Webcomics Roundup for 2012

Look at that: It’s been more than a year since my last webcomics roundup. I guess I should probably stop pretending these are monthly. I don’t keep up on webcomics quite as obsessively as my other interests, so I will probably never be offering extensive thoughts that often. I do still read a lot, though, so I plan to keep offering updates from time to time. Here are thoughts on and links to some of the webcomics that I should have been talking about over the past year.


kinokofryThe big news is that Kinokofry is back! Rebecca Clements’ irreverent humor and Dr. Seuss-influenced art made this one of my favorites before she went on an extended leave, and I wasn’t sure if she would ever start up again. As her return announcement shows, she is as talented and dedicated as ever. That picture will give you a good idea of her art style, while the “Jackanthe Beanstalk” story she’s currently telling demonstrates her quirky, fourth-wall-breaking storytelling.

The website can be a little confusing at first, as Clements serializes two comics at irregular intervals, and the front page shows whichever page is newest. Kinokofry is the whimsical adventures (and inscrutable humor) of several different creatures. Originally, the main characters were mushrooms, but it now covers any topics that suit her fancy. The other comic, Secret Mystery Diary, covers events from Clements’ own life. A confident young artistic woman who wants to make the world a better place, she’s a fun person to follow. (Note that her comic is occasionally NSFW, ironically because of sex-positive messages).

Clements also used to work on a children’s adventure called Ruffle Hall. That hasn’t started updating again, but she has said that it will soon.


JL8

I’m not sure if it’s necessary to mention JL8 here, as everyone seems to know it already. But it’s probably the best new webcomic of 2012, so here you go. The concept is DC’s Justice League heroes as children, “Muppet Babies” style. That may sound questionable, but it’s hilarious. The characters’ personalities are applied to eight-year-olds very well (with their abilities usually being more personality quirks than actual superpowers), and author Yale Stewart has more respect than DC does for the values that make the heroes work. That’s not to say that it is overly-serious, though: These are all children who share an elementary school class, and the adult crises are replaced by bullies on the playground. (Yes, the bullies are child versions of Lex Luthor and the other arch-enemies.) It works great. The sequence where the children try new, edgier costumes (based on the “New 52” redesigns) after the bullies call them babies perfectly mixes childish whimsy with DC events.

That first storyline, with the bullies, is excellent. The current one, involving a love triangle and Wonder Woman’s birthday party, has been more complex and feels a little too slowly-paced. Even with that criticism, though, I’m a fan. Why hasn’t DC offered Stewart his own book yet?

(Unfortunately, it uses a Tumblr website, meaning that it isn’t very convenient to catch up on now. You’ll have to page back to the start – it’s at page 10 as of today – and click on each comic to view it full-size. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t bother mentioning a Tumblr site unless it was worth it.)


Nimona

Nimona may be my second-favorite debut of the year, which is interesting because I almost dismissed it a few pages in: Too many webcomics are built on the premise of “I love this character so you will, too! Here she is doing spunky and/or quirky things over and over!” I’m glad I kept reading this, though. Author Noelle Stevenson has built something truly remarkable out of ideas that sound like webcomics clichés.

Nimona, the character, is a spunky shapeshifting girl with some obvious psychological damage behind her impetuous cuteness. The comic opens with her breaking into the lair of supervillain Balister Blackheart and demanding to be his sidekick. Her visions of villainy involve rampant death and destruction, while he holds himself to a code of honor. The setting is a strange mix of the medieval and the near-future superhero, and that was another thing that felt off at first. Though I don’t think that will ever be explained in an entirely consistent way, it quickly grew on me and became appropriate to the characters. There are also hints that the “good guys” are the true villains, though that also isn’t clean-cut: Blackheart does some villainous things, and his history with his arch-nemesis, “Sir Goldenloin”, is complicated and fraught with regret on both sides.

Even if Nimona seems a little off to you at first, give it a chance. It’s a great example of the treasures you can discover online.


Finally, here are two new comics that I’m watching. One of the best part of webcomics is that it costs nothing to keep an eye on the promising ones! Not all of them pan out, but that uncertainty makes the successes even more enjoyable.

IotheraIothera’s setting has a lot to take in: With its shades of Victorian England, modern grad-school culture, space exploration, and people with ESP-like “gifts”, this covers a lot of ground. And we know almost nothing yet about the complex history or the advanced ancient cultures the main character is studying. This could easily sink under the weight of its own ambition. (Based on the author’s comments, this is a reboot of an older comic that did just that.)

It’s definitely worth giving a chance, though. There seems to be some solid worldbuilding behind the complex situation that we’re dropped into. Between that, the careful thought that goes into the character and fashion designs, and some beautifully emotional (NSFW) scenes, I suspect that author Ben Riley has the skills to make it work.


BroodhollowBroodhollow is a simple story so far: Protagonist Wadsworth Zane, a normal man with some OCD compulsions, inherits his great-uncle’s estate and finds himself a stranger in a town with some strange traditions. This has the potential to be the first effective horror webcomic that I know of. Not much has happened yet, but that seems necessary for the slow build-up of tension that author Kris Straub is attempting. Given Straub’s webcomic credentials (of Checkerboard Nightmare, Starslip Crisis, and others), it looks like this is one to watch.

The artwork has a simple, innocent feel to it, like these characters have been lifted out of 1950s illustrations. Though the faces look blank at times, they’re actually very expressive, with moody colors. It contrasts nicely with the occasional glimpses of something that the main character sees when he doesn’t follow his obsessive patterns.

With the town of Broodhollow about to begin its mysterious “Ouster Eve” celebrations, it seems like the perfect time to catch up on this comic.

 

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  1. November 23rd, 2013

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