Welcome back, one and all, to The Webcomics Weekly! Soon, we will be old enough to have a mid-life crisis. In fact, it has already begun, as we reach the end of our coverage of Miyuli’s haunting and gorgeous “Lost Nightmare.” It is a cause for reflection, on the wild and wondrous world of webcomics, but you’re not here to read the dear editor’s words. No. You’re here for the comics and the reviews there of! Do not fret, for we still have our “Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn” and the reappearance of “Axed.” Joining them is “Lavendar Jack” and the lengthy but apropos “Everything is Going to Be OK,” a statement that sometimes, is all you need.
Schedule: Wednesdays and Sundays
Written by Shren Patel
Illustrated by Emi MG
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
The combination of fantasy and the modern world can sometimes create bizarre combinations. That is, of course, a good thing. Take, for instance, the latest chapters of “Axed,” wherein protagonist Axelia temporarily becomes the Chosen One of her temp job in a call center, and must stop a machine rebellion. Yes, call center agents being replaced by machines takes on a more medieval tone.
Then there’s the daily life of a would-be monster slayer and her forest creature roommate, who hasn’t quite grasped certain aspects of society. Like when holidays are. Or what rent is. And apparently their apartment is haunted.
And of course, being a substitute teacher for a school of elementals. Yes, it’s an elemental-ry school. The pun is made all the better when Axelia has to stop a rock elemental from playing with dangerous paper by giving him a pair of scissors instead.
While the puns are fun, the real humor in the comic comes from two places:
First, the combination of the mundane and the fantastic. Seeing things like a call center go to war (with, apparently, a vampire as one of their call center agents), mysterious forest beings learning the concept of rent, or a amorphous squid monster working as a teacher are humorous in concept and visuals, but the way it’s just a normal part of life makes it all the funnier.
Secondly, there’s the timing. Shren and Emi pace out the delivery and reactions so nicely, utilizing the space the online medium provides, that the timing comes through perfectly for comedic pauses and deadpan delivery.
Take, for instance, the moment where Axelia returns from getting fired off-screen to find her house on fire. One panel has her pausing to take in the situation. Scroll down a little and the house ghost walks through the wall. Pause. Glance about. Then slowly back away, taking three panels to fully leave. The awkwardness of the moment comes through perfectly, and the comedic timing is great.
Emi MG’s artwork is cartoonish and simple, but very solid. The linework is clean, the character designs are great, and the expressions she gives characters really sells the humor. The coloring is bright, but we still get some nice moments of shading, particularly when Axelia is trying to be dramatic.
If you want a good, humorous modern fantasy, give “Axed” a look. It’s clever and humorous, with strong comedy driven by the characters and the world they live in.
Everything Is Going To Be Okay
‘On Making Decisions’ through ‘The Odd Girl Out’
Updates: Twice a month
By Dani Jones
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli
“Everything Is Going To Be Okay” is a comic aimed at “figuring out life one drawing at a time.” Humorous and touching it is, as creator Dani Jones puts it, “part autobiography, part self-help, part philosophy.” Jones touches on subjects of faith, family, and feminism as well as emotions like self-doubt, discovery, and discipline. That’s a lot to cover for one small webcomic, but Jones handles her first five installments deftly, with clever visuals, painful personal revelations, and heartfelt affirmations.
One of the most striking installments for me of “EIGTBOK” is “Where the Title Comes From” where Jones talks about her involvement with church and her relationship with God. I admit to always having been a bit confused by LGBTQ individuals who identify as Christians given most denominations generally antagonistic attitude toward anything that is not hetero-normative in this country, though that has been changing in recent years. I, myself, while being a cishet male, do not identify as Christian, though much of my spiritual beliefs are in line with the Christian faith such as belief in a higher power that I call God, the influence of God in our lives, and a creation of intelligent design.Continued below
So when Jones explains to the audience how prayer helped lead to the creation of this strip it resonates deeply with me. She speaks to God and God speaks back, giving her the guidance, encouragement, and strength that keeps her going when she is addled and defeated by rejection, fear, and defeat. Everyone deals with this world in their own ways, but Jones’s deep sense of faith brings a tear to my eye, and perhaps makes me rethink my own views of God, the universe, and everything else.
Jones also creates wonderful visual metaphors within the series. “On Making Decisions” offers up some of the most whimsical and effective of these as Jones’s own fears and trepidations are used to weigh down scales and build up walls. This representation of the things that hold us all back make them more real but also something that can be knocked back, or in the case of walls, down. It is a wonderful bit of positive encouragement for Jones and the audience, and seeing her batter that fear in the final panel is an emotional payoff to the breakdown Jones gives of the shackles we all put on ourselves at times.
Working on this column has opened me up to the work of many artists I might not have otherwise found and while I may say it often, “Everything Is Going To Be Okay” is easily one of my favorite pieces that I have reviewed thus far in Webcomics Weekly and it is no wonder Jones is a New York Times best-selling illustrator.
By Dan Schkade
Colored by Jenn Manley Lee
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
“Lavender Jack” feels new, and yet is clearly derived from several source, mostly the tales Zorro and to a degree the revolutionary bent of “V for Vendetta.” That is before things turn into something Pink Panther-esque team up between our titular vigilante and Detective Ferrier. Creator Dan Schkade is clearly playing with many old forms but infusing them with an emphasis on class by setting the story in a nineteen hundred and something fantasy version of France gives “Jack” enough novelty that it doesn’t’ feel like a tired retread of crime-vigilante stories of the past.
This strip takes its time waiting several entries before we even see “Jack.” Instead we experience the world he exists in, which is a corrupt oligarchy of a chosen few and all those that support them. Schkade rides a fine line between over the top parody and eccentric but still recognizable. That line is mediated by the gap between his dialog, which can get a bit melodramatic with lines like “I am in the pique of anxiety and she is absolutely abusing me!,” and their line work. The line work is expressive and cartoon to some degree but clearly realistic. Everything about the world the art creates is understandable but just slightly steam punky.
Schkade shows excellent craft in the pacing of the strip and size of gutters. Panels are both big enough to contain a scene unto themselves and never spaced to far apart that the infinite scroll creates annoying friction. One panel in the third episode is this beautiful example of using that scroll to morph an image, as Detective Ferrier and their minder Honoria Crabb descend a staircase the scroll pushes them from the background to the foreground and down the stairs seamlessly. The technical craft in this strip makes it worth the read.
The other part is the diverse cast, it’s nice to see a fantasy version of Europe that doesn’t default to white. Detective Ferrier, an equivalent to like Hercule Poirot, is this butch woman of color and clearly smarter than everyone else. Schkade has yet to make anyone feel truly dumb, the Mayor is a sap but he’s kinda lovable. Crabb is co-opted by the oligarchy but not dumb. The identity of Lavender Jack and how they operate is another good exercise in character.
“Lavender Jack” is filled with ideas and has sound episodic construction making it an easy an enjoyable read.
Pages 8.21 – 8.24
By Julia K. (a.k.a. Miyuli)
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi
And with that, it is finally over. The confrontation between the Sandman and the Boogeyman is settled as “The Lost Nightmare” wraps, and it has ended in a fashion so consistent with this series that readers should be pleased.
As an overarching story, “The Lost Nightmare” has always been about challenging pre-conceived notions of those two archetypes, the functions of dreams and nightmares, down to their visual representation. Artist Miyuli has managed to infuse each character with duality, and her designs have chosen to be striking for each of them, so they are easily recognisable but, at the same time, show signs of that duality.
On this final chapter, Jasper and Ink finally reunite and understand the roles they must assume going forward. At that stage, a finally challenge of duality is presented, but of a different kind. That of either respecting what your parents have done before you, versus what you want to do differently from them. The series is wise to present it not as a “versus” but rather as a “it can also be done this way.” It is poignant and smart at the same time.
The final three pages of the series, focused on leads Jasper, Ink, and Doll are perhaps some of the most beautiful of it all. They crystallise the story well and those characters, and leave readers with a sense that there is much this trio will be doing, even if away from their eyes.
A beautiful series, consistent from start to finish with what it set out to do, “The Lost Nightmare” should stand as a solid example of how webcomics can be, and how the format of gradual updates works well for a comic of this nature.
The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
Updates: On hiatus
By Tri Vuong
Chapters 77-80 colored by Irma Kniivila
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
‘The Ghost of Witch Lake’ is, bar none, Vuong’s strongest story thus far. Balancing multiple ongoing plot threads and weaving characters’ journeys together, the story has plenty of room to breathe and expand without feeling like it’s going off on an unrelated tangent, throwing off the pace of the narrative. This more confidant pacing is apparent in chapter 76, where we see bits of Maddy’s life as remembered by her father, Kenny, before they become intermingled with events that never happened, revealing the dreaming state he found himself in between chapters, and the moments that haunt him down to his very soul.
From there, the chapter remains measured in order to show just how far Kenny will go to try and get his daughter back, the ironic distance at play working to build tension around every one of his actions. There is no question of whether or not this will work, we know the impact the removal of the candle has on the island, and because of this, we are can only watch and hope that he will do the right thing. . .or that someone will find him before the town is destroyed.
Throughout chapters 76-80, (11-15 of ‘The Ghost of Witch Lake,’) Vuong imbues the story with the right balance of humor, horror, pathos, and TEARS SO MANY TEARS. Vuong’s use of the cliffhanger, too, has been very effective in these chapters. Nothing goes unrewarded but he leaves room to speculate and wonder. So, when Walter’s father returns from the dead before Sophie, Walter’s mother, the ambiguity in that moment of “is this good? Is it bad?” and “Why has he returned?” We also get some backstory for Walter, tragic, of course, which is handled with the same level of subtlety and depth as the rest, pulling at your heartstrings without remaining too long in one moment, creating a cumulative effect of a short life that, were it not for our prior knowledge of the supernatural, would be a much sadder tale of young grief.
Irma Kniivila returns again to color many of the chapters, allowing both Vuong to tighten up his linework and for Kniivila to really make the colors shine and the darkness shimmer. There is a level of noise to all the night scenes that really make them come alive, not to mention the eerie presence of Dr. Corpus. What his deal is, I’m sure will be revealed, just as we learned that, perhaps, Oscar’s troubles began in the Alaska Incident, when the doctor surley went mad.