Another comic I’ve been struggling to review for a bit is Dale Mettam and Courtney Huddleston’s contemporary fantasy comic Luci Phurr’s Imps. From the name alone it’s obvious this comic is about several small devils sent to Earth to serve a human. The unexpected twist lies with who they’re working for: an innocent young six-year-old girl named Luci Phurr who never actually entered into a contract with Hell from what I can gather (her father apparently did, but it seems he’s forgotten the contract and never did get world domination as was contracted at the comic’s start). And thus we get to watch the adventures of the imps Pain, Tears, and Misfortune as they teach Luci about how they are responsible for so many of the world’s woes, while antagonizing the local angels and trying to avoid being reassigned by the Devil. Naturally, with a name like Luci Phurr’s Imps the comic relies on jokes, word play, and the like to entertain readers even as Mettam and Huddleston tells their story. While there’s some loose continuity with the earlier strips, the comic has truly found its stride and has become something quite enjoyable with the Imps having formed something of a family with Luci; this alone makes the comic worth reading in my opinion.
One of the odder fantasy comics I’ve stumbled across is T Campbell, Phil Kahn and John Waltrip’s Guilded Age; it started out looking much like your typical fantasy comic (with a nice seasoning of “World of Warcraft”) which focuses on an adventuring band in the realm of Gastonia with an interesting mixture of character with varied motives even as rumblings of war start to emerge within the comic. It’s not until several chapters into the comic that Campbell and Kahn pulled a rather innovative twist by revealing a second layer of reality to the comic and five of the characters within it (though I won’t say more lest I spoil it for newer readers). What’s especially fascinating about GA is watching the group evolve and grow as new members join and older members take on greater responsibilities within their world. We’re also given glimpses of the antagonists, both monstrous and more mundane, and the greater threat that exists from without. Given Campbell and Kahn’s reputation as storytellers, it should come as no surprise that I recommend this comic for any fan of fantasy fiction… or of fans of stories that possess unexpected twists.
Given my preference for epic fantasy, it should come as no surprise that I’m a fan of Powree and Oliver Knörzer’s Gaia, which I’ve been intending to review for nearly a year now. Unfortunately it’s difficult to know just where to start; the comic combines magic and technology, intrigue and a noble thief seeking her nation’s freedom, and a talented young woman who’s been wrongfully imprisoned even as the story hinted at her destiny at the heart of an unknown epic adventure. What’s more, Powree and Knörzer have created some truly enjoyable characters with a range of motives and interests… some of whom are not immediately likeable. If there’s a problem that Gaia suffers from, it’s that it’s taken a while for things to build up and some readers may chafe under the pacing. Fortunately, the archives are only a little over 200 updates to date, and newer readers may not notice the pacing when reading the comic in one fell swoop. And even if the comic has taken a bit to build (and has one poorly-constructed information dump looking at the world’s mythology), it’s still well worth reading, especially for fans of epic fantasy.
It’s often been said that when you’re telling a story, it’s best to write what you know. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why school and college comics are so prevalent on the internet. Best in Black focuses on a a 17-year-old introvert named Emily who’s been forced to room with an extrovert who doesn’t quite comprehend that her reluctant roomie just wants to be left alone… and ends up dragging her into a social life that she was trying to avoid in the first place. While the comic doesn’t have the most deep and insightful of stories, I found I was enjoying Emily’s thoughts as she tried navigating through college life and coping with her introversion and the people who wouldn’t leave her alone. The comic also stands out by using a top-down panel format with two strips (or a “cover panel” and strip) for each update.
One of the problems that online graphic storytellers suffer from is the effective use of mood and suspense in horror comics. Part of this is due to the slow pace of many webcomics as a result of their update schedule; it can be difficult building mood and suspense while keeping readers interested. That said, Chris Straub did a superb job of building a downright creepy and puzzling webcomic with Broodhollow, which focuses on encyclopaedia salesman Wadsworth Zane as he looks into an inheritance left to him by his great-uncle Virgil during the Great Depression… and the haunting that started the moment he received the letter from the executor of the estate. But it’s the community of Broodhollow itself that truly sets the scene as various oddities occur that only Wadsworth seems aware of… with everyone else forgetting or handnwaving away what happened soon after it occurred. The first Broodhollow story wrapped up two months ago, but Straub has just launched a second story in the same town; whether or not the new story will focus on the same characters remains to be seen.
It’s been said more than once (and by more than just me) that there’s a comic for nearly every niche out there. Lab Bratz, written by Edward Dunphy and drawn currently by Helber Soares is a case-in-point, as it focuses on scientists and graduate students working at a private research laboratory owned by an overbearing and obnoxious professor who mostly plays the part of the self-serving boss-type made famous by the Dilbert newspaper comic. Said professor, Dr. Chang, is regularly upstaged by the two primary protagonists, Lab Manager Mike Nanz (who seems ready to retire while in his 40s) and his best friend Dr. Alan Ruby who works at the same facility as Chang Labs. The comic is a blend of comedic one-shots, short stories, and some actual continuity and manages to poke fun at students, scientists, and research labs while trying to remain grounded at a level that non-researchers can relate to. To be honest, I’m not sure if it succeeds at the latter, as I know enough about research science to be dangerous, but there’s enough here to interest most people. The only real problem it seems to have is a glacial update schedule of once every other week… which for a newsstrip format is a bit slow.
I must admit that one of my favorite genres in both prose and webcomics has to be fantasy. To be honest, this extends beyond the normal swords-and-sorcery fantasy with worlds filled with elves and dwarves and other generic races that Tolkien made famous with his own novels. In this, Angelica Maria’s Solstoria has differentiated itself from other fantasy stories by crafting a world where humanity struggles to coexist in a world with fey magic that can be deadly when it grows too concentrated and twists the land. The story focuses on siblings, Samantha and Lawrence Russell, initially as children and then as they grow older, as Lawrence seeks to learn more of the world they live in and Samantha searches for her brother after he vanishes. While the story is still young, Maria has crafted an interesting world and has built the foundation of what may prove an excellent story. Add in some excellent artwork and you have a comic well worth reading, especially before the archives grow too large.