Thursday, 21 April 2011

I see dead people: The zombie hunters

First off the bat the name of the strip, the Zombie hunters, has to be the most direct webcomic name I've  seen in a while, it's pretty naff. Don't worry though, if the name looks nondescript you'll soon be drawn in by a visually appealing mix of cute banter and slithering undead terror.

The use of colour as in the cartoony character segues look almost manga style chibi, it's a mixture of realism and goofiness in a dreary grey pop-apocalyptic  background. It's the humour that drew me in here, when end of the world scenarios crop up they are mostly affecting and stoic epics like Crossed (the first time Garth Ennis has made me cry) and the Walking Dead. Instead, this isn't  straight-out humour parody strip but it is a self-aware show of fear induced rage and its affects on people, a dark humour created under duress. It changes frame by frame from harsh realism to kawaii cute and I think it works quite well.

One thing to consider is the emphasis placed on morphology of these munted monstrosities, there's lots of varieties. It's good to see a division between  mere shamblers and speed-driven undead hunters with numerous other classes of zombies. In video game terms the Left 4 dead & Deadspace series are the most obvious indicators of this new specialisation of the undead and the categorisation of these monsters is shown in a succinct 'encyclopaedia' section. Where a strip like Dead Winter possibly developed ad hoc, this looks planned from the get go and it's all the better for it. The idea of a group living infected as existing in a social limbo is quite intriguing, the vampire hunters are disaffected killers because there's no other role for them.

Yes, the zombie trope had been done to death (heh), but that's never the point, survival and its associated discontents are the point of the zombie/ post apocalyptic genres. The point of the strip is seeing characters interacting in fear and rage,  trying to survive the night. You'll need to go through the archive twice this as there's a bit of interplay between the current storyline & the past, it only started to click together after comparing different chapters. There's no slow build up here, it's all action and anybody with a soul will like this strip.

Musical accompaniment: Gallows, Orchestra of wolves. Shouting, rage, psychosis, aneurysm, rinse and repeat.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Do androids dream of Jersey shore: Ironborn

This is a strip ostensibly about a divergence between science & magic; but on closer inspection it's more about relationships and identity. From the get-go the strip's heroine, Opal, is suddenly thrust into a maelstrom of shifting alliances & competing ideologies about how the world should function, a basic technology versus science dichotomy. So it's steampunk but not in your face about it, advanced sentient robots co-exist with magic.

 The set up of 2 cities via a fable-spinner introduction is minimalist but it works for now, Opal's miraculous 'game-changing' situation is the entry point for the reader & the rest of her band of ragtag 'gang'.

The varied shading evident is a nice touch ,at times it feels like a notebook discovered, veering between primitive and textured so if the faces shown can be a bit weird then the backgrounds are some of the best present within webcomics.

 I think the inconsistency is part of the charm. If nothing else there is a sense of whimsy here, a good sense of pacing and the story-line certainly has been envisioned as part of a long-term consistency. It's a mature and rich ecosystem that's been put in place for readers, and it will take commitment to go through the archives, I believe it would be worth it.

The varying personalities of the robots interest me, it's the little sideways gambits of minor characters, the vocabulary and political chicaneries that serves as a background to Opal's discovery of how her powers work.

Opal's numb lack of awareness means her learning curve is more easily followed by the reader.I'm not sure where this is going to go but what I've read so far points toward a decent and measured approach to what could have been bog-standard superhero dross. 

Musical accompaniment:  Sixtoo, Chewing on glass and other miracle cures. Background malevolence, somebody's watching you, seething distortion and sense of unease.