Friday, October 29, 2004

17th Leg: Return to Sender

Well... at least it's been less than a week since the last Find ;)

I've been bitten by the drawing bug lately, so I've been spending more time drawing my own comic The Jaded than writing up on stuff. I've really been pleased at the developments of my recent colouring style...

I think this is the closest I've ever had to having it look exactly like I see it in my head.

Before I started The Jaded, I've never comicked seriously before. In fact I had no particular ambitions at all, other than practising my art. No great project, no special goals to achieve, not even getting popular or seeing my comic in print one day.

In fact, if T Campbell hadn't popped out of the blue one day and recruited me for Graphic Smash I suspect I would have still been happily pottering away in Keenspace and drawing my comic as long as I got the feedback and criticisms I needed to improve.

But things changed that one Sunday afternoon I got that mail.

It may seem strange that one person's opinion can change another's so much, but it was as though someone had lit a fire in my head and I couldn't put it out. And I couldn't go back to being content with just pottering with no direction in mind. For the first time, I gained ambition. For the first time, I knew what I was going to do and why I was drawing comics.

I have another project in mind. A dream project that one day I hope to get good enough to do. I already know the name for it. I also know how it will end. I already know what I want to do with it.

I won't rush. I'm not even 21 yet. I have plenty of time to learn and practise and get good enough to do it right.

But the day when I can consistently produce something like the little snippet above will be the day I consider myself good enough to start on Exeat.

Comic: Return To Sender
By: Vera Brosgol

Genre and Setting: Mystery, Horror, Adventure, Modern Day

Art Style: Stylised inks, semi-cartoony, blue-shading

Is About: Often, who has just moved into his own place, realises that the low rent may not be entirely due to the fact the previous elderly tenant died in his sleep there. Mysterious mail keeps coming from the mail slot set in the wall, and undercover monsters keep trying to get in via the front door.

Frequency: Sundays, whenever Vera is free
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:

I believe I actually said that out loud when I first saw the page. I'm not sure if it's the way the comic blends with the elegant page design (Or the way the elegant page design blends with the comic, if you want it put another way) but... Wow. I can tell I'm going to like it already.

There is no comic on the main page, but the pages are listed instead, archive-style. They are clearly labeled and in order, so it's not so much a problem to figure out where to start.

The page to page navigation links are hard to find though. The fact that they're miniscule and powder blue against white probably doesn't help either.

The Concept:
Chalk one up for Pretty Darned Original.

It's so good I really don't know where to begin. Mysterious letters with instructions that drop from nowhere... Odd things that happen if you don't carry out the instructions. Odd things that happen even if you do. Plus monsters that keep trying to come in but can't if not invited. All on a backdrop of a guy who's just moved out of home and trying to get used to it.

Chilling and amusing at the same time. So good.

The Art:
Pretty much cinched it for me at first glance. It's fantastic inkwork... simplified but still expressive. There's some remarkable use of line thickness and colour for shading. Plus some stunning crosshatching for texture.

I'm not sure how to classify the art style... The characters have large eyes and small mouths... (well, at least Often and most of the other characters do. Colette certainly does not ;) ). The hairstyles are also spiky and rather stylized. One would automatically make the connection to call the artstyle Manga, but for some reason I hesistate about doing so.

Mainly because I don't want to give people the wrong impression. The art style might have been sightly influenced by it, but when I read it, I don't think 'Manga!' and so I do not consider it so.

Whatever you may call it, it's good. See the detailed backgrounds, the fantastic perspectives, and the pure prettiness of the whole thing. The page compositions are excellent and although the hand-lettering can be slightly messy and difficult to read at times, I like it. It gives the whole comic character.

The Writing:
There are few pleasures greater than finding a comic with writing that lives up to the art.

Vera has a uncanny ability to pace her comics. She doesn't drown her readers with information (I'm sad to report your truly still has a bad habit of doing this), knows when to pause just before a joke, knows when to spring a horror or surprise on the reader when they least expect it.

The dialogue is also exceptionally realistic. In day to day conversation, people don't give gramatically correct speeches: the words they use are short and to the point. Whatever gets the gist of the message across. (Please don't kill me, Lynn Truss!)

The characterisation is spot-on. Often and Colette feel like real people to me. The goons over at the where Often works remind me of people I know in real life. Often and Colette are best friends, but they have their moments of friction. And I care about the chracters and whatever happens to them. When a monster menaces Often, I get alarmed. When Colette does something silly, I roll my eyes and slap my forehead. When Colette saves the day, I forget myself and clap in delight.

As I mentioned back in my review of Flatwood, comics that can draw emotions from readers have the hallmark of good writing.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a frigging good comic.


The first problem I noticed was the navigation. Like I said, the arrows are miniscule. And blue against white... it takes a lot of squinting to see them.

The second one can't be helped: Irregular updates. I symphatise with Vera though. The woman's got her priorities right.


*grin* This is silly, but two things in the comic really tickle my sense of humour:

  1. The main character's name is an adverb
  2. The mysterious mail slot goes "PING!!!" when a new letter appears.
    I know it's lame... but I can't help it!

Clock another Find to go in my check every-now-and-then list.

I've really hit a streak of good comics lately. You'd think that hitting them one after another would make me get a little less impressed at each successive one, but so far it hasn't happened yet.

The Next Leg:

Webcomic Finds is all about creator recommendation. So when I see something like this in the links page for a comic:

Beexcomix - Wow, says Vera. Funny, beautiful, suspenseful, and drawn by a New Yorker. One of my very favorites. The book is now OUT (and it's frickin' everywhere), so go buy it!

I know where I'm going next leg!


  1. You know, I think you might have to evetually rethink your policy on not reviewing comics already reviewed. Mostly because most people tend to link the bigger named comics and most of them, like Copper, have been reviewed at some point.

    Personally, I think you should just close your eyes and chose randomly. And if that means you have to be looking at Penny Arcade again and again...okay, well, maybe it's not such a good idea.

  2. You got a point there, Willie.

    But I never said I wouldn't review a reviewed comic... just "I will try my best to always pick comics that other review sites haven't reviewed before."
    It seems like every webcomics review site must have had at least one review of the following:

    1. Penny Arcade
    2. Megatokyo
    3. Sexy Losers

    There's nothing wrong with reviewing popular comics, really. But I really don't want to do something others have done multiple times before.

    Generally I try to aim for something I've never heard of/gotten around to reading before. Sometimes it ends up being something famous and reviewed, but hey, if I haven't read it...

  3. Dammit Ping, like I wasn't reading enough amazing comics already...

  4. Return to Sender is awesome. Copper was awesome, too. I didn't have much faith in webcomics, even though I draw one, but you've uncovered some that make me rethink the whole thing. Keep up the good work.

  5. Wow! Thanks :)

    I'm really amazed by how much I've missed out on webcomics all these years. I used to think it was a rather limited selection- and the more I look the more I realise that there's so much more that never gets 'popular'.

    Being able to share that discovery with others really makes this whole thing worthwhile. :D