Sunday, August 22, 2004

6th Leg: No Rest For The Wicked

After the last leg at Saturnalia, I ventured out of Keenspace and into the uncharted regions of webcomic-dom ;) I feel like a traveller who's going into uncharted country for some reason...



Comic: No Rest For The Wicked
By: Andrea L. Peterson

Genre and Setting: Traditional Fairy-tale

Art Style: Manga, Greyscale, Inks

Is About: Princess November, who since the disappearance of the moon, is unable to sleep. When a mysterious beggar woman tells her that the only cure for her insomnia is finding the missing moon and releasing it, November runs away from her impending marriage and sets off in the quest to find it.

Website: http://www.icarusfalls.com/wicked/
Frequency: Thursdays
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
Wow!

More purple again, but the main page is done in a gorgeous split page look. Navigation on the left, and a lovely dreamy fairy-tale rendering of what I presume is our heroine.

Like most indie webcomics, the comic isn't on the main page, but there are 'latest page' links for easy access.


The Concept:
No Rest for the Wicked tosses several well-known fairy-tales (Little Red Riding Hood, Puss-in-Boots etc.), into one coherent story. Princess November herself is obviously the princess from The Princess and the Pea.

The idea of taking several well-known characters from different stories and throwing them together isn't exactly new. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (The COMIC, not the @#$@%@$ movie!) did this, so do a number of other other movies and books (Shrek, anyone?) This kind of setting is sometimes a risky business, because it usually requires pre-knowledge on the part of the readers to 'get' the story.

But if done correctly, this kind of story can be incredibly good, because not only do you get a good story, but you are assured that each of the characters involved have their own interesting backstories which lend a depth otherwise unattainable in their characters.


The Art:
After the dreamy and gorgeous front page, I was expecting the rest of the comic to be all dream-like as well. I was slightly disappointed to see it was harsher inks and greyscale, but the disappointment only lasted a page, because the art was quite pretty in its own way.

Like I previously mentioned, the art is done in a manga-style. Unlike the crisp lines and correct porportions of Saturnalia, Andrea's art style is much more 'loose'. This is not a bad thing, but the way, because it gives the comic a more unrestrained and expressive feel. Very much in keeping with the fairy-tale setting. The eyes do strike me as huge... (I haven't seen eyes that big since Cardcaptor Sakura) but I am happy to say after the initial surprise, my mind just accepted it and I never thought any more about it. All in all, Andrea stretches the porportions, but that woman makes those porportions work!

(BTW, you'll notice when I'm awed by a fellow female creator's work, I start referring to them as woman. I'd do the same for the males, if not for the obvious connotations that would bring *rolls eyes* )

I love the landscapes and backgrounds. Instead of going for all-out realism, the scenery is, for the lack of a better word: 'fairy-tale like'. Simplified, Ever-changing and a bit abstract sometimes, but gives you room for imagination.

Also, a salute for the little details put in, like the varying sizes of the frogs here.


The Writing:
Like the Malaysians like to say for all things superlatively good: Best!

I've mentioned that the concept for the comic is risky if the audience don't know already the fairy-tales involved, but Andrea overcomes this by providing a short explanation of the characters as they are introduced. These introductions, I might add, are never boring and never break the flow of the story. In fact, they seem to enhance it.

The time flow is not presented in serial order as the story jumps to and fro, but it is never jarring. The foreshadowing in the story is good too, and doesn't give away too much. I also have to give a thumbs up to the dialogue. Thank god it isn't the cheesy fairy-tale speaketh frequently found in some other attempts at this genre.

All in all, what I've seen convinces me that Andrea is a gifted storyteller.


Problems:
Nothing much. If you want to be nitpicky, the schedule is a bit slow, but there's an update notice service available.


Overall:
I love it! This is another find indeed!

The story epitomises everthing in the fairly-tale genre: dreamy fantasy and romance, all with chilling threat of something macabre underneath it all.

I highly recommend this one.


The Next Leg:

The Links page for this comic is a perfect model of how link pages should be organised. A little button showing off the art style on the left, and descriptions on the right. YES!

There are a lot of familiar faces in the linkslist, but I'm going to look for something new if I can.

The last link on the list caught my eye because if its distinctive art style. Flatwood may be another Keenspace comic, but it looks extremely interesting and different. The description is interesting as well:

FLATWOOD -- A young man wakes up with a fragmented memory in a nightmarish place that's both familiar and alien. Seriously creepy and a bit surreal; leaves you wondering what the heck is going on, and eager to keep reading and find out.


I guess I'll make a quick trip home to see what I've missed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

5th Leg: Saturnalia (Backtracked)

If you recall, in our last entry, there were no comic links from the site, so I was compelled to backtrack to the links page ofDiety Permit (third leg) and pick another link. In the end, I narrowed the links down to two possible comics, and decided which one to take by flipping a coin.



Comic:Saturnalia
By: Space Coyote (Mysteeee-rious Pseudonym)

Genre and Setting: Sci-Fi, Futuristic, Cyberpunk

Art Style: Manga, Inks, Greyscale, sometimes color.

Is About: Sysreq, a loud-mouthed, hot-headed police officer who works for the city of Ampersand. While struggling to handle his personal problems, he inadvertantly stumbles across something that might shed light on why the humanoid androids in the futuristic city keep 'commiting suicide'.

Website: http://saturnalia.keenspace.com/
Frequency: Sporadic, to quote the site's own words.
Availability: Free

------------------------------------------

Edit 19/08/2004: I've been asked to take down the review.

To fill you guys in on what you might have missed; it was a glowing review and I was very very very impressed and delighted with Saturnalia.


------------------------------------------

The Next Leg:
A quick visit to Saturnalia's Links page (YES! Descriptions!) comes up with a lovely bunch of comics I've never heard of. The desciption for No Rest for the Wicked immediately catches my eye.
Based on various fairy tales. Very whimsical and fun to read. Nice, unique artwork, excellent writing.

Other than the magic words 'fairy tales', this is a independently-hosted comic, which gives it an edge because my last 5 comics were Keenspace ones. Nothing against Keenspace, but one can't stay in the same continent forever ;) . I don't want to end up like certain people, who live in the same country throughout their lives, and assume everything elsewhere should conform to them, and expect other people to know everything about their country yet display breath-taking ignorance about anything foreign. (People who think Malaysia is a province of China, or that it is next to Portugal, yeah I'm talking to you!). Oh, and I'm ranting now... whoops. Sorry.

Anyway... time to go abroad!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

4th Leg: Twice Destined

Comic: Twice Destined
By: The Loser Hero (Pseudonym, well duh)

Genre and Setting: Fantasy

Art Style: Manga, Pencils, Greyscale

Is About: Esher, a mysterious girl who seems to be a prophesised doombringer, and Celia, who seems to be the futuristic reincarnation of Esher. Both are locked in struggles in worlds and lives that do not want them.

Website: http://twicedestined.keenspace.com
Frequency:Erratic. Sundays, sometimes multiple pages
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
Well, the website is... black. And I am greeted with a fairly pretty rendering of an angel and a girl as the comic. The tag-board on the right seems to be filled with positive comments, however, so this should be good.

Website design is spartan, but at the time of this writing the navigation menu does not work. *frustrated clicking at void links* As there are no comic links on the main page I forsee some problems for me in the near future. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here, so...


The Concept:
Two interwining stories told by alternating chapters. The idea of the reincarnation in webcomics is quite rare, and although I'm not a big fan of the 'prophesised doombringer' dohickey and the neglected rich child setting, having both of them as part of the same thing is certainly something new.


The Art:
Variable. Coming on the heels of another similar manga comic, there's always the tendency to compare it to the previous one. In this case, the art of Twice Destined is sometimes good enough to go in a Clamp book, at others times, rather rough and the porportions drift off a bit.

There's a lot of fanservicy art in this comic. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it's equal treatment... but Twice Destined does seem to have a terrible amount of it ;) But one thing I found highly amusing was that in the various nude scenes in the comic, the unclothed characters for some reason seem to have no trace of genitalia whatsoever. And it's not that the characters in the world have different physiology or anything, as this page here illustates.

Don't think I'm demanding explicit pictures or anything, but I am a firm believer that if you're going to show nudity in your comic, at least have the decency to do it properly and believably. If you can't bring yourself to draw it, either don't or hide it... either with scenery or clothes. Do you know how traumatising it is to young readers who grow up thinking men have Ken-doll crotches only to find out they don't?!

And stop laughing. I'm serious here, you.

I should also make some mention of The Loser Hero's masterly use of camera angles, stunning establishing shots and beautiful backgrounds. There are too many 'fight' splash pages for my taste; I'm more of a 'get down to the story' kind of girl. (Fight scenes are great, but spending several full panel pages in succession is a bit too much for me.) No denying however, that most of the fight pages do look good, and the use of perspective in the comic is impressive.

All and all, the art is pretty good, although variable. There are times when it looks worthy of Tokyopop, and at others it feels like it's off and there's just something wrong with it that I can't quite put my finger on...


The Writing:
One hell of a convoluted story. Very interesting and complicated, obviously well-planned out in advance.

I have a gripe with the characters though. Some of the main characters, and the inconsistent Celia in particular, just don't seem to come off as believable to me. One moment sweet spoiled child, the next this gracious little lady who doesn't take much offense at being punched in the stomach by a guy who's supposed to be her rescuer, then a non-squeamish surgeon the next.

On the other hand, a few of the secondary characters are incredibly realistic. *SPOILER* Celia's mother, while showing a rather odd lack of apprehension at finding a naked boy in her bedroom (Most Mums, including mine, would throw a fit), does a very believable mother-sheilding-child-from-daddy act, while the enjoyably detestable Sister Agatha ranks as one of the most believably hatable 'villians' I've seen in a while.


Problems:

FILLERS!!!! I think Twice Destined could give Megatokyo's 'Sad Girls in the Snow' a run for their money with their 'Sexy Exam Studying' filler strips.

Fanservice is fine, but when there's too much of it, it does ruin the enjoyment of a comic. The erratic schedule probably doesn't help the filler strips any either.


Overall:
Twice Destined seem to be a pretty good comic, with a nice story concept and art but... I'm sorry to say it's not my cup of tea.

I do hate not being able to leave with a positive glowing review, but despite everything, the comic somehow does not appeal with me enough to be a regular reader. Still, like I said, it's not a bad comic, so it's probably more a question of personal taste.

So, the best way to judge is to read it yourself, really.


The Next Leg:

As I mentioned earlier, there are no comic links on the main page, and the links page does not seem to be linked. So looks like I'll have to do my first backtrack all the way back to Deity Permit's links page and choose another comic from there.

This poses a problem. Alex and Ilia I have done already, while I have snarkish feeling I shouldn't review Fallen Angels Used Books, because knowing the creator personally, I won't be able to do a fair job. Alex and Ilia was hard enough as it is. Jack is a thought, but I think I've seen a review of it on other review sites before. I'm already fan of Loxie and Zoot, so that leaves Nishichi 27, Saturnalia and Treading Ground.

The description for Treading Ground doesn't seem like what I'd like:

A hilarious strip about a guy, his rather sucky life, and his nerve-wrackingly illegal relationship with the 16-year-old "girl nextdoor..."

So looks like it's between Saturnalia and Nishichi 27. I'm not sure if Saturnalia has been reviewed somewhere else before, but I'm so tired at this stage I'm just going to leave this to chance.

I have a coin and I'm going to flip it. 'Heads' it's Saturnalia. 'Tails' it's Nishichi 27.

*flips coin*

Heads. Saturnalia,here we come.

3rd Leg: Deity Permit



Comic: Diety Permit
By: Soap Committee (Pseudonym, obviously)

Genre and Setting: Humour, Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Alternate-Reality, Present Day

Art Style: Manga inks, Greyscale, Occasional Guest Colour

Is About: Rika, a girl who doesn't seem to feel cold. On a walk on the cold Hawaiian beach, Rika is kidnapped by a mysterious woman who believes that Rika is 'infected' with something that is responsible for her condition.

Website: http://pele.keenspace.com
Frequency: Erratic. Generally Tuesdays, but sometimes other days as well. Has an update-notice service though.
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
Wham!
On arriving on the site I am greeted by an apology-for-lack-of-updates filler comic with a picture of a manga girl... a pretty well-done manga girl... but it looks like it's done in MSpaint. I didn't think such things were possible ;) . Still, not a very auspicious start, although it could really be just bad timing on my part.

Note inserted later: The lack of new comics seems to stem from computer problems, so looks like it IS bad timing on my part.

Website is simple but pretty, with some good use of space, although there's a lot of black and blue... but really, I shouldn't be one to talk ;)


The Concept:
Is pretty unusual and intriguing... and water-based. The idea of a cold Hawaii and an underwater hospital is pretty cool. So much more cooler is the whole 'cold disease' idea. Thumbs up.


The Art:
Damn, that woman can draw! Very pretty traditional manga-style art at that. The lineart is skillful and so is the use of the grey gradients and screentones. I am particularly impressed by Soap's skill at anatomy, makes me wish I could draw the human figure like she does.

In the beginning, there was a distinct lack of backgrounds in the comic, and the characters seemed to be floating in a white space most of the time, but later on she amends this error, and when she draws backgrounds, she draws backgrounds! I especially admire Soap's use of screentones and pattern fills. Unlike most comics, they blend with the art instead of standing out like sore thumbs.


The Writing:
Confusing and unorganised in the beginning.

During the first half of the comic I was quite confused to what was going on as the storytelling was rather choppy and jumpy. However, about half-way through it started getting interesting, although when the flashback came I had absolutely no idea it was a flashback. The writing does improve considerably and shows more planning as the comic goes on, and by the end of it I was quite absorbed in the predicament of Rika as the whole comic began to form a coherent story.

The characters are a rather flaky bunch, and sometimes act rather incomphrehensibly. As with most mangas, you have your slapstick chibi moments, then your serious brooding moments a few seconds later, which can sometimes be a bit jarring.

But it looks like there's a really interesting story comic coming up, and as the story flow becomes smoother, I think I'm going to like it.


Problems:
Other than the aforementioned initial choppiness of the story, the comic updates erratically and s-l-o-w-l-y. There's a update notice service available, so that does help things a little, but thank goodness the fillers and non-comics are kept to a minimum.


Overall:
I kinda like Deity Permit, but there really isn't really enough of it out yet to be able to judge properly. All in all I think it's interesting, and although the erratic schedule means that though I won't be a regular reader, I will be checking back once in a while to see what happens.


The Next Leg:
There are no webcomic links other than the Keenspace NewsHack (NewsBox) in the main page, so to the links page we go.

There's a nice list of links on the links page, and glory be: descriptions! I love links page that have descriptions, it makes my decisions so much easier.

A lot of the comics listed are pretty well-known but one at the bottom seems interesting. The description for Twice Destined runs thus:
Don't let the nun-fanservice throw you off. This is an amazingly-drawn story about two women in different ages of the world, with their own trials and terrors to spare.
I've not heard of this one before, so it sounds like a good candidate as any.

Note: I realise that the three comics I have visited so far are all Keenspace comics and this looks to be another one. What can I say? I'm trying not to review comics that have been reviewed (usually popular ones) before, and the Keenspace community IS tight so they tend to link one another. Still, I'm not targeting Keenspace in particular, it just happens to be that way.

So anyway, next stop: Twice Destined!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

2nd Leg: the N00b



Comic: the N00b
By: Gianna Masetti

Genre and Setting: Gaming, Fantasy, RPG Parody

Art Style: Cartoony inks, alternates between colour and grayscale

Is About: A Newbie (N00b)'s adventures and interactions with the gameworld of Clichquest.

Website: http://www.thenoobcomic.com
Frequency: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Variable but reliable.
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
Well, to be honest, I wasn't very impressed with the N00b when I first saw the page. The website itself is unbeautifully spartan but functional, although the tables could use some cell-padding *hint hint*. Despite my dislike for Comic Sans, the use of it as the main font seems oddly suitable, for some reason.

The art seems mediocre. Not bad, but following in the wake of Alex and Ilia,it suffers in unfair comparison. I almost wish I hadn't chosen the N00b in the previous leg of the journey, not because the comic is bad or anything, but I can tell that this seems to be a young comic, and I won't be able to give it a just review because I'm only seeing the beginning.


The Concept:
A newbie player (the N00b) starts off on Clichequest, a new Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game (MMPORPG). This comic is a parody of the RPG genre. Not, a particularly original concept, you'll have to admit, but given the title of the comic, I should have expected it.


The Art:
Like I said earlier, cartoony, as in newspaper-strip cartoony.

All that said, the art is quite competent in its own way, and while unimpressive on first glance, a second look reveals that Gianna is more skillful than her comic art suggests. Sure, the art is simplistic, but this seems to be more of the stylistic preference, as her anatomy is spot-on, and she carries off drawing monsters, rats (and a few other things that you don't realise are hard to draw until you do them yourself) splendidly.

The backgrounds for the N00b are plentiful, simple and suitable. They also blend in quite well with the character art. The colouring is also quite passable: skillful and tasteful use of simple gradients, no ugly artifacts... and a lot of subtle little details.

There's nothing very flashy or attractive about the art, to be honest, but it just works for the comic.


The Writing:
Oh the funny!!!
This is where the comic shines, well and truly... I rolled my eyes and thought "Oh no, not other RPG gaming comic" when I read the first page. By page two I was laughing my head off.

Gianna seems to have a wicked and cheeky sense of humour, and she spares us none of it. The best part of her humour is that it seems to be everything we've ever privately thought about and while playing RPG games, only they've been said out loud. From silly character class screens to sly pokes at Diablo 2 and every other RPG that makes animals drop loot, the N00b had me snickering and laughing most of the way.

The dialogue emulates that of online games, and hence is a hodge podge of the hated 1337 and role-playing jargon. Very realistically modelled and believable. The story is your run-of-mill RPG run-though, but the jokes and slapstick humour makes it one hell of a fun ride.


Problems:
As a regrettable Diablo 2 Battle-Net ex-addict, I know all to well the fun and frustrations of playing a MMORPG. However, anyone who doesn't play RPG games will probably not understand most of the jokes and RPG terms (level, PK, steal kill etc) and most probably wouldn't enjoy the comic.


Overall:
I was pleasantly surprised to discover I liked this comic.

I'm ashamed to admit I almost judged the N00b by it's cover. How wrong my initial impression was! Reading the comic was such fun that I was genuinely sorry when I came to the end of the short read.

I was wondering why Rodrigo Pin bothered to link such a young comic on his main page. As it turns out, his linking was more than justified. :)


The Next Leg:
At the bottom the the main page of the N00b is a set of links. There's a bunch of popular comic like Elf Only Inn and 8-Bit Theatre. However, most of these comics have been reviewed by other sites before, and nothing on earth save for Hard's permission and blessing will convince me to do one of Sexy Losers, so I'm not touching those.

This leaves the list of Keenspace comics. Amongst those Diety Permit stands out. I have a vague memory of glancing over it when it was in its very early stages, but I haven't really read that comic for almost a year.

Looks like time for a revisit.

1st Leg: Alex and Ilia



Comic: Alex and Ilia
By: Rodrigo Pin Nitto

Genre and Setting: Real-life Humour, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Futuristic

Art Style: Halfway between cartoony and realistic. Main strips are hand-drawn, Sprite Thurdays and in-betweens in Flash or original sprite art.

Is About: Alex,a 16-year old human boy who is married to Ilia, a lizard-like alien who happens to be a space mercenary.

Website: http://alexandilia.com.br
Frequency: Weekly, and very reliable.
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
The website is beautifully and professionally done. Every single thing about the design is made with the comic itself in mind. From the intriguing Flash symbols that become the navigation menus, to the stunning colour scheme... the site itself is a work of art.

The Concept:
Charmingly original. It's a mix of day-to-day humour and as the story goes on, what seems like a whiff of high-speed space adventure.


The Art:
Pin's lineart is gorgeously done, and consistently done in a style that's somewhere between cartoony and realistic.

Though absent in the first few pages, the colouring for the comic is lovely; the water-colour style presents a kind of dreamy world which suits it perfectly. The Flash art Pin produces is also gorgeous in its own way, it's hard to decide which I like better.

Like someone else aptly described, Alex and Ilia is just 'damn purty'!


The Writing:
The first chapter, which provides us with a picture of Alex and Ilia's domestic life, is admirably well-written. The jokes are funny and downright adorable.; you do get fond of the odd couple very quickly.

However, I don't quite like Pin's technique of plonking us in the middle of the story. When reading I tended to have the uncomfortable feeling that I missed out on something earlier on... kind of like I was reading a sequel without reading the prequel. Of course, this is just a preference, and I realise that Pin is obviously going to expand on this part later on, but it's still slightly irritating when the story moves s-l-o-w-l-y.

The second chapter (Money Matters) seems carefully planned, handling a topic (not having enough money) that a lot of other people shrink at touching. The latter part of this chapter seems to be heading towards a sci-fi adventure angle, and promises to be very interesting as several new characters are introduced.

All in all, the writing is interesting, and Pin seems to know how to tell his story the way he wants it.


Problems:
Too many fillers, as this self-depreciating sprite Thursday notes. Personally I'm not much for the sprite thursdays either. The sprite comics themselves aren't so bad, and the sprites themselves are original, but gosh darnit, they tend to pop up in the middle of the story and this annoys me to no end when I want to get down to the meat of the comic, if you know what I mean.

There are slight translation and spelling problems (inappreciated, concil etc), and sometimes the phrasing of the dialogue feels weird, but generally the comic flows smoothly. The speech bubble layouts are also sometimes rather confusing.


Overall:
Alex and Ilia is an incredibly charming and refreshing comic... I love it! I just wish Alex and Ilia were updated more frequently than 'weekly'. I want more... :(


The Next Leg:
On the left hand side of the main page of Alex and Ilia is a list of webcomic links.

I'm very tempted to pick White Hydra, but I've already reviewed WH back in May in the Keenspace forums, and it's too soon to do it again, so no go.

I'm torn between It's About Girls and the N00b. However, Willie G's comic has been reviewed by The Webcomics Examiner recently, and I've been hearing a few whispers about the N00b lately, so looks like I'll be heading that away for my next leg!


Till next time,

The Journey Begins: The Rules

Well, this is the first step of my (not so great) journey through webcomic-dom.

The first thing I should do is, of course, explain what this whole thing is about. What I'm aiming for with this journal is to have a nice collection of webcomic reviews, but unlike other webcomic review sites there are out there, I'm going to have a different system of picking which webcomics I review.

The system goes like this:

  • I start off from my own website, The Jaded, and pick another webcomic which has been linked from either the main or links page.
  • I will then go to that comic, read it, then review it.
  • The review is then posted on this journal.
  • I then pick another comic link from the links or main page of that comic, proceed to that one, and repeat the cycle.
  • Every cycle of this completed process will be called a leg of the journey.
  • If any of the comics I chose does not have a links page which contains comics I haven't reviewed yet, I will backtrack to the previous comic and pick a link from there.
  • I might revisit a comic I reviewed earlier if it comes across my path again and if I'm requested to, but generally there should be a long interval between reviews. Long as in, a year or two.
  • I will try my best to always pick comics that other review sites haven't reviewed before.
  • I will not have a numerical score system for rating the comic. I will simply go by boolean values: whether I like it or not.


Note: Although I try as hard as possible to be fair in my reviews, I do not pretend to be some impartial judge of all webcomics. These reviews will probably be biased by my own opinions, and you're welcome to disagree on any aspect of it as long as you act rationally as not as a deranged fanboy. :p

Some of you might wonder, with so many other webcomic review sites out there, why would anyone bother to write yet another review site? I'm not sure really. I think it's partially because a lot of the review sites tend to focus on the more popular webcomics, and neglect the newer and lesser known ones. Or maybe it's because I really like reviewing and reading reviews. And maybe I'd just like to talk about the new comics I've read somewhere other than a forum.

And maybe because it's just plain fun to try out this new system of moving from one webcomic to another to see if recommendations really DO work.

Anyways, enough with rules and explanations: On with the journey!

Starting from http://thejaded.co.uk, most of the comics I've linked tend to be comics I already read. But looking on the row of links on the left of my page, I see Alex and Ilia heading the list. I've been reading Alex and Ilia for a long time, but it's been a long time since I've revisited the archives. With all the recent (low level) controversy about the comic, looks like I've found my destination for the first leg.

Next: Leg 1: Alex and Ilia