Welcome back to The Webcomics Weekly! It’s a slightly smaller column this week, as Memorial Day in the states gives us a bit of time to relax and cool down. But, we still have some reviews for you in the form of our continuing coverage of “Lost Nightmare” and “The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn,” joined this week by “Magical Boy Basil,” a plant based magical alternative, and “Hell, INC.” which sounds like my brain every time I try to think about media monopolies.
Read on and I hope you find something you’ll love.
Intern Stuff through After-Afterlife
By Jeff Martin
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli
Creator Jeff Martin’s version of hell isn’t exactly something never-before-seen. The idea that the most popular Christian view of purgatory is far less terrifying than the daily grind of working in an office building while not wholly original, is still hilarious though. Central protagonist Doug’s life, or rather afterlife, plays out like an eternal first act of Office Space but instead of TPS reports Doug processes human souls.
Martin creates an atmosphere that exaggerates the daily lives of many of us. Dodging co-workers while sneaking away from the mundanity of his work for his favorite snack, Doug escapes to a line that seems longer than the great thereafter. Visually, Martin’s style works perfectly. Doug’s escape from his boss into an elevator populated by wailing souls is a fantastic visual gag punctuated as he opines that “the rest of us suffer in silence.”
The treatment of Doug’s trainee intern is also humorous, as the staff attempts to determine just what this human office denizen can eat. Glass chips, a jar of melted plastic, boiling hot water, Sara is really put through the ringer here. As she works toward the front of the candied sheep line, and toward becoming a full-fledged demon, “Hell, INC.” is certainly a series to keep an eye on.
Pages 8.11 – 8.20
By Julia K. (a.k.a. Miyuli)
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi
In some ways, “The Lost Nightmare” reaches its plot conclusion during this chapter. True, there are still some pages ahead, but the ultimate realization of what is happening, and what is the true connection between the Boogeyman and the Sandman is revealed.
It is a satisfying revelation, and quite innovative as far as conflict goes. It speaks to the very essence of this series – that of flipped roles and avoiding the usual tropes and expectations – so in that way it rings absolutely true to what came before.
Where “The Lost Nightmare” fails, similarly to past criticism on this column, is how it chose to abandon a protagonist halfway through the story in favour of others. While some chapters ago that seemed more like misdirection rather than choice, at this point in the narrative it becomes clear it is something deeper. Not that the ending is bad itself – it most certainly isn’t – but it could feel hollow for those readers rooting for the character of Ink specifically.
Art remains as beautiful as ever, being the true consistent thread of this entire series. Characters, backgrounds, colouring effects, they continue to paint the whimsical effect this story called for. And on the more dramatic, conclusive moments, it adds an extra punch on how transformative it feels.
“The Lost Nightmare” has been an interesting series to review for these past months. It certainly is a story I would recommend for younger and older readers. The final update will be the last of the story, and it is with excitement that I look forward to what Jasper, Ink and the crew will do at their sunset.
As the title suggests “Magical Boy Basil” is a male led webcomic inspired by the Magical Girl genre from various anime and manga. Immediately it has a couple of things going for it, a queer male lead and cast overall, and an aesthetic that I’m surprisingly nostalgic for. The opening 10 pages waste little time in just throwing the reader right into the thick of it. That expediency means they might layer on one too many dream levels, but it gets you from an opening page that wouldn’t be too far removed from the start of a Kingdom Heart into fighting monsters with the click of a mouse. It’s all a lot to take in but at least Basil is as confused as we are. One second he’s being saved by a cute boy the next that person literally turns out to be the Boy of His Dreams.Continued below
Rebeckah Murray’s line art is clearly inspired by various mangaka and the overall post-2000 sense of cartooning, but there’s just an extra width and lack of sharpness to it at times that doesn’t quite work. In these moments Murray’s line work falls somewhere in between too many and not enough lines. Due to Hackett’s solid color pallet the simple line work stands out fairly well, but it also makes things read a tad flat. This come through on the first panel of the second page in the contrast between the straight sharp lines of the background architecture and Basil’s figure, which is hindered by an awkward three quarter perspective. His right shoulder just kind of goes off at an angle and the way the lines of his t-shirt come down to develop the torso makes the anatomy seem off.
Meanwhile the monster they come across, a demonic amalgam of metal called a Tangle, and the White Knight Aaron and their increased overall line work makes everything about them look more coherent. The Tangle is basically a nightmare of metal and lacking in reality is allowed to just be monstrous on a sort of id level. Aaron on the other hand due to his armor is forced into a more consistent character sheet. Murray can due detal, the ink pen into a sword is a well done reveal and overall example of detail work.
This gives the comic a unrefined quality that works in its favor, at least for the first 10 pages, as it just brims with chaotic energy. The mystery and all that is at play is familiar to genre fans, but it moves at a good pace and the interaction between Basil and Aaron is cute and effective. The opening to “Magical Boy Basil” does pretty much what you’d want out of any comic in general.
The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
Updates: On hiatus
By Tri Vuong
Chapter 71 colored by Irma Kniivila
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
The town of Witch Lake is a mysterious locale. Small, quiet, and isolated, with all the hallmarks of a town on the verge of becoming a ghost of its former self, it makes for the perfect setting for this arc of “Oscar Zahn” and its exploration of grief. Vuong takes his time during these five chapters to really make the town feel complete, with history and local gossip and recent tragedies, and to reflect this in the characters that inhabit it.
We learn a little bit more about Maddie and her father, and why his taking of the candle is the catalyst for the main conflict of the arc. By delving deeper in “The Ghost of Witch Lake’s” cast members as well, chapters 71-75 continues developing the personal stakes at play and further places Oscar as a minor cog in the narrative, leaving room for character development on the part of the townsfolks. In particular, these chapters develop Maddie’s father into a sympathetic antagonist: pitiable and misguided, driven by his grief to lose more than just the daughter who died of exposure on a warm summer’s night.
Vuong’s pacing of these chapters is very strong, relying heavily on close-up aspect shots overlaid with narration or dialog to establish the varying moods at play. In one chapter, this is used to reinforce the somber tone of the graveyard and to build the tension, that is then released when he pulls the camera back, revealing the changing winds and darkening sky. In another, he uses this to tell us more about the environment that surrounds Dr. Corpus, informing us of what he carries and how he chooses to live.
One other thing I love, and mention a lot, is how the coloring compliments and heightens the emotions of the art. The deep pinks and reds and oranges really shine when placed next to the more regular colors of fall turning into winter in the Pacific Northwest. Both Vuong and Kniivila do this well, although Kniivila’s coloring has a greater use of gradients and shading, giving chapter 71 a slighter larger depth of field, which in turn brings out the cartooning more. It’s a little touch but a nice one.
“The Ghost of Witch Lake” is progressing forwards, with the pieces moving around the board in such a way that it’s hard to tell just what’s coming — all we know is that it won’t be pretty, and it won’t end happily. However, as these chapters make clear, the humor won’t be lost, only softened and subsumed as things get colder and more trying.