• Isolation - Featured Reviews 

    The Webcomics Weekly #31: Webcomics at the Break of Day (4/16/19 Edition)

    By | April 16th, 2019
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Welcome back, one and all, to The Webcomics Weekly!

    It is said that a person can only know themselves if they spend the time to evaluate their own thoughts and circumstances. This is, at its heart, what a memoir is and what the autobiographic genre seeks to do. This week, we have one such comic, among four others that all touch on identity and the mind. One is introspective and funny, with Freelance Frolicking. Another is meditative, cutting to the heart of Isolation. The third, which may be familiar, is about the trails and tribulations of chasing a goal, one which sometimes comes with catching them all. The last two, the Strange Tales and Lost Nightmares, you all know. They tell us about what we fear in ourselves and in the ideas that are put upon us.

    Of the stories we hope to tell about ourselves.

    Frolicking Freelancery
    November 4, 2018 – April 1, 2019
    Updates Infrequently
    By Hannah Spikings
    Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli

    Producing a webcomic is no easy job. Creators are just like any other human beings in that they need to consume foodstuffs, preferably in the confines of proper shelter, all of which costs money. Cartoonists need stable incomes, which often do not come from the strips they care most about. These take time to make, time in addition to their primary earning gigs. For freelancer like Hannah Spikings, trying to produce “Frolicking Freelancery” on a regular basis proved to be too taxing.

    In November of 2018, Spikings posted ‘Announcement’ on the Tapas page for “Frolicking Freelancery.” In it, she explains her workload, losing some of the drive for creating the series, and that she has begun work on a new project. I’ve seen a number of these types of installments in webcomics when creators need to step back or abandon a strip all together, but there’s a great deal of sincerity in Spikings’s presentation. “Frolicking Freelancery” is, as Spikings herself puts it, simply a “slice-of-life comic,” but you can feel just how much of herself and her life she put into it.

    The previous entries featured Spikings finding a newfound confidence in her art and her body, all of which was delivered with a visual simplicity that also carries a certain flair to it. ‘Announcement’ most especially shows Spikings talent for sequential storytelling. The image of Hannah peaking out from behind a graph as she explains the breakdown from number of followers to how much money is actually earned is one that especially stands out in its cuteness. There’s a bittersweet feeling in remarking about how competently a creator has crafted a strip stating that they will be taking a break or potentially even ending the series.

    Thankfully, “Frolicking Freelancery” did not end. In April, Spikings posted two musings on the process of moving and how we never really finish unpacking. I hope that Spikings continues working on this comic, even if only sporadically. There’s nothing deep to it, but the creator finds inventive ways to present some of the mundanity of everyday life; and I would enjoy reading more of that, even if not every day.

    Isolation
    Chapters: 1
    Schedule: Finished
    By Rebecca Reynolds& Hugo
    Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

    This week I’m looking at a short comic illustrator Rebecca Reynolds and her friend Hugo did as part of a short story competition. Their piece looks at the duel nature of modern social media as both an isolating and connective construct and mental health. The duo didn’t place but put it out as a webcomic and I’m glad they did. True to the short fiction nature, the comic is short at only four pages but manages to pack a lot in with strong page design and delightful color play.

    Lettering is an underrated aspect of comics, the position isn’t as flashy as writer or artist but it helps sell a book just as much as the latter. The role of lettering in sequential art tends to be the top level bridge between the prose and visual side of comics. Here that sense of fusion is taken to the extreme as our anonymous protagonist and narrator speaks to the audience through not-Twitter posts. Immediately the lettering is discordant, boxes take the form of faux-Tweets set against the physical reality of a big city. The disconnect between the physical and digital worlds is further extended by the withdrawn perspective Reynolds employs on the first page. That sense of separation informs both the narrative of the post and the final panel highlighting the protagonists precarious position on the roof of a tall building.

    Continued below

    The tone and content of the protagonist thread is going towards a bad place, but things do look up by the end of things. The fulcrum that turn comes on is mediated by the smart phone they are typing on, a device that connects the physical and digital world. The arrival of their friends messages is beautifully highlighted as a literal ray of sunshine, but also comes as through in the page design. Pages 2 and 3 have a claustrophobic feel, the opposite of the first page, that tension is building until it’s released by the pink bow on her wrist and the page opens up. Reynolds design that page, page 3, around surrounding it with panels but still keeping that final panel open and leading to the brighter, hopeful, final page.

    That final page completes the beautiful transition from cold blue to a warm pink. The strip ends where it begins in a mirror of the first page, but different. The content of the new thread is more upbeat and the pink, being a warmer color, gives everything a hopeful air. This comic isn’t an epic, but it shows off what good page design and craft can do in a matter of pages.

    Lost Nightmare
    Pages 7.1 – 7.15
    Updates: Completed
    By Julia K. (a.k.a. Miyuli)
    Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi

    With all the main characters and pieces converging on the same place, “Lost Nightmare” really starts to read like a big ending and culmination of all the plot elements weaved in so far. Sandman, Boogeyman, Ink, Jasper and more are all now deep within the realm of Dream, where the true nature and intention of key players stand revealed.

    While Miyuli’s art remains as strong as ever, with sharp facial expression and colouring providing much of the series’s feel and personality, it is on dialogue and plot evolution that this latest chapter shines the most.

    For too long has “Lost Nightmare” hinted at the duality of Sandman and the Boogeyman, without providing much in terms of explanation. This is now rapidly changing as the two entities confront one another, and while there is still more to be shown, it becomes apparent to the audience the roles each of them is taking.

    Since the beginning the role reversal of good and evil on these dynamics has been a highlight of the series, and it certainly remains the case this time around. Dialogue is carefully chosen not to reveal everything at once, also playing with the duality of Ink himself, missing from these pages for a while now. Surely, his eventual reveal and the grand part he will take in the scheme of things will be a big pay-off for “Lost Nightmare” at its end

    By delivering on its earlier promises of examining the nature of heroes and villains in a fantastic landscape, “Lost Nightmare” is fully aligned with its audience expectations. And by sustaining such a beautiful, constant art throughout, it does so on a visually appealing package.

    Mokepon
    Pages 96-100
    Updates: Mondays and Fridays
    By H0lyhandgrenade
    Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant

    The drama intensifies in “Mokepon” as George confronts Atticus on stealing the Pokemon from the Pokemon Fan Club. Up until this point, it seemed like George had been fully tricked into going along with the ruse, so the reveal that he’s figured it out and is actively trying to stop Atticus is a nice twist.

    These last few pages have primarily been the two arguing over whether or not it’s right. It seems for a moment like George might start to understand, as Atticus explains he needs to steal Pokemon to get Dragonthing, his Charmeleon, back from Team Rocket. Instead, we get a powerfully dramatic moment where George calls him out with a “You’re… disgusting.”

    So George grows a backbone, swearing to stop Atticus. We know he’s not the greatest Pokemon trainer, Atticus knows it too, but declaring he’ll keep trying and trying is a powerful moment for a character who had, up until this point, primarily been the overly-happy tag-along.

    The comic brings up a good moral dilemma. Atticus is the central character, he’s the one the readers have been following, so they feel his loss with Dragonthing’s theft and want to see him get her back. At the same time, George has a point, and even though we’ve been given plenty of reasons to dislike the Pokemon Fan Club, they do still clearly love their Pokemon. Just because we don’t like them doesn’t mean they’re deserving of losing them. It’s a great scene, and a tipping point for the comic.

    Continued below

    H0lyhandgrenade has been testing out some experiment with digital inking, and the results have been great. The lines are solid and thick, and there are plenty of clear details that were easy to overlook before. Perhaps most important in these scenes are the expressions given to the characters – Atticus gets this great mix of “tired of this shit” and “seething anger,” while there’s a clear sense of betrayal in George’s determination.

    “Mokepon” is nearing a turning point in a particularly dramatic arc, and it comes through in the dialogue and artwork nicely. Where it goes from here, one can only guess, but it’ll certainly be more than just beating gyms and catching Pokemon.

    The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
    Chapters 62-64
    Updates: Wednesdays
    By Tri Vuong
    Reviewed by Elias Rosner

    And so, ‘Stardust and Soliloquies’ reaches its final conclusion, wrapping up this seafaring adventure with a bang. These final three chapters offer a welcomed bit of closure to the Hydronauts and their ship, further placing it in a mystical realms that sits adjacent to our own, rather than an unexplained phenomenon with technology at its roots. Chief among this bit of closure is the conclusion to Edmund’s arc.

    As with ‘The Last Soldier of Somme,’ Oscar is not the main character, he is merely a facilitator of the adventures and along for the ride. Yes , the comic is in his name but, just at the Ice Cream Man is not the protagonist of each tale in “Ice Cream Man,” so too is Oscar trapped to be revealed through interaction and observation. Edmund is the focal point of the narrative, symbolically and literally, as his actions helped form Charybdis and his guilt pushed him towards Oscar and towards this adventure. Now, he is one with the ship. Once again a captain, once again happy and fulfilled.

    Vuong pulls out all the artistic stops for these final three issues, allowing for a pensive conclusion that meditates on the nature of our dear captain’s mental state and opens the door for more questions about Oscar and the Ectopus that calls Oscar’s head its home. I particularly like the way he draws the sunsets over the sea, the destruction of Charybdis and the reformation of the Cassiopeia via the metal junk fish. Those fish are, perhaps, my favorite visual addition to the comic.

    Now that Edmund’s chapter in life has come to a close, and his new one awaits him on the horizon, it is time to move onto another adventure. One that closes out season 1 of “The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn” and brings us to the first chapter from after I started covering it here. Next week begins — and ends — ‘Doppelganger.’


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