Welcome back to The Webcomics Weekly!
I’m going to be real, I don’t really know what to write in this intro this week. Sometimes it be like that. Instead, I bring you your bi-weekly dose of “A Better Place,” the surreal return of a surreal review of a surreal comic “Mr. Boop,” and something new with “The First Night with the Duke”. Enjoy y’all.
A Better Place
‘Start Over’ – ‘The Place Outside’
By Harry Bogosian
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
Shit’s fucked and Hannah is ready to tear it all down and rebuild it in her image. . .again. While we never did get a full dramatization of the first time her naivete was broken, this is strikingly reminiscent of her rage in the nuclear war room. It does not bode well as this time she is older and while I wouldn’t say wiser, she is more aware of the complexities of the world, able to comprehend and analyze different aspects of it than when she was a child. She is also, perhaps, colder and crueler now. The anger and cynicism is deeper and more rooted, less easily blown away with imaginative solutions and easy answers.
Hannah is more dangerous than ever and the way Bogosian portrays this through her eternally bloodshot eyes is haunting. This is the collapse of what was and while Hannah may have learned from her mistakes, it’s clear she should not be the person to fix them. Or at the very least, she should not be the one to determine what needs fixing and how to fix it.
These eleven pages, not including the final Thanksgiving & Christmas pages, which remain a treat to read, are the last ditch effort battle to get Hannah to recognize that the way to make a better place is to stop trying to control everything. To recognize her own flaws. To listen, for a change. She cannot, and will not, and is powerful enough to close the eyes and mouths of those who dissent (Theo) in a particularly horrifying couple pages. *shudders* Skin should not move like that.
I’ll have more to say on the time travel — oh, did I forget to mention that? — next time but I wanted to commend Bogosian on how he depicts The First’s breakage of time and space. It’s not a new way of portraying it but the execution really made it feel like they were using and moving in dimension outside of time and the borders we place ourselves in in our minds rather than simply sitting outside the bounds of the panels. It looked and felt transgressive, like sharks under the water.
Sharks that were willing to sacrifice themselves to throw Theo back in time.
Book I: My Wife Is Betty Boop
Chapters: 11 – 20
By Alec Robins
Reviewed by Jacob Cordas
Betty? Are you there, Betty Boop? I have been gone for so long. And you never responded to any of my numerous faxes. I got lonely, Betty. Can you blame me? I needed the touch of a human and/or cartoon woman.
Basically, what I’m trying to say to you, Betty, my dearest, my sweet, is I’m dating someone. And yeah, she’s great and all. But she can’t compare with you. We, including Bugs Bunny, know how superior you are to other women but, unlike Bugs Bunny, I know that I can win you from Alec – even if it means putting him six feet under. Or maybe not doing that if that makes you uncomfortable. Whatever the preferred route to your heart is, baby.
Over the last ten chapters, I have seen you and Alec deal with a true danger, the-murderously-intended-but-not-capable-of-follow-through Bugs Bunny. But know, Alec ain’t seen nothing yet. I do not work with Alec at Subway, no. I do not see him on the daily. I do not need to admit to his humanity.
Nay. He is subhuman compared to me. If my girlfriend is to be believed, I am “pretty solid” and she “totally wasn’t texting [her] ex about [me].” Have you had “pretty solid,” Betty?Continued below
I know you Alec have begun being touchy and loving. I know he kisses you over the shoulder in an art style that I can only call sketchy sultry, a form that brings out both the cartoonish and the erotic of every person in the panel.
I know you sit there and say you can’t do better. After all, he wears a shirt that says he could never divorce you. But I have already reached out to my local tattoo shop and plan on getting your name and face emblazoned across my chest.
If my girlfriend (whose name I do me best to remember to say during sex) asks, you’re my long lost sister from Canada and you’re in a heart kissing me because that’s how Canadians show affection. I think she’ll buy that. I’d buy that at least and she tells me all the time, “No. You’re… smart?”
Bugs Bunny has threatened your “love.” He has made jokes. He has drawn weapons and barps. He, like the coolest kid in public school, smoked a cigarette in his Subway uniform. But when push came to shove, when his gun was cocked and when his ax was held over Alec’s head, he was able to be talked down.
I know better.
If hiding in a side room while writing this (so my girlfriend doesn’t find out about this deep and undying affection) has taught me anything, it’s that love can never be stopped. It just shoves more blankets under the bottom of the closet door so light doesn’t give its position away.
And honestly, I love the silly, ridiculous tone of the universe you exist in. I have nothing but affection and love for it. The world would be crass if not so affectionate. In fact, it’s a testament to the skill of the artist who brought you into this world that I keep wanting to read more about you.
I can sit here and pretend I only love you, but I love the artist who made this too. I need to look up who did this. I want to make sure I show them the same love I show you. And then I can kill Alec and marry you.
Give me one second.
The First Night with the Duke
Based on a Hwang novel by DoTol
Adapted by Teva
Illustrated by MSG
Colored by Sahye
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
It’s a day ending in ‘Y’ or well it’s a day – who knows during these COVID times – so that means Webtoon has yet another adaptation of a young adult sounding, female skewing, property! At least one thing is consistent during these times of trouble. “The First Night with the Duke” is an adaptation of the Korean comic by Hwang Dotol, and on the surface sounds fairly generic from it being another courtly romance strip to featuring the mysterious self-insert of a reader in not quite The Vision of Escaflowne style.
However, things begin to take a turn as the series begins to work through its Regency setting in the style of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The reader wakes up in the body of Ripley, who isn’t very important, she is an extra in the main plot of the novel-dream. Greeted with this sudden Groundhogs Day like freedom, she decides to live this new life of luxury and leisure, until she wakes up with the Duke who is described as if he were Regency Dorian Grey. What follows is a fairly episodic series of misadventures as Ripley tries to live in their anonymity and fails, resulting in a comedic play of genre and expectation.
The core concept of this strip is intriguing enough, but that can only carry you so far. The artwork by MSG and sahye is delightful. MSG’s formatting isn’t revolutionary but shows a keen eye towards composition and keeping a central reading line throughout. This formal restraint helps to heighten their plainly delightful line work that is heavily influenced by intricate shojo manga. To their credit unlike some old shojo manga, the variable line weighting that is applied throughout gives the images their feeling of energy and life. Line art in this style can often make color application feel a mixture of busy to unnecessary. Sahye straddles that line by largely sticking to vibrant flats that support the line work instead of trying to do extra work. It seems wild to consider but this and “Sin City” aren’t too far off aesthetically.
I was a little dubious when I picked this series to look at, however, it is another good example of how execution matters. There is a surprising amount of energy and play to this strip as Ripley reflexively works through narrative tropes to both pass and not get killed. The artwork in this series makes up for some stilted dialog at times and captures a similar energy.