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Thread: Webcomics You Should Be Reading: 3/15/10

  1. CurtisLawson Guest

    Webcomics You Should Be Reading: 3/15/10

    Hello fanboys and fangirls! Welcome to the second installment of Webcomics You Should Be Reading . If you didn't catch my first installment, the purpose of this column is so that I may serve as your own personal Virgil, leading you through the underworld of web based sequential art. As with last time, I'll be focusing on some exceptional comics that don't get quite as much attention as I feel they deserve.

    First up we have Over, an engaging, self-proclaimed romantic comedy scripted and drawn by the very talented and hard working Tyler James. Now don't get turned off by the term "romantic comedy". Over is far from your run of the mill, Reese Witherspoon/Mark Ruffalo romance story. Nor is it some sad rip off of Chasing Amy, despite the main character being a comic writer. No, Over is something completely special and unique to itself.

    Over follows Felix Hughes, a semi-successful indie comic creator, who finds himself obsessing over his ex-girlfriend months after their breakup. With thoughts of his lost love creeping into every aspect of his being, Felix finds himself unable to focus on his popular fantasy comic. He turns his attentions instead to an autobiographical project that is really more about personal therapy than art. The comic he creates is a thinly veiled recitation of every painful moment of his failed relationship. Tack on a ridiculous "Mary-jane" fan-fic ending that lands him on Oprah as a superstar writer and we see that Felix has dropped from Eisner nominated writer, to the artistic peer of love scorned teenage girls everywhere. The biggest problem - Felix thinks his project is gold.

    Not only does our hero believe that his new comic, entitled Over, is a solid piece of art, but he's convinced that it's going to bring him fame and fortune. Even more importantly, Felix thinks that if Over is successful enough, the comic will bring Faith back to him. His delusions are dashed over and over again as those close to him let him know that the book is a depressing, terrible read. Despite the hard criticism from his friends about Over, Felix continues to obsess over both Faith and the book, upsetting his career, stressing his friendships and keeping him distracted from a chance at true love that's right under his nose.

    Now I know this sounds more depressing than funny, but a wonderful cast of characters, awkwardly humorous situations, and exceptional dialog lend a comedic overtone to this story that leaves you literally laughing out loud. A bit of low brow nerd humor does a lot to lighten the mood of the comic as well.

    One of the things that makes Over such a fun and easy comic to read is how relate-able both the situation and Felix himself are. Anyone who has ever fallen for the wrong person and gotten their heart put through a paper shredder as a result can relate to this story. And if you are any manner of artist, I'm sure you know what it's like to have your outlet for release completely overtaken by the very pain you're trying to escape. How many of you artists have suffered for months where every Mystique or Batgirl you draw had the face of the one who got away? How many song writers have pissed off their bands by regurgitating the same heartbreak over and over again in every sappy tune they put together? I know I've been there.

    Another aspect of this webcomic which I find to be pretty clever is one of its storytelling techniques. In many cases, flashbacks are replaced with selected portions of Felix' comic. The audience then gets to read some of Felix' Over while simultaneously learning more about the circumstances of Felix and Faith's relationship.

    As for the art on Over, it isn't stunning, but it is most definitely competent and professional. Most importantly it moves the story along. Tyler may not be the next Jim Lee, but he understands the story telling element of sequential art better than a lot of the flashier indie artists out there.

    When it's all said and done, Over is one of the most enjoyable and original comics on the net. In a virtual world of gamer cliches, spandex clones, and yawn worthy slices of life, Tyler James stands out as a truly creative creator.

    For our second comic this week, we have Shades, written and created by David A.J. Berner. This is hands down my favorite “cape” webcomic out there. Shades takes a look at the idea of the superhero through a distinctly British view, departing from the tired cliches which have come to dominate American spandex fiction.

    The rich pantheon of characters is by far the best part of Shades. The heroes and villains, while still over the top, seem much more culturally believable than the various attempts others have made to transplant the American superhero archetype into European soil. From pre-druidic magicians fighting for the soul of Britain and jaded WW2 dog fighters, to young super hero wannabes, the cast has a completely organic feel to it, with no sense of pretension or forced characterization. In addition, Berner demonstrates a mastery of dialogue, making sure that each character has their own distinct voice.

    With a body of work stretching more than two hundred pages, Shades has managed to weave together a fairly original and riveting story, with an almost Watchmen air to it. I'm reluctant to give too much of the story away here, but it is epic in scope. A solid mixture of action and intrigue keeps the reader on their toes. The story is further strengthened by an array of flashbacks that lead one through a connected series of events going back 5000 years. The deep history of the story does much to draw the reader in and immerse him in the world that Berner has created.

    Not only does Shades rock a great cast and an interesting plot, but it's fairly impressive on a visual level as well. While the character designs are cool and fresh, the truly impressive thing about the art in Shades is how well it works on a dramatic level. There are some scenes that just stand out in one's mind, due to the raw aesthetic yes, but more importantly in how the reader is led into said scenes. A few such examples that stick in my mind are a dog fight against something that can only be described as a “Nazi air fortress”, and the discovery of a cult gathered around a giant wickerman.

    As far as I'm concerned Shades is one of the all around best webcomics out there, in any genre. There's never a boring page and I always find myself eager for the next update. The impressive archive of work can keep the new reader entertained for a good long while as well. You're robbing yourself of a great webcomic experience if you don't check this one out, folks.

    That's all I have for you this week, kids. Check back here in 14 days when I'll be talking about The Fighting Stranger and some more Webcomics You Should Be Reading.

    ************************************************** ********
    Curtis Lawson is the owner of Broken Soul Press and the writer of the webcomics*Divis Morte*and*Curtis Lawson's Grindhouse.
    Last edited by CurtisLawson; Monday, March 22, 2010 at 04:38 AM. Reason: Added pictures!

  2. jamesfairlie Guest

    I first found Over last autumn and read the whole thing (up until that point) in one sitting, and have been reading it every update since.

    What with recommending Over this week, and Dead Heaven last time, this column is fast becoming a must read.

  3. CurtisLawson Guest

    Thanks! I'm glad you're liking my picks so far. Another great thing about Over is that Tyler James is just a really cool guy too.

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