Friday, May 29, 2009

Good Comics That I Don't Have Time to Catch Up On

Sometimes I lament that I am but one man, with one man's time. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of webcomics. All across the web, there are scads of comics, and while not all of them will prove to be worth your time, many are good enough to take note of. There are, in fact, too many good comics to read regularly. Hence my lament.

And hence today's update. The comics featured today are all comics whose archives I have enjoyed, perhaps even comics that I was caught up with at one point. Many of them mix humor with storytelling, eschewing disposable "daily gags" in favor of Real Continuity™. One might well maintain that this actually makes them funnier. In my busy comic-reading schedule, I sadly do not have time to read these comics regularly--but perhaps you do.

Give them a look. They are good.

Gastrophobia: Set in ancient Greece, this comic follows a self-absorbed single-mother barbarian, Phobia, and her clever but childish son, Gastro. The art is brash, bold, and cartoony, with single-color tones and good use of black-and-white. The humor is silly and character-based, delivered in episodic storylines such as "The Hole Story" (in which Phobia tells Gastro a bedtime story about the time she fell down a giant hole) or "Boared to Death" (in which the two settle the karmic restaurant debt of Phobia's late, dine-and-dashing great-aunt Pneuma, and about a million things turn out to be not as they seem).

Dawn of Time: The adventures of a cavegirl--named, of course, "Dawn." A series of visual gags introduces the reader to Dawn's speech-sparse prehistoric life, which is interrupted by the arrival of Victorian-era time-travelers trying to settle a paleontological dispute. When one of them leaves the other behind to prevent his theories from gaining traction, Mr. Mantell must rely on Dawn to help him survive in this savage wasteland. Like Gastrophobia, Dawn of Time employs single-tone shading, but with a lighter touch on the pen and greater use of hatching for texture. Dawn's silly, wide-eyed expressions counterpoint her primitively-driven antics, and the comic also does a few clever-ish things with visually conveying verbal communication.

Good Ship Chronicles: What do you get when you cross Star Trek with The Office? A holodocumentary about the barely-competent, full-of-himself captain of the SS Gossamer and his bitter, underappreciated second-in-command. The art is a good balance of stylized and realistic, and things get especially funny when a transporter accident generates two of the captain. Also, the site design is mad sharp--one of the best comic sites I've seen. If you like Jump Leads, Good Ship Chronicles also comes highly recommended.

The Far Reaches: If Good Ship Chronicles is the comic version of The Office in space, The Far Reaches draws its influence from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Our protagonist is lazy, spineless socialite Gilrec Dauntless, who is hounded by his uncle to get up and do something with his life. As a result, he and his robot butler Bentley get in over their heads with such dangers as space pirates and hot secret agents. The art starts off a little flat, but even the earlier comics have their share of artistically strong moments (Exhibit A, Exhibit B). At present, the art has sharpened up considerably. If you like dry British humor in space, but Jump Leads was not surreal enough for you, you will definitely dig The Far Reaches.

Bankshot Comics: An entire comic company with a variety of titles for your reading enjoyment. At the suggestion of company head Brendan McGinley, I read through the first three chapters of their title Hannibal Goes to Rome. The goal of this particular comic is to make the history of Hannibal accessible. It enjoys a measure of success toward its ends--it renders Hannibal's story in entertaining contemporary language, and its wit and humor effectively convey the motives of humans and nations alike, but at points it gets bogged down in historical details. For example, a reader with only a passing interest in history may wonder why the political career of Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal is relevant to the story. The artwork is stylized yet detailed, w/ strong weighty lines and dynamic figures--artist Mauro Vargas clearly has chops, as you can see from the sample below.

Overall, Hannibal is professionally executed and a fairly engaging read. As noted before, Bankshot has a variety of comics available, from humor to superheroes. It's also worth noting that Hannibal Goes to Rome had some of the fastest loading times of any webcomic I've visited, a definite plus.

Among all those good comics, I expect that you personally can find something well worth reading. Enjoy the links, and I'll see you next week!

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