Monday, 29 December 2008

Hungry like the wolf: Menage a 3

While I concede Menage a 3 certainly does not lie within my genre-heavy fanboy remit but I also believe that it's sheer fun without being trifling. The narrative drops the reader right into the lustful insanity from Montreal, almost like a mirror image of our world except everybody is a sex-obsessed nut. Gary is the dawdling man-child looking for flat-mates whose life gets a fun injection from the snarky slacker girl, Zii, and a drool injection from the voluptuous Qubecois sex-pot Didi, the main lust object in the strip.

There's a slight anime tinge here but if you're used to Gisele Lagace's sleek artwork then this is more of the hyper-stylised energetic linework, very fluid and well suited to the crazy hi-jinks it describes. While the strip is pretty open about its lust obsession, but this isn't fluff, it is sincerely humour driven craziness and the overreaching obsession with the body frequently delves into blatant perversion but it's more innocent awe than sordid leering.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Losing my religion; Enter the Jabberwocky

This website is something I've come across in my travails and I've just recently become obsessed with it so I'll have to rant at you about this until you each each review thrice and roll on the floor with laughter and disgust.

I would have to say that as a former Evangelical these cruel dissections of Jack Chick's tracts are the funniest things I've read online for about 2 years. As in laughing out loud uncontrollably for a period of half an hour as each hit went in, it's a snarky and angry grinding down of the blatant idiocies of Jack's theologies (Islamophobia, Homophobia & surreal anti-Catholic & Masonic conspiracy theories that veer into a stratosphere of amphetamine mind-fucked faith).

Bile and contempt drips with every word but there's also a strangely fascinated undercurrent here at a world view that is so disingenuous and warped. It's the best rebuttal of Jack Chick's poisonous addled theology because it's fucking hilarious. Even better than Niego or Hellbound.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Love in a hurricane of blood: Raising Hell

I came across Raising Hell while looking over Transmission X, a worthwhile and experimental collective I'd found out about via Butternutsquash and if Koala Wallop no longer grabs my attention then this is a far more interesting substitute, no fey cartoony cute meanderings or surrealism masquerading as a plot. This strip in particular leapt out at me, or rather it assaulted my eyes with the virtuosity of the whole bloody confused mess, still, this is no starter strip and there's been some planning behind it and this unified vision makes a nice change (Road Waffles anybody? geeze).

The first thing that hits you is the colour scheme , it's very understated but when it gets violent red is used like a knife in the eyes, you can almost see the hemoglobin sizzle as it encrusts on the walls into a deeper vermilion red. If nothing else, this strip makes mindless violence look exceedingly good.

I think by now you can tell that zombies are my one true vice and this strip delivers a zombie apocalypse in the middle of a Halloween booze-fest and a lover's tiff. There's something very noir about all this while it's grounded in indie disaffected slacker styling (Stuff Sucks, Butternutsquash, Questionable Content) and it feels more adult than these strips, like the Dropkick Murphys dropped in for an impromptu gig at your house and your keg internally combusts out of pure joy while your little brother smashes a beer bottle over his head. By that I mean it feels like there's no computer geek DNA at all in the genesis of this strip, the counter-culture pulp twist is like a slice of lemon in your drink or the last twist of the knife in your back.

I like the motley collection of riffraff & human debris that make up the characters here, an injection of grit, noir and hoodrat sleaze into what is typically a subset of action or horror.There's also some surreal touches where Andy B's line work flexes with the story In the middle of the tempestuous relationship drama the zombie attack makes the drama ricochet. The 'love story' that's the backbone of the story is both ridiculous and touching.
We're not far enough into the narrative to see if the Zombie invasion has affected the planet and whether this will turn into a 'survivor/brain eating Apocalypse' storyline and the origin story for the zombies isn't apparent, but frankly I'm glad that Josh Fialkov has decided to keep everything tight under wraps. Most of the zombie strips I've read so far are purely over-influenced by the genre, this is a webcomic is willing in inject some hipster fun into the mix.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Things to check out

Is it just me or is Metanoia one of the darkest odes to murder I've seen online? It could have been so specious but it ends up being an apt little murder poem.

Project Rol is is a very stylised work, it's manga with a western substructure, inserted into a future in which 'angels' taunt humanity. Sound familiar? The artwork is pretty dodgy for a Evangelion remake, though. The tricks with colours and speed are not typically seen in webcomic but the bare linework can get a bit grating. One for the Shinji fetishists only.

Sorry about the hiatus guys, I'll be back with a batch of articles soon.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

'I'm the freakin' emperor': Sam & Fuzzy

Sam and Fuzzy's journey into long term narrative has been a rare success story within webcomics, if one compares a Questionable Content strip from 3 years ago, it's pretty much the same structure. Even if I have all these links on the side of my blog, Sam and Fuzzy was a strip would consistently check for daily updates, I suppose, because it was willing to take a risk. it was willing to go beyond the staple Sam and Fuzzy we were comfortable with, victim and tormentor, template it relied on for some time. it went all Cerebus and it has actually pulled it off. This strip is the vindication of the narrative that Sam and Fuzzy have been following.

Sam and Fuzzy changed its gag strip structure and upped its speed and went for the real music and all the convoluted plot lines of the last year have led to this, the moment I'd been dreading, because of course Sam is the natural sap, I felt so relieved after reading this strip and ashamed I'd doubted Sam.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Close to Me: Marry me

Romantic comedy isn't really the first thing you think of when you consider the ghoulish lichen-stained tastes of a genre freak, I was only drawn to Marry Me by its association with Sore Thumbs. I suppose Sore thumbs is the benchmark by which I judge the rest of the overall Crosby clan. The writer behind this strip is Bobby Crosby, younger brother of Chris Crosby. I'm not sure if this is a safe gambit but this for better or for worse my interpretation of this romantic comedy strip was as part of a family of interconnected webcomics under the same organization that includes Bobby's co-creation with Chris, Last Blood.

The premise of the strip is a misunderstanding caused by an obsessive fan's lascivious lust for a pop star, she dragged a friend along and in a moment the popstar at the center of the webcomic makes a strange decision, the rest of the strip stems from this one chance, mad encounter.

After reading Sore Thumbs, the humor isn't as left-field as I was used to, it's far more narrative driven. Of course the basis of the story (Pop star goes insane) Stasia, could be based on Britney Spears at her height (without the paparazzi gash-flash umbrella wielding antics of late) The tools that such a goofball pop star such as Stasia has at her disposal means the strip can effectively go to wherever it needs to.

However, it's interesting to see what this strip will become, the gimmick evident in the first twenty strips has to end sometime, the liminal status of the marriage's legality is an obvious silly incursion to extend the strip but it works in a fuzzy-logic kind of way.

So from the start, the premise of the strip is evident in the title, what everything follows from. I'm wondering how it will sustain itself in the long-term. The characters will obviously have to evolve beyond the easy stereotypes that are evident shown in the beginning.

What is interesting is the way the female characters work within the strip, the way female power is reconstructed via a pop star's erratic choice. This should come as no surprise considering the artist. The slightly mangaesque artwork of Remy Mokhtar is something I first saw in her delving into female romance and geekdom in No Pink Ponies, a strip I haven't ever really mentioned, but it is a webcomic that drags
me in with its drama and luckily is deflated by the cute geekiness inherent to all its characters. Its smooth fresh line-work is an apt compliment to the quick flow of this strip. Here, the reader in thrust in the middle of a popstar's chaotic existence and the protagonist's confusion is the entry point into the strip.

Still, there is a clear effort to build on this, here we are looking at the slurry of lust and the reader is caught behind the glitz of fame lies the problem of how to deal with your emotions in a cultural landscape that completely deflates them with slick disposable easy options.

Here marriage becomes an easy disposable option, that's the premise, and how the characters interact after a split second stray decision that will determine how the strip works. It's not roll on the floor funny, but it is aiming at something more subtle, something that is worthwhile even if there are no zombies involved and it shows the range that Blatant comics have on offer.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Soul'd Redux

I just wanted to advise you guys that Soul'd has completely revamped itself, I think this is a good choice considering the clear change in tone the earlier version went through. One option was to plough but this is quite radical by webcomic standards, a complete re-visioning of the original strip, no goofball humor in Hell but a smack down from the beginning, the protagonist's humiliation condensed into a reason to choose damnation.

Of course the artwork has improved, a bit more crisp, not so fluid, the use textured use of colour against white is a good angle, it adds a dreary washed-out look to the whole proceedings, the creator's choice in the reset means a lot of lot of tweaking to get what was a good webcomic easily sidetracked into something more focussed.

 I'm just impressed by the sheer balls of the idea, you don't often a complete scrapping of 50+ comics, Fred Gallagher would to restart Megatokyo just to get rid of the first 200 strips of the comic and Soul'd restarts just like that? This is a massive burst of effort and i recommend you reading this strip as it slowly rebuilds itself.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Cool for cats: Lackadaisy

Cats reworking the prohibition, that's the obvious catch here, but it really doesn't matter because Tracey Butler's Lackadaisy is one of the best strips in the last three years, no inane rubbish about 'Furry' comics will have an effect once you read this strip.

Her artwork is amongst the lushest I have seen online, the introductory strip is a mouth-slavering use of dense background that shows attention to detail is not going to be a problem here. She gets the feline slyness of the facial expressions just right, this was a time for wiseguys and hucksters, 10 percenting grifters and speakeasys. This strip easily melds together the chancer's smooth tongue and the forbidden luxury of illicit drinking behind the sly façade of a cat's Cheshire grin.

I don't mean to get all ecstatic on you but the level of linework here is amazing , I might have used the term 'cartoony sheen' before but this is the ultimate sheen. Accompanied with this is the goofiness of the strip, which works for me after perusing a legion of po faced horror strips, Disney would be the obvious reference point to use but you would be totally wrong, the surface sleekness hides along-term narrative. It's an obvious point I make in most of my webcomic reviews but I'm wondering why this strip hasn't garnered the praise it deserves. It's a stand-out strip when so many good strips have dissolved into nothingness, (Hellbound, why have you forsaken me?)

Nobody after reading a few strips is going to confuse this with a furry comic, it merely uses cats as a shtick, and it does not really detract from historical verisimilitude, the grime and liquor of the prohibition, the sheer fun here reminds me why I will continually read strips such as Rob & Elliot and Butternutsquash while Megatokyo is a strip I have lately neglected. Additionally, the narrative is comic lots of visual puns, lots of winking and grimacing, physical humour takes over and forces the strip forward into a well-plotted fantasy.

The attention to detail is what mixes the fantastic with the background realism, the first introductory strip alone is dense with 1920's America skimp on serious about this strip, the update schedule isn';t high but the lush strips make up for it, this work obviously takes more time than Sluggy Freelance to actually be created. It's wordy and clever and even facetious but I seriously haven't has this much fun discovering a new webcomic in over a year, this is in my top five discoveries for this year.

*The title is from the song by Squeeze, just, uh, being pedantic.

Monday, 4 February 2008

I never knew blood was an aphrodesiac: Last Blood

Last Blood cojoins together vampires, smooth action scenes and zombies. The resulting webcomic is a filmic approach to the genre and it is a crafted and delicate approach to violence. The use of silence in the initial strips shows a rare discipline and this is a strip that is willing to track narrative over a long term basis. The artwork is a grainy ode to gore, its slow motion capture is willing and able to use complex stylised set pieces of violence. In effect violence becomes a means to an end, to create a visual poetics of blood floating in air, lovingly rendered to the last drop of plasma. This isn't mindless violence, it floats off the page as if it were hoping to infect the reader, it certainly deserves to.

This is a different side to Owen Gieni's art I'd not expected after reading Sore Thumbs, the anime influences have been stripped away and instead here there's a love affair with the minitunae of rotting flesh, for the zombie freak this attention to detail is unexpected and is certainly not the smooth goofy facial texture that ST's goofiness required. The texture of the work is what impresses me, the way in which rain is I would say the closest analogy would be Ben Templesmith's haziness (Fell / 28 days of night).

So here's the typical post apocalyptic gig, mindless rotting zombie hordes, the remaining population is stressed and tense and the sudden inclusion of two vampires does not help a fractured scared group of survivors trying to make sense of life after most of humanity has been wiped out.

Admittedly, it can sometimes feel corny like an a bad action film but regardless this is one of the most enjoyable webcomics I've read this year. This is an action strip undercut by snippets of emotion to good effect. Additionally, while their inclusion in the strip might look like a gimmick the skanky vibe of the vampire protagonists adds a bit of zest to the mix and the back story of where the zombies originated from is an interesting gambit to begin with. There is also darkness here, slick bloodlust and ulterior motives, for all the supernatural elements there is far more realism present here than in Dead Winter, and the action scenes are surreal and the main selling point of the strip.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Of walking abortion: Dead Winter

Dead Winter is a zombie story that doesn't pall as much as you would think, I'm fully aware that it's a genre that's been over with a fine-tooth comb but it's not one that has made a decent show in webcomics, I guess this would be the start because this is a thrilling hijack into the realm of the walking dead.

Including one of the most extensive and acerbic bio pages I've seen in webcomics, even from the first page, the style is a fluid blend of bent snarky retakes on the zombie genre. The main protagonist, Lizzie, is a waitress, a miserable waitress in a horrible diner about to be inserted into zombie bloodlusty abandon. As the epidemic spreads she finds herself instructed by a dream/space that mirrors the chaos of the outside world.

This doesn't feel like a starter webcomic, there's a clear feeling from the start that this has been planned into a long narrative arc.The strip uses the now standard trope of medical infection leading to zombification, (I am Legend, 28 days later, Resident Evil). if the actual origin of the zombies here are ambitious, then they are just one layer in this strip, a menacing background against which our protagonists are struggling against in various ways.

The artwork is complex but overlayered with a fluid cartoony sheen, typically this would be a contradiction in terms but the artwork gells quite well with this hyperactive paean to the zombie misadventure. I've not seen various shades of grey used so artfully and the shadowing used adds a certain background élan.

For once in webcomics the action sequences are credible, hyper-active matrix style scuffling littered with invective, carried out by the character of hitman/sociopath Black Monday Blues, an injection of vigour and pure fun into the zombie proceedings, if nothing else his insults are these adjective driven pieces of slick murderous bile.

Likewise the use of vibrant red in his sunglasses and Lizzie's bandanna are a nice touch against the typical grey used. The dream sequences are something else entirely, the occasional use of background motifs (the stylised skull in strip 42, the near filmic cut scene in strip 84) are again, not something you typically see in webcomics of any genre. There's an underlying complexity here that the reader would be brash to ignore if they merely see the cartoony vibe of the strip.

Black Monday is not alone in being over the top in this strip, there is a lot of melodramatics and clichés present here and a lot of emotional complexity used for what is even in horror a sub-genre seen as particularly shallow. This is an incursion of the real into the slapstick gore of the zombie gig. There are dark undercurrents present here and the nature of the zombie story typically is another take on the survival, looking at what it means to be heroic. Overall, everything is tight, the dialogue can be somewhat corny, but it's a self-aware and sharp approach to the strip. It pulls it off because it doesn't falter in its brief to be a an energetic mix of pathos and pure fun.

*I just had to put in a Manic Street Preacher reference for the title, it just felt so right.

Monday, 14 January 2008

I really need a talking cat: Breakdown

The premise of Breakdown is self-evident in the title, a young man, Alan, after his car breaks down swiftly finds himself in a landscape driven by his dreams., he immediately goes into a dream-scape and is guided through this landscape by a talking cat, 'Blue', that may have been a childhood companion. The chronicles of Narnia are an obvious starting point, but Mercury hat has created an imaginative work that, if continued, would be a self-conscious and humorous examination into dreams.

The artwork veers between primitive and skilful. There's a sketchiness here, a minimalist black and white, there are some improvements, the beginning of part four shows an increase o complexity in shading and texture. There could have been more build-up, we've seen this type of story before, so the strip has to reach out into with this minimal set-up of this new dream world, maybe, hopefully, there will be more exposition later.

Still, this feels like a start-up comic (aka Nazi High or Hellbound ) and thus the writer is writing on the go, letting the story take him and while this is adventurous I can't help thinking of these numerous web-comic dead-ends when the story outgrows the original construct of the webcomic, the presentation and pacing betray a mind searching for ideas.

That said, a little more mystery would have added layers to what is one journey out of the dream-scape. The abrupt end to the strip is indicative of how fickle webcomics can be, how many times have we been disappointed by leaving too many questions unanswered to what was at the least an adventurous start to what could be a decent webcomic. (Niego anyone?)

That doesn't mean this isn't a worthy effort, if the landscape of this world is based on emotion, and as Alan as the main character is the force which has authority over it. So the puzzle at the basis of the strip is shown to the reader from the start, how to journey through an emotional state dreams being an obvious vantage point to since Neil Gaiman's Sandman. 

Here dreams are a far more prosaic and linear proposition, here they appear as a space to explore with one exit point. 9thElsewhere has perhaps gone over this trope more subtly but I can't help but feel cheated by this promising incursion into the fantastic that ended far too soon.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Phallic metallic: Build your own boyfriend

The original premise of build your own boyfriend looks at first glance of the title a childish extension of the Japanese robot fantasy, a lecturer at a university dissatisfied with her love-life builds a robotic companion, it's a collection of the worst stereotypes imaginable with only an inversion of the typical male pervert role.

From the beginning however, this is a strip that is willing to playfully skewer the robotic genre, there's no real manga background here , just the basis of a low-key yet interesting strip willing to ask questions about romance and human consciousness.

Most of cyberpunk's existence has been posited around questioning what posits essential humanity, a robot with something approaching consciousness fits within that bill, the only fantastic element within a sleepy campus.

Gwen Anderson decides to take her love-life into a whole new zone by going DIY. One interesting element is the pretense that Owen is a human and all the lies and half-truths that needs to keep the cover story going.

This is also an in-depth examination of modern gender roles in the west, Gwen has been let down by men, she tells us, ' The engineer in me had to wonder, why not make a better version'. This 'perfect male' is also attractive to other females.

Admittedly, the scene where Gwen glowers at her competitor is standard practice in rom-coms, the inclusion of the robot here is a clear twist in the tale. 01 or Owen is not just a pliable sex-slave but someone possessing free-will and this is where the story gets interesting because it veers inadvertently into questions about human consciousness.

 There were earlier prototypes but Gwen fails to see the point of creating a lover be-smitten with her, romance, she tells us, begins with a challenge. This is a short sweet story and there haven't been updates for some time, even so, this is an worthwhile examination of romantic need.