Saturday, 21 October 2006

I really want to own a flying cat!: Errant Story

Fantasy has always been a despised genre in the pixelsphere, thankfully it has been influenced by manga which maintains a certain levity where fantasy novels are typically torpid sub-Tolkien travesties (Eddings, Dragonlance, we are looking at you.) I had previously neglected Errant Story because I’d assumed it was a mere continuance of Exploitation Now with its screw ball comedy. It has progressed considerably since I’ve last seen it.
What interests me is the use of the intertwining narratives that adds complexity to the narrative as a whole. This is a strip more than willing to indulge in flashbacks and large chunks of narrated back-story. It surprised me because I’d always though of Poe as a one trick pony with crudely proportioned mangaesque art and stale jokes regurgitated into a pop-culture stew.
However, the subsequent development of Errant story shows me what I’ve been missing, I’ve been going through the archives and what I see impresses me. The mixture of a twenty-first century magicised Tokyo and an outside medieval world denotes a flair for genre-mixing. There are slight cyberpunk/steam punk touches and Poe’s artwork has improved measurably into a far sleeker and more mature mangaesque style.
The inter-species warfare and religious intolerance evident in the backbone of the story bares everything else along with it. If half-elves are supposedly insane then the rest of this fantasy world doesn’t look any saner. Here, Poe is tackling the interactions between technology and faith as well as nature versus nurture. Meji’s adventure started off as something specious but the story has progressed into something more mature as parts of it have been slowly fleshed out.
Of course the mixture doesn’t always come off, there are moments in which Poe is unable to contain either pathos or badly paced humour, these moments have been getting rarer though and the strip has meshed these disparate forces together, becoming far more serious in its intent. The strip is aiming at a serious examination of what it is to be human and that’s probably it has been mostly neglected by an audience needlessly happy with ‘slice of life’ and fantasy in-jokes.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Burn down the disco and hang the DJ!: Ornery Boy

Uh, is it just me or is the latest from Ornery Boy's undead MC Brian just pure heat? It's like the Beastie Boys actually got some talent in their veins after the dribbled mess of To the 5 Boroughs, sort of as if they'd continued in the vein of Paul's Boutique.
Here's some quotes from Brian's mad flow,

Like all good MCs he gives props to his DJ:
Cuz he's doubleplusgood when he gets in a state
Gets you all riled up for the two minute hate
With his hands on the decks in a Mad symbiosis
He's like Gregory House, he's got the diagnosis

And there's no point in being an MC if you don't have the arrogance of Easy E:
Writin' rhymes in my books like Atrus in Riven
Open the covers and y'all get imprisoned
Cuz the words I write are just so damn fresh
gorg-eous-ness and gorge-os-ity made flesh

Lalonde has really impressed me with the evolution of his strip, it's sometimes the closest thing to slapstick in a webcomic. This is good because most webcomic humour is based on puns or half-hearted attempts at jokes. He isn't scared of Hip-Hop either and that's quite rare in the webcomic realm. The geek references don't hurt so it's almost as if Buck 65 stopped fucking about with his dismal folk experiments and went back to being a Science Major and a top geeky MC. Good stuff.

Saturday, 14 October 2006

Sweet dreams are made of this: Harker

The tropes evident in Harker have been used before, the main character Harker represents science and the enlightenment and he is suddenly plunged into a world where the supernatural palpably exists. Before you notice the vampires you'll see that there is a charming primitivism evident in this strip, both in narrative and the artwork.

Harker delves into fairy tales and then examines their macabre underbelly. Vampires and Werewolves are the order of the day here and the story exists in a landscape of castles and heroines; good and evil are intertwined in an eternal battle. Unlike the botched genre-mixing of The league of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the simplicity of the narrative here brings us back to classic archetypes.

The artwork interests me because my original interest in comics stems from Herge's Tintin, not the tripe from Marvel or DC. I can detect the use of Herge's Francophone art style, Ligne Claire (straight line) evident in this strip. This pleases me, aside from Johnny Crossbones, I can't think of many webcomics using this style.

As for the background in which the tale is set, the first adult novels I ever read were Jules Verne and Conan Doyle's, so
this excursion into Victoriana pleases me, the story is foremost on Lars' mind, not gags or ineffectual fourth wall cop-outs. You don't see many adventure webcomics unsullied by fantasy or science fiction and this is a good, consistent webcomic.

(Audio accompaniment: The Decemberists, Castaways and cutouts: scurvy seadogs, legionaires and rogues hustling together, the perfect soundtrack.)

Saturday, 7 October 2006

Speak of the devil: Soul-D

The main way in which I discover webcomics is via the link-pages of strips I've enjoyed, this creates an interwoven stretch of sequential art largely untouched by the various ranking systems and Soul-D is one of the great strips I've discovered just in the last month or so, it's under the radar and because it's not part of a boutique collective like Dumbrella you'll probably have not seen it before.

The myth of the struggling jazz player who sells his soul to the devil is reinterpreted here as a young woman's hopeful struggle to become a singer is intertwined with the machinations of Hell's internal power struggles. I like the depiction of underachieving twenty-something misery displayed here, there's so good characterisation involved and even if it is all surrealist there's enough going on in the narrative to keep it all stuck together.

That said, the pacing isn't much chop and it can seem that it is only slowly joining the strands of the story together. The artwork is a smooth mixture of pastels and soft lines and the constant soft cartoony vibe is a pleasant change to all the grim dystopic webcomics I've been reading on-line. Overall, regardless of all the diversions this is a great story using an archetype that translates well to an age overly devoted to fame.

Monday, 2 October 2006

Hopping out of the nest

The Kea's Nest is closing down, this saddens me as there hasn't really been an antipodean presence in webcomic criticism. I didn't read it for too long but I consider it to have been a consistent comicblog with a wry sense of humour. The Kea states that the blog took too much time and I can see what she's saying.

Likewise Weekly Webcomic Reviews is also on hiatus. I think the reason behind the faltering of comicblogs is that they are is usually a sideline for people, a way to embellish their fanboy/girl fervour and in times of stress it's usually the first thing to go, you notice a lot of gaps in updates in comicblogs because sometimes it can all be too much, there are too many webcomics to view as opposed to five years ago, I've looked at The Webcomicker's Piperka list and it is quite long.
A long webcomic list has become a bragging rite, showing everybody how much you read in order to prove yourself as a critic. Then it's not about pleasure anymore, it's about keeping up the list. So, I think once you start up a blog some of that innocence gets lost.