Welcome back one and all to The Webcomics Weekly! January is nearing its end and the winter months by me are in full swing. Hark, is that a wind, buffeting the shudders? Or is is a ghost, a spirit of a Lost Nightmare, a Soul on Hold? Or is it just your Overly Gamey imagination, a result of too many Strange Tales? You can Batch Reject them all. . .but in the corner of your eye, you see something that shouldn’t be there but when you turn, it is gone. What is it? What is missing? Will it ever return? And why do you taste metal shavings?
Editors note: On a more direct note, our coverage of “Bad Machinery” is on pause while the regular reviewer is away and, as such, we will be down to 5 reviews for the time being. It is not an ideal send-off but we felt it important to mention. Thanks all!
Dec 10, 2018-Jan 14, 2019
By Garey McKee
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli
Garey McKee bills “Batch Rejection” as “eclectic fancy magazine cartoons without the fancy magazine.” A more apt description would be tough to make of this odd little series.
Visually, it absolutely does look like the cartoons you would find in magazines at your grandmother’s house that never made sense to a young child. The images weren’t visually striking or engaging; no one was fighting, or throwing food, or a fat orange cat kicking a dog off the counter. Then, there were the captions. Whether they were related to politics, lifestyle, or current events they were mostly beyond the bounds of the understanding or interest of a child. “Why do grownups read this?” you might have muttered to yourself at one point.
These factors that made this style of comic confusing to children of my generation are exactly what makes “Batch Rejection” work for us as adults. The art style is still the same, but the content within speaks in a sardonic matter to life as an adult in the 21st century.
A makeup counter attendant telling a customer she can get rid of her frown lines by logging off Twitter really stands out in this most recent collection of installments. The juxtaposition of classic magazine aesthetic against such uniquely modern content just works. The humor is very 2019, but the visuals allow “Brand Rejection” to stand out from other current series, by virtue of its vintage appearance.
If there’s anything disappointing about reviewing this webcomic, it is that it does not have a fancy weekly magazine in which to exist. I would very much look forward each week to seeing situations like a woman telling her doctor she needs “more of those pills that help me barely keep it together.”
Pages 4.19 – 5.05
By Julia K. (a.k.a. Miyuli)
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi
“Lost Nightmare” starts to feel like it is heading towards its final arc and climax with this update. Such a sensation can be felt both from the story itself, but also how visually some aspects are coming together for a crescendo.
Readers of this column will recall how this series uses colors to clearly define characters and chapters, with one tone usually dominating the others as it focused on a particular individual or narrative. This time around, the same choice is flipped on its head, as multiple vibrant colors clash together at the same time that the same characters are joining forces for the tail-end of the story. It works really well and it pays off for those who’ve followed “Lost Nightmare” since the beginning.
In terms of the plot itself, it is interesting to see some characters step up to meet the challenges ahead. Everyone seems to be going through major motivational boosts and be growing excited as Ink nears the realm of Dream. Doll, Jasper, even the foxes are gearing up for what lies ahead.
Miyuli continues to show her chops on character design and world building, especially on how the moon is gradually reflecting the danger of the world below it. The first glimpses of the land of Dream is also inspired. While it offers all you would expect from this sort of dimension – sharp yellows, round buildings, soft textures – it does have an underlying creepiness, of something being out of place. And for a series so zoomed in on retelling roles and reaffirming that not all is what it seems, it fits like a glove with everything told so far.Continued below
“Lost Nightmare” continues to impress. All of the plot threads seem to be coming together, introduced characters are growing and reveals feel imminent.
Updates: Every other Tuesday
By Max and Aldebaran
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
There are some tropes and behaviors familiar to anyone who plays RPGs, whether they’re massively multiplayer and online or tabletop games with a close group of friends. These are the recurring elements that players recognize either from their own behavior or those of their friends, and “Overly Gamey” will call them all out.
Rather than an ongoing story, “Overly Gamey” is a collection of short strips with a different gag. There are some recurring designs, although anyone can pick and read any page without missing a beat. Each situation and joke is easily recognizable to anyone familiar with the fantasy game genre, mixing in elements like kicking down doors, treasure rooms, and arena fights.
Of these five latest pages, my personal favorite has to be the characters finding all sorts of swords in a loot room. There are some amusing designs, such as a sword made of feathers, and the way it quickly cuts from a tiny-sized “cosmic fairy blade” to a titan’s short sword that dwarfs the characters is a great contrast. Using a regular, run-of-the-mill sword as a punchline for its lack of quirkiness, thereby making it unfamiliar, is a great way to end the gag too.
Max and Aldebaran clearly know their gaming cliches and gamer habits. Who hasn’t been sent to an arena for a fight to the death and just thought “Cool, more loot and experience points,” after all? There’s a sense of love for the genre that comes through in the jokes.
The artistic design of the comic is enjoyable; it’s got enough detailing in the designs to stand out while still maintaining a cartoonish design. The color and lighting work involved do a good job adding depth to the scene and the designs as well; that’s one of the bigger strengths of the webcomic’s artwork.
The characters are also nicely expressive, which adds well to the humorous moments. The little “woo hoo” the king gives when his little snow globe castle lights up, for instance, adds a lot of humor to the moment. Similarly, they do a good job making cyclops monsters expressive even with just one eye (and an eye that’s really just a small circle at that).
While “Overly Gamey” might not be a masterwork of storytelling, it’s a fun read with plenty of good gags that gamers will enjoy. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, it’s a fine one to read.
Soul on Hold
By Austen Marie
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane
Things could be going better for Ayden, as it turns out making pacts with supernatural entities beyond your understanding in a hurry is not the best course of action. Everything is supposed to have a silver lining though, for now that means meeting the witchy Jill and finding out he is “special,” but what that fully means is still up in the air. Despite the doubt and confusion, things are starting to get a little more concrete for “Soul on Hold” on a narrative level.
Creator Austen Marie does something I haven’t seen much of on other webtoons and other domains, they give the background just a little bit extra. Nominally it is like most traditional gutter spaces in that it is primarily black or white, but Marie adds just enough smoky effect to the background that it becomes a good backing element and livens up the strip. These amorphous color plays also make for a nice guide for the readers eye as they scroll down the strip.
This batch of strips is a bit of a come down from a brawl in prior strips and leans more into the visual strengths of the strip in general. Marie doesn’t go “big” in terms of scale the way someone like Sanford Greene in “1000” or JaviDraws in “Young Blood” does, with their use of wistful, nostalgic, establishing shots. Panels and their perspective in “Soul on Hold” tend to be in a solid medium range allowing for a nice tight view of the characters and expressive facial work. That expressiveness is what shines in Austen Marie’s art for these three chapters, as Ayden goes from shock to depression and back again.Continued below
With revelations about what the voice inside his head “is,” things also get a turn to the more comedic. Things were already a bit humorous, but circumstances give the Host’s voice a more biting sarcastic edge. Her lettering of the voice walks the fine line between expressive and overdone, but the spacing and pacing of its barbs give the strip a new sense of energy. The pacing of comedy beats in this batch of strips, in general, was excellent.
Overall things are starting to pick up in this spooky story.
The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
By Tri Vuong
Colours on Chp. 38-39, 41 by John C. Newton
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
The Hyrdonauts step into the spotlight as Act 1 of ‘Stardust and Soliloquies’ comes to a close. I seem to do a poor job of planning these reviews, as nearly every time an act comes to a close, we end up straddling the two, which prompts a different sort of review. Something more comparative and focused on the structural changes vs the aesthetic and story changes.
Yet, this time, they all merge into one, providing a seamless transition between the modes of the comic, creating a firm break from the narrative and tone of Act 1, as evidenced by a change in focal character, while still furthering the themes and questions of it. The introduction of our two new characters, Nora and Raymond, is handled with more care than previous ones, infused with a history of horror and loneliness by the narration, while her actions illuminate a playful side to her and at the same time belie a greater sadness.
Already in the two chapters we’ve seen, Nora has shown a greater range of emotions and characteristics than any of the supporting characters in the first two arcs. The Hydronauts too, even though the, at this point presumed history behind them is intentionally shrouded in a mystery that makes their dispositions appear more otherworldly, setting them apart from Oscar and Nora and Edmund.
Newton has also settled into the comic’s world, turning the landscapes into portraits and giving the whole world a painterly sheen. There are moments where the use of space is less than ideal, in particular when it appears that panels were cut in half in order to fit the webtoons format. However, this is offset by Vuong’s ending shots, which sit on contemplative moments, establishing the mood more thoroughly.
The lighthouse at the end of chapter 40 is long and distant while the smallness of Nora against the deep blues and blacks of the night sky over the vast ocean tell us that Act 2 will be different. It will be larger but also more intimate, a sign of growth from Vuong as a storyteller and reassurance that this arc will be better paced than ‘The Last Solider of Somme.’