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 fa├žade 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.