone simply breaks all the rules around them. Readers who’ve enjoyed these games will have a blast looking at them from this angle.
In terms of resolution, readers can likely foresee how the fight will pan out, if not by a surprise or two. This series is not know for its massive plot structure, but it is still disappoint that it became predictable at the end.
All in all a solid update for “Order of the Stick,” but not one of its best. Surely the balance of in-game and social jokes will return, as the next step of the party’s journey begins.