Welcome back, one and all, to The Webcomics Weekly! Do we have a set of comics for you. Almost alll are familiar, or by familiar creators, with the return of “Acursian” and another Linda Sejic story that’s a bit looser than her others as well as newcomer “Mad Magic.” Ah, but don’t forget about our continuing coverage of our two very out of season but no less spooky stories “Lost Nightmare” and “The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn.”
Let us know in the comments what you thought of these chapters. Did we get it right? Are there any new comics you’d like us to take a gander at? Think on it while you read the wonderful reviews from our intrepid team.
Updates: Fridays (on hiatus)
Written by John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman, and Erika Lewis
Illustrated by Beni Lobel
Colors by Peter Pantazis
Music by Matthew Brind
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
After so many chapters of “What is going on!?” it’s nice to finally have things moving, and it gets quite crazy indeed. Unfortunately, it still continues to raise a lot of questions while providing only snippets of hints at answers.
This is certainly an action-packed chapter, filled with bird-morphing goddesses picking bullets out of their bodies and fighting cops, or a side character suddenly revealing himself to be some kind of badass (the scene where he realizes he has to miss out on an orgy in exchange for his mission is a little out of nowhere, but amusing nonetheless). In true comic faction, most conflicts are resolved with violence, though it’s nice to see the characters actually taking action to further a tangible goal, rather than getting tossed about by forces beyond their understanding.
Beni Lobel’s art continues to be high-quality, with strong characters designs and nice detailing. There are some moments where it slips into an odd expression or pose, but overall it remains solid. As a webtoons comic, it makes good use of the online medium, presented mostly as a panel at a time read by scrolling downwards. This provides some good shots where we get a larger view of the scene, and it makes use of the blank space between panels for artistic effect.
Adding in music scores by Matthew Brind is a touch only achievable online, so they make good use out of it. While the score doesn’t always match up with the action in the panel, it still provides a good enhancement you rarely see in webcomics – the Barrowmans have assembled a strong team to come together for the comic, and the effort shows.
John, Carole, and Erika do a good job moving the plot forward at a fast pace. There are new twists and turns introduced, and a clever bit of thinking from the characters to pass on secret messages only their shared history could accomplish. However, the pacing may be its own weakness, as everything seems to jump around so fast that it’s hard to get a feel for the individual beats. Because it so quickly jumps around in both scenes and character positioning, the flow occasionally suffers.
While there are still some rough patches in Acursian, it’s not a bad comic overall, and it’s really picked up in this last chapter. Unfortunately, it has been on hiatus since the end of October, so it may be a while until we see where it goes from here.
Pages 5.16 – 5.25
By Julia K. (a.k.a. Miyuli)
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi
Now that is more like it! After a lukewarm update on the last review, “Lost Nightmare” delivers a succinct, yet powerful set of pages, at the ending of chapter 5. By focusing squarely on two characters – Boogeyman and Doll – and by finally shedding some light to the mystery that it the Sandman, the series finds firm footing once again.
As in previous entries, “Lost Nightmare” artist Miyuli became an expert at using color to focus on specific characters and to quickly define situations. Here, pages clad predominantly in black are contrasted by accurate use of bright pinks (for Doll’s meddling with memory cages) and oranges (to reveal the past interaction between the Boogeyman and the Sandman). Combined with very strong lines on facial expression, readers need nothing else to understand what is going on.Continued below
The reveal itself – which shall remain unspoiled on this review – is quite compelling and it manages to remove itself from the traditional tropes of purely good versus purely evil. Instead, it discusses how good intentions can lead to terrible outcomes, and how those usually associated with mischief can help others, even if on their unique way.
As the chapter ends, it indicates more time will be dedicated to further explore the relationships between the Boogeyman and the Sandman, and, in turn, the connectivity between their realms. It has been something the series has been leading up to since its beginning, and one that fans have high expectations for.
By refocusing its narrative on the main plot points and dominant characters of the story, “Lost Nightmare” once again delivers on the whimsical and suspense.
Chapter Three parts 11-18
By Livio Baggio
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli
“Mad Magic” is such a strange and fantastic find. Birthed from the mind of Livio Baggio, an Italian freelance artist, it reeks of charm as much as its protagonist reeks of three day old shower beers. The series has a wonderfully dark sense of humor that satirizes much of geek culture without distracting from its central premise. Joy Kaplan’s Hogwarts-esque backstory carries much of the current canon but never feels like an intrusion on the present proceedings.
These eight installments make for a great primer to the overall series, relying heavily on the supporting cast to whom Joy sells bags of magic, which they smoke. There’s an amusing stab at Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ “Mister Miracle” series that really spotlights Baggio’s sense of humor. This is a deceptively smart series, but it makes sense given its intelligent creator who holds degrees in political science and political sociology.
The art is also misleadingly simplistic, only occasionally stepping out to shine. There’s a polish to the minimalism as well. Characters feel distinct and recognizable, and the slapstick physical humor plays as well as it would in full animation. The over-the-top exaggeration of facial expressions really help to set this series apart from other webcomics.
As the “Interactive Storytelling” arc continues to play out readers should be sufficiently entertained by this cast of inept FBI agents, annoying fast food customers, and pretentious comic book stoners. “Mad Magic” has it all, or at least, all those things that I just said.
By Linda Sejic
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
Talking about “Punderworld” at this point is slightly difficult, as creator Linda Sejic has yet to codify things into an ongoing set of strips. Thus far “Punderworld” is more a collection and slice of life strips, in the truest sense. of her version of the courtship between Hades and Persephone in Greek myth. Originally this started out as a recharge project after getting through three chapters worth of “Blood Stain” (reviews of that comic continue next week.) As purposefully scattershot the presentation is, the various strips provide a nice example of Sejic’s sensibilities and fungibility of the digital comic strip. Besides, she’s made a logo banner, which makes it legitimate.
With this collection of strips being so slice of life, there isn’t much overarching narrative cohesion to them beyond highlighting core courtship. What comes through is Sejic’s comedic chops. Good physical comedy is evident in her early “Blood Stain,” here the comedy is more dialectic. Mainly Dad Joke level puns and double entendre, these are simple and highly effective. The core driver of the comedy is the dialog but it is heightened by sound presentation. As Persephone flirtily questions Hades about where else he shaves, we get a tight closeup of Hades untying one of his robes with the obvious implication. Only for the following panel to reveal a playfully bald armpit.
Sejic’s ability to connotate character through design stands out in the pantheon. Zeus has only shown up meaningfully in one strip, and I feel like I understand both that character and his role in the structure of the strip perfectly. She made Zeus the equivalent of Barney in How I Met Your Mother and all of this is due to a single strip. Her mixture of costume design, character acting, and mythic source, narrate the character in a matter of panels. This collection of strips, scenes, and ideas do a fantastic job of being efficient and teasing the reader for further adventure.Continued below
The collage quality of the “Punderworld” gallery on her DeviantArt page is freeing and a good example of the mutable structure of webcomics. Strips are put next to one off pictures that just the reader an idea of what to expect. One strip is technically a single panel, playing on the infinite vertical scroll, holiday themed one that is one of the more effective uses of the medium I’ve read in a while. Another strip is a mixture of flats and sketch with lettering. “Punderworld” is still under construction, but getting to see that is part of the fun of webcomics.
The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
By Tri Vuong
Chp. 46 colored by John C. Newton
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
Act 2 of ‘Stardust and Soliloquies’ is all about revelations: who are these character, what do they carry in their pasts, and how have they affected each other, with Oscar acting as the thread that binds them together. Last time, we learned about Edmund and Zon. The time before that, we learned about the island and Nora’s place on it. This time, we begin to learn more about Nora, the person, and how she came to be Nora, the ghost.
It is fitting, then, that the most interesting chapters, and parts of the chapters, are the ones that focus on Nora. The hydronaut’s plight and the idea of their lost humanity is an important one but it is quickly overshadowed by the return of Zon, the ectopus, who is now able to speak. . ..sort of, and the danger it presents. The way Vuong letters Zon is particularly eerie. The letters feel otherworldly and intense, always grating on the ears, as if it was buried beneath a layer of static and goo. The same goes for the blue that all these ethereal characters share; it is all at once a calming and frightening color.
Vuong’s panel structure still has that, made for the page, split into vertical, feel to it — there are an abundance of panels where you can see it was wider and has been split — but the content of those panels is doled out in a way that makes it easy to overlook. The one panel that got me was when Edmund and the hydronaut captain are standing in the water, silently. We’ve pulled back so they are fuzzy and small, but the shame is palpable in the hydronauts hung head. It’s a quiet moment in a set of chapters that are characterized by high energy action and thinking aloud, and that makes it all the more enjoyable.