Short-form reviews of various webcomics.
Growing up with Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii can be a pretty defining experience. The rich history of Nintendo games intersect with an overarching story of wordless adventure. The characters are archetypes more than anything. Brawl in the Family by Matthew Taranto develops them in a series of gags, story-arcs, musical numbers, and more gags. The family-friendly tone, lovely pastel-blue color scheme, and short strips make it an extremely comfortable read. The webcomic makes full use of the infinite canvas, often using as few panels as necessary to get the jokes across while allowing longer stories.
It alternates goofy slapstick visuals with love and melancholy, in such a way that it's impossible not to root for the characters. Brawl in the Family introduces a lot of canon that sticks with you – in particular the romantic relationship between Kirby and Jigglypuff, between Samus and Captain Falcon, and most importantly the banter between Kirby and Dedede. Even moreso than the catchy Christmas songs, it's watching the characters love eachother that sticks with you. Someday, Bug Catcher and Thwomp will reunite I'm sure.
Anyway, Waluigi Time.
Do you think love can bloom, even in the zombie apocalypse? Looking at Shootaround, it seems clear that all human experiences keep treading along during an undead armageddon. Your entire family might be dead and you might be stranded on the other side of the globe, but you will still be lollygagging around. It might just be the only way to cope, but that only makes the jokes funnier!
Shootaround is a heartfelt story about community and love in the face of significant trauma. Watching these six sporty queer girls come to age at the end of the world and get ready to rebuild a new one, while keeping hold of their playfulness and their bonds with eachother, is the most endearing and moving thing. This group of very different but wholeheartedly connected teenagers does seem much more capable than the basketball coach watching over them, but the sense of humour, focus on love, and genuine struggles these kids go through, keep Shootaround grounded in its monochrome pastel world.
Very long-running adventure webcomics are great because there ends up being so much there. Amber Williams created an entire universe originally based on roleplaying on a mid-90s furry MUD. Furrae is a fascinating world, featuring over a dozen species/factions trying to diplomatize eachother. Or, if you're a dragon, you can just eat them, I guess.
Watching an ensemble cast dealing with their heritage, traumas, and aspirations for a better world, is always a great experience. Pretty much the entire cast is incredibly pleasant and nice, which sets the tone for the webcomic despite all the implied and explicit violence. The characters can be terrifying, being able to end someone's existence in an instance at times. The politics are often arbitrary, but funny and compelling. There are a lot of excellent stories here, so it's a webcomic I can highly recommend.
Adventure! Romance! Whimsy! The universe is a big and weird place, and this rag-tag group of space mercenaries will see it all. We follow trained soldier Val, probably the best person with a gun in the galaxy. We follow the ace virtuoso wizard Isaac, probably the most powerful mage in the galaxy. Supported by technical whiz Minnow, they travel through space taking odd-jobs... mostly just to make enough money to keep going. Good thing they also have some good hobbies and find some good love.
Presented mostly as a gag-a-day strip, Val and Isaac is positively hilarious. The comedy is consistently eye-catching, using interesting high concepts by combining sci-fi and magic in weird fun ways. AI-organics interactions, pocket dimensions with their own rules, creatures who predate purely on emotions, magic powered by abstract concepts, all tied up on one ridiculous expansive world. Combine this with some very comfy romance and you have yourself a very fun webcomic adventure.
I suppose it only makes sense for the most true-to-the-source-material video game adaptation of all time to be about a linear roguelike. Spelunky is designed from the ground up as a story-generating machine. You explore the depths and beyond to find the ancient relics of ancient civilizations, though the chance of survival is slim. We all experienced similar puzzling and platforming situations in Spelunky, yet it is different every time. You must have a death-wish to go down into these mines, but if you make it through, you may be remembered as a hero.
Most impressive is probably how halibabica manages to perfectly represent the 2D level design in three dimensions. Everything looks blocky and weird, but it feels completely right for the world. Even more impressive is how comprehensively halibabica manages to cover every type of event one may experience in Spelunky Classic. But in the end, what makes this webcomic truly special is the character arcs our protagonists go through. The dangerous caverns will change who you are. Though I guess Spelunkying mostly ignores the PTSD these characters would realistically contract after facing off with spiders, vampires, aliens, cultists, and most of all shopkeepers.
Aaron Diaz' Dresden Codak has two faces. One is the hyper-absurdist high-concept philosophy bullshit of its early pages, where characters fight monsters with the power of political theory, interact with a Tiny Carl Jung, and exorcise Laplase' Demon. The other is long-form story arcs focusing on core themes such as transhumanism and political power. Watching a webcomic between the two is wonderous.
The first major storyline, "Hob", is particularly awe-inspiring. Presenting a world in which emotions are commodities and ideas as tangible as reality, Dresden Codak just takes all that as a given and decides to portray an entire Ghibli story about transhumanism with time-travel and superpowers in the course of merely 27 pages. It is densely packed with meaning and detail. The second and longest story, "Dark Science", is less focused and less dense, but much more accessible and very very beautiful. I livetweeted my reading experience!
Interdimensional, alien probes penetrate the depths of our pain. The depths of our existence. If you know me, you know I love experimental art that explores the potential of the Web. Angus Nicneven's writing does so better than anyone could. Comprehending the Realities presented through this primitive 04 matrix take effort, but the excellent artwork, animations, audio, and writing make it an extraordinary experience no matter what you take away from it. Allow Angus to give his nightmares a vector into your mind.
I particularly recommend going through all of the pages under "About Angus". The "main" route of pages is pretty and interesting, but also more frustrating and confusing than all the side pages available on this website. Oh, this website is partly inspired by the Lain fan website I listed on my "Websites" page. What's the distinction between a webcomic and a website? I don't think there is such a thing.
Short but sweet, interesting, and unique. Gemini is a gag-a-day webcomic about the daily life of Bernie and Zee, two people who happen to share the same body. Gemini goes in-depth on the experience of multiples and the importance of support and mental healthcare. In doing so, the webcomic is incredibly original, featuring many distinctive jokes and wonderful ideas.
Unfortunately, nearly half of the webcomic was lost when its server crashed in 2012. We're left with 62 pages of characters going to college, gradually coming out as multiple and trans, and commenting on crude behavior. A finale, a booklet posted five years after the webcomic was abandoned, supplies us with a worthy stopping point and gives insight in how the system of multiples evolves over time.
Is it one big "Shaggy is incredibly powerful" meme? Yes. Is it the ultimate Shaggy webcomic? Also yes. A weird gag-a-day morphs into a Ruby Quest style horror webcomic before again morphing into a longrunning shonen manga, all featuring popular US animation characters. Fights between characters like Scooby Doo and Bugs Bunny using JoJo-esque superpowers named Ballyhoo feel epic. Shaggy's battle instincts even while functionally powerless and debilitated are a sight to behold, and it is very easy to root for him as he faces the powerful, cocky, scary unknown. Also Kermit the frog does weed, so I guess this is the perfect webcomic for the current generation.