Saturday, 23 December 2006

Dead Tree blues: Estancia

I never thought I'd see the day I'd reject a dead tree version of a webcomic but after yesterday I have come to that bridge and crossed it, gnashing my teeth all the way. Some strips are meant to be adapted to print, the Megatokyo website is merely an online holding point for the books, but Estancia, I am very much afraid, is not one of these strips.

Estancia looks like smooth anime on a computer screen, it looks good, smooth and fully shmik on screen, on paper it looks dull and childish, I like scrolling down as I watch the puzzles play out. It's a consistently good mystery/fantasy strip that works well online. I can see what Hammock are doing - they're trying to expand their empire, but from a reader's point of view it isn't much chop. if they had used callandered paper it might have worked better, it's just hard adapting of course, maybe it's just angst that one of my favourite strips has become more popular than I wanted. If you like drawn out - over the top - cyberpunk strips drawn in pure anime then I recommend looking at this webcomic.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Some kind of pickpocket chic: of Rogues and Robbers

If crime it has not had a noticeable presence within the realm of webcomics in the way that it is in print fiction it is because of the gravitas evident within the hardboiled mien, the murder can look absurd in a webcomic. Typically online strips are gag driven and slice of life strips aimed at perusing the everyday, crime doesn't seem to translate well.

That said, Of Rogues and Robbers is a fairly intense examination of relationships within a crime fraternity. Jack Vincenzi is a top-level pickpocket who feels the heat when newcomer, the rather gauche Warren, intrudes on her spot within the crime gang detailed here. There's no Sin City malice crunching down into your frontal lobe, what this strip does do well is show a story behind crime, this story is predicated on crime's normalcy as a business and the relationships that are created in a crime gang - the tensions implicit within any organisation or venture. There's a complex world of families and concerns operating within this world and once I was drawn into it I was pretty well hooked.

While Verardi Famiglia has more of dense sketchy look the artwork here has a stylised lightness that at times looks too simplistic for the subject matter but it grows on you, I like the confidence that Charlene Fleming has, she doesn't care what anybody else is creating online she's found a niche and she's starting running with it. (Plus she likes Pulp - always a plus in my book) I like the complexity of intent on display here, even if the plot is plodding along, there's a reason for all the narrative - So, yeah, I like this slow near sensuous strip and all I'm waiting for is more updates.

***Return to sender that includes you as well***

(Musical accompaniment: I agree with Ms Fleming - I like the Libertines as well and Up the Bracket has that scungy mod-punk style fun vibe that suits this strip.)

Sunday, 10 December 2006

The colour of magic: Fantasy Realms

Fantasy Realms was always going to be a difficult proposition for me, I prefer the margins of genre fiction, the liminal spaces that erupt online. Well, there's no genre fusion or bells and whistles in the narrative here. I typically don't read textual fantasy (speculative fiction and magical realism is more my bag). I admit that at first glance this looks like an embarrassing webcomic transplant from all those horrid fantasy novels written by Welsh chainsmokers who are convinced they are the descendents of half-Elves from Lorien.

That is belied by the supremely delicious linework because the use of texture and colour is astounding. The pacing can be a little slow, the chapters are small but the background information is gradually becoming more apparent. The reader arrives in media res and your first inclination is to probably opt out of what looks like a childish RPG Zelda-lite mash-up but once you get past the first couple of chapters, I found something developing here that will stand apart due to the self-confidence of the creator.

Yes, the characters certainly look childish in a stunted mangaesque way and the story follows that sense of wonder to its logical conclusion. This strip is not a stickler for Errant Story style realism but within its boundaries the reader is given a definitive world, something most fantasy strips are unable to do, there's no trimmings steampunk - sexual inuendo - RPG - grue munches your toe style nod-nod-wink-wink - nada - nothing. This is just pure unfiltered genre fiction written as sequential art without a glitch. This is a serious long-term project and I applaud the Lore section for codifying information about this new vast world. A worthy (if somewhat overly sensible) addition to fantasy in the pixelsphere.