Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Unfinished Pathways: The Black brick road of Oz

There have been numerous wizard of oz remakes since the series was written at the begining of the twentieth century. I particularly recall the forced edginess of the tinman miniseries with some wry relish. This envisioning here is fey and cute. It resets the relationships the average reader is aware of in Oz and makes them more adult, but in a sheeny skin. There's a lot of new characters on top of the old standards. So, this certainly isn't a strip that falls into retelling the standard wizard of Oz cycle, it's willing and able to use the source material to create a treacly-sweet fantasy world.

The Black Brick Road of oz is a dreamlike attempt at delving into the wider Oz universe.
Xamag created this work and overall her stylizations are pretty tumblr, if that makes sense. She uses a joyous sheen across this work. The characters aren't fully fleshed out and seem to dwell with the strip's child-like logic.

This is a training wheels webcomic and for all that it looks utterly gorgeous. It's a glistening child-like wonderment of luminescence that was clearly designed for an LCD monitor, not the abrasions of a paper page. Indeed, the collected version is designed for Amazon Fire. The interactive parts of this work, like gifs and point and click sectons, easily blur the line between static comic and video games.

Overall, there's a charming fleeting playfulness present here, Everything in this strip is uber cute, to the point of sugary sweetness. This may be a deal-breaker for some readers but the level of background detail alone sells it.

Now, I'll admit that the strip is currently on infinite hiatus with its creator stating it was a training wheels kind of deal. Seeing how dense the artwork is I can respect that decision. I decided to show this strip as an example of sheer verve showcasing what a webcomic can be and the burnout that can occur. It's a reminder that webcartoonists barely break even. This truncated experience is worth a look just to see what the Oz fandom is able to create.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Talk a walk on the wild side: Wilde life

I find that reading webcomics is a typically a daily one page ritual that displaces the ongoing causal sense of narrative that a standard graphic novel can give the reader. One effect of this is when I do read a webcomic that has a discernible structure behind it with a decent tranche of content I tend to dive in and read continuously until the end.

I'd say that while a strip like Wilde life works quite well in concrete chapters, it also has the feel of the leisurely pace of a slice-of-life comic. There's a facility here that utilizes a slow build-up and that use of gentle quietness that won me over.

Podunk' Oklahoma is 'a real ghost town' as gangly writer Oscar Wilde discovers as he delves into an episodic series of interactions. Each chapter shows everyman Wilde exploring his new home, as he does so he increasingly comes into contact with a place that is imbued with the supernatural. At this stage it feels that the story is building up towards a more concrete explanation behind the strangeness present here.

The spirituality on display here has an animistic tinge. The concept of werewolves is given the inflection of native American 'animal people' as part of a general indigenous background. This isn't rank horror but more of a natural process of understanding the earth, which is quite atypical for genre fiction. It's a softer approach that's more natural than gory. Dee Brown's Folktales of the native American would be a good companion piece to this strip.

What another creator would make overly twee and meandering Pascalle Lepas is able to hedge the mundane into a quiet but assured work. Likewise the artwork on show here is self-assured and flexible. It emphasizes a bright stylized haziness over clear-cut precision and has increasingly been willing to add glistening night time vistas. There is clearly a long-term game plan for this strip and that confidence makes for an enjoyable low-key read.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

The color of magic: Vibe

The first thing that hits the reader when reading this webcomic is a jarring gorgeosity of color.  It hits the retina in shock-waves. The underlying design, the meta part of the webcomic is likewise a glistening intensity, a virulently cartoon sheen that is almost aggressive in its sense of purpose.

Dan Ciurczak has created a world where loa help certain humans. Loa are manifestations and aspects of elements and perspectives within Haitian vodou. The reader is propelled into a world where spirits can interact as distilled emotions. Bad vibes coalesce and have to be dispelled by witch doctors like the cocky protagonist, Baron Bones.

It's self-aware and reflexive, occasionally too much but overall this florid playfulness and frenetic pace is reminiscent of Corey Lewis' Sharknife, a westernized 'henshin' transformation comic. There are certainly times where I would have preferred a slower pace.

One issue is perhaps the characters and 'about' sections being empty. It's just a small thing but frankly the first chapter is somewhat confusing. I can't help recalling Megatokyo's infamous refusal to provide additional information.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Anime lite: Awaken

Awaken initially looks to be urban fantasy webcomic set in an alternate universe. From the first page the translucent globs of rich color imbue this anime-inflected work with a luscious gracefulness. The line work of the character's faces can appear flat at times and frankly the anime/manga influence background is also present in the narrative itself.

This means this work feels somewhat light-weight. Maybe it's the fluent narrative but I've seen this set up a number of times: namely a teenage protagonist discovers magical powers and abilities. Netflix's new Mortal Bones TV series streamlines this, Harry Potter normalized it and anime shows like Beyond the Boundary and Kill La Kill are ripe with this.

 You could even say that this super-structure has become an adolescent version of Campbell's Hero's journey. Which doesn't necessarily mean that this approach to this trope is particularly staid. Protagonist Piras Dameschi exudes a goofy extroversion which is a nice change from the standard meme of brooding Byronic heroes.

So, this series is fun but not quite essential reading. It revels in ridiculous costumes and meshes that with a ridiculous premise. It's crisp, clean and the narrative gets along at a decent pace and has become more serious as the creator moves from hi-jinks to a darker narrative.