Welcome back, one and all, to The Webcomics Weekly! As always, we have an eclectic collection of comics reviews for you to peruse. Joining us, once again, are our favorite spooky duo, “Lost Nightmare” and “The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn.” New arrivals come from all over, be it greco-roman characters in “Lore Olympus,” a shluby “everyman” in “Decades of (in)experience” or an always feuding brother/sister duo in “The Four of Us.” But what do we think of them all? Read on, maybe one will connect in unexpected ways.
Decades of (in)Experience
Prolong the Honeymoon – Prescribed a Dose of Perspective
By Alex Schumacher
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli
Alex Schumacher’s protagonist Luke is an everyman, if you consider the everyman to be shlubby, insecure, and a bit of an alcoholic. Which, for this reviewer, is quite accurate. Luke’s stumbling through life is documented in Schumacher’s “Decades of (in)Experience”, which became a full-fledged webcomic in 2018. The series could be best summarized as a beautiful mess. Schumacher’s cartooning skills are apt. The style is simple but has substance. Small details like using gray-tones to create the pattern on Luke’s boxers make the art pop from panel to panel. The line-work and character designs are also splendid. Each character is distinct from one another and they emote clearly with expressive facial contortions.
All of this visual competence is the polish on the presentation of the disarranged dishevelment that is Luke’s life. While moments like “Prolong the Honeymoon” and “Super-Villain Team-Up” shine with positive beats, there’s an underlying self-loathing that Luke himself acknowledges in the thought bubbles. In a sense, Luke is his own worst enemy. His intentions are good, but “Out of the Wild Blue Yonder” showcases his proclivity for blurting out the wrong arrangements of words at inappropriate times.
“A Prescribed Dose of Perspective” is the best example of Luke needing to be told hard truths in order to get out of his own way. As he laments to Mr. Morris, the obstacles that have prevented his work from being successful he is put in his awkward place by the response. “I managed to get the first integrated strip published by editors who still clung to Jim Crow. I wanted to quit a million times but I didn’t because I knew I was meant for this path. You are too.” Luke’s own difficulties pale in comparison to someone who truly had to fight to be successful. The only real gatekeepers for Luke are his own feelings of inadequacy.
This poignant bit is topped off with the trademark dark humor of the series. “If nothing else, ain’t no burning crosses lining your path.” “Decades of (in)Experience” revels in laughing at its protagonist’s shortcomings. We’ve all been that person who doesn’t feel like they are good enough, like they constantly screw everything up, and like life continuously rains crap on them. But the reality? Maybe we should all just invest more in umbrellas and galoshes.
The Four of Them
By Mai Hirschfeld
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
After passing on this webcomic initially, “The Four of Them” by Mai Hirschfeld seems to be growing into itself. The titular “Four” are Johnny aka Grillo, his sister Mariel, Gaby and Martina as they all try to get through high school. This is a solid setup, and the opening strip is quiet good. Hirschfeld’s use of gutter space to emphasize or deemphasize the sense of chaos at Johnny’s home, and how that is used for comedic timing is excellent. Their soft cartoony style walks a fine line between normal to subtle emotive responses to more dramatic manga inspired ones.
Where things falter initially is how this batch of strips is so squarely centered around Johnny. As the opening strip shows, he and his sister are in perpetual competition. Not in a mean spirited sense just one of those sibling ones. As someone with a brother that kinda petty jockeying for position reads incredibly natural. Johnny thinks he has a habit of coming in second compared to his sister Micaela. She beats him again by announcing that she is both attracted to women and brining her girlfriend by soon enough. Micaela coming out is handled nicely, and that isn’t the source of frustration for Johnny. He’s quiet supportive and chill actually. Except her girlfriend turns out to be the girl he has a massive crush on.Continued below
At this point things become hard to read and get through. Not due to any sort of technical art problem, Hirschfeld art is consistent and well done. The next batch of strips, from about 2-5, are just narratively repetitive as Johnny gets all angsty and mourns and can’t seem to move on despite multiple opportunities. With the promise of a ensemble series, leaving that stuff to percolate in the background and focus on someone else may have been a more engaging decision.
This is a feeling that comes through in the later strips as Johnny and Gaby go on a double date of sorts. Hirschfeld shows some solid chops at writing group sequences. Best of all the group sequence limited Angsty Johnny, he is still the POV for all of this but the constant presence is lessened.
“The Four of Them” gets off to a bit of a rough start but has begun to even out. Mai Hirschfeld is a consistent artist who uses the infinite canvas of Line well, able to make comedic and dramatic beats land easily. Hopefully it morphs into something more like the title suggests in the future.
Updates: Every Sunday
By Rachel Smythe
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
What is it about Greek mythology that makes it so interesting? At least half of my group of friends is well-versed in Olympian mythos, so it only makes sense that Lore Olympus would be a hit among them. This webcomic takes the story of Hades and Persephone, retold in a more modern setting and with plenty of drama.
The latest episode has Persephone starting her work in the underworld, where Hecate shows her the ropes. The imagery of shades working to record the lives of every living being is visually unique and a neat mythological concept. Treating the underworld like a business is an interesting take, and while I was worried that it would quickly take a turn for the “office romance with a big power disparity” trope, Hades actually has the maturity to know when to act as a boss.
Then Minthe shows up and the episode ends with a very awkward moment. Sadly, the webcomic chooses this moment to go on hiatus, so readers will have to wait for a while before they see where it goes from here.
Rachel Smythe’s style is very unique, using shades of a single color for each character in ways that symbolize their personalities nicely. Persephone’s pinkness stands out in sharp contrast to the dark and blue shades of the underworld, but occasionally other colors make an appearance. Everything is all very geometric in design, with sharp lines and clear shapes, save for the occasional ethereal form.
As a webcomic on Webtoons, it’s meant to be read by scrolling down. As such, we get a panel at a time, often broken up by lengthy spaces between them, ink blots, or speech bubbles. Though that also gives us some moments that show the enormity of the underworld, like when Persephone enters the library. It scrolls down from a swirling cosmos, complete with shooting star, to rows of whispy shades writing on lengthy red scrolls. It definitely has a distinct visual style to it.
The art style also gives us very expressive characters. The large shapes used to compose their faces give us their emotions clear as day. Persephone most of all, as she goes on an emotional roller coaster through her introduction to work in the underworld, but everyone portrays clear and poignant emotions through the style of the art.
Lore Olympus is a webcomic with a tone and style all its own. It retells and builds on the story of Hades and Persephone in a modernized and romanticized way, with all the trouble and twists that a story of its kind should have. Fans of Greek mythology will be engaged by this take on the mythos, while fans of romance will want to see where the story takes the characters next.
Also, Cerberus is a very good dog. He doesn’t appear in this episode, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Pages 5.5.1 – 5.5.8
By Julia K. (a.k.a. Miyuli)
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi
“Lost Nightmare” offers a short interlude from its main story, as creator Miyuli takes readers back to some years in the past, when the Boogeyman laid some critical strategies on his relationship with Sandman and his realm.
Despite being labeled as an interlude, it is anything but. This is, perhaps, one of the most revealing chapters of “Lost Nightmare” to date, with explanation not only about the nature of the rivalry between the realms of Dream and Nightmare, but also on the origin of key members of the core cast.
It paints the Boogeyman in a far more benevolent light that what had been originally envisioned from when the series started, and hinted throughout the narrative. It explains why certain events and situations have transpired in previous chapters. And it adds further nuances to relationships and what is truly at stake for these characters.
Drawings and colors are, unsurprisingly, beautiful. This time around, sobering tones dominate the page, only to relinquish control on very specific panels, where new elements are introduced, in sharp contrast visually, and aligned with what the story is calling for.
All in all, “Lost Nightmare” continues on a positive crescendo on this update and the previous one, as it clearly regains its focus to move the plot towards its endgame. It has been an engaging, powerful, and transformative to all characters involved. It brings readers in to an intimate look and take them forward along the emotional ride. Don’t miss it.
The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
By Tri Vuong
Chapter 53 colored by Irma Kniivila
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
Act 2 comes to a close with these updates, continuing our trend of splitting acts, and making me feel silly for not planning these out ahead.
While the sense that Act 2 has dragged on a bit longer than it should have remains, the revelations of Nora’s flashback more than make up for the pause in the greater story. It is clear, by this point, that the journey undertaken by Edmund and the Hydronauts is not going to end well. Foreshadowed throughout, but solidified by the end of chapter 53, at least one of them will be sucked down deep into the gaping, starving maw of Charybdis.
All is not doom and gloom in these chapters, however, as the flashbacks in Chapters 50 & 51 have a healthy dose of humor. It offers a welcomed respite from the action that preceded it while also developing Nora and Oscar more. The way they play off each other is so warm and inviting, despite the hostility in the actual conversation, making the departure from the flashback all the more saddening. We, just as the ghost of Nora, recognize the good times that have been long relegated to the past, lost and trapped within memories, and all the sadness that it brings. Will there be more revealed about the past? I hope so, because I want to see more of these two prior to their falling out.
Vuong’s art and coloring is just a solid as ever, with fewer panels that appear to be cut in half, instead utilizing the expansion of moments to show different angles of the same conversation. Kniivila’s coloring offers a contrast to Vuong’s. It is softer and deeper, capturing the beauty of the sunset and the varying shades contained within. And so, as the sun sets on our heroes, their final chapters await them, as they push farther down into the abyss.