Webcomic of the Week – AGENTS OF THE REALM

wotwcardHey everypeoples, it’s Wednesday and time for another dip into the waters of undiscovered webcomics (I seem to be on a hydrated theme this week…). This week’s discovery comes on the recommendation of the guys over at Geek and Sundry, who posted a few of the webcomics they appreciate yesterday, so I gave one of them a look-see. Quick heads up, this one contains themes that one would consider “mature”, so unless you are sufficiently advanced in your pubescent nature and have an open mind, stop right here and go watch this instead.

For those of you still with us, Agents of the Realm is a mahou shoujo (Magical Girl) themed, coming-of-age comic by Mildred Louis, with a modern western angle. Our protagonist is Norah Tanner, a 20 year old college student who would like nothing more than to keep her head down, stay out of other people’s way, and figure out what she’s going to do with her life (ah, don’t we all…). This plan goes out the window when she finds a mysterious brooch that turns her into a magical warrior known as an Agent, and a lady from another dimension called Jade reveals that she has been chosen to safeguard the very stability of two realities. So, you know, no pressure. Norah is just one of five Agents in her reality, with the other four starting to turn up one by one, and just as well, because Jade’s twin sister Ruby is out hunting for the Agents’ brooches, and mysterious monsters called Bleeds are crossing through the gate between realities…

While the basic premise for AotR is nothing new for a Magical Girl series, it does enough things differently that it makes for a truly unique take on the genre that mature readers can appreciate. For starters, where a cliched MG series might feature teenagers (usually driven by hormones and nothing else), AotR‘s protagonists are college students, who have all the problems and life decisions that come with that life phase, making them more relatable to the twenty-something generation that may have grown out of their high-school angst. They aren’t immediately friendly with each other and there is a certain level of tension between them as they learn to work together, having been thrown into a situation none of them asked for. They are also ethnically diverse (with African-American, Portuguese, English, Spanish and Chinese heritages across the team) without conforming to stereotypes, and while the issue of sexuality is not at the forefront, at least one of the Agents is shown to be attracted to another girl. In short, AotR has realistic characters that are defined by their personalities rather than their race or sexual preference, which is often a trap that writers can fall into when trying to create a diverse team.

Agents of the Realm offers a deeper, more deconstructed look at a genre whose popularity has risen and fallen repeatedly for the past 30 years. The archive dates back to March 2014, so grab some snacks and dive in for a few hours of well-drawn, well-written ladies and their magical weaponry, updating every Thursday and Sunday. Mildred Louis is also on Twitter and Tumblr, and she has a Patreon going with two other projects waiting in the wings, so go show her some love and support, because she deserves it.

That’s all for this week, go check out Agents of the Realm right here, and if you have or know of a webcomic that needs more attention, let me know and I might just be reviewing it down the line.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – THE PIGEON GAZETTE

wotwcardHey everypeoples, it is Wednesday, where I should be throwing some webcomic reviews your way, and have failed to do so for a while now. Sad facts, I just haven’t had the time to find and binge through any comics with deep archives lately. But I was able to discover something this past weekend which provides an example of a different type of webcomic that I’ve come to enjoy.

The Pigeon Gazette is a slice-of-life comic written and drawn by a mysterious figure known only as Jane (aka Pigeon Girl, aka Pigeoneer Jane, you see the theme). It’s a (mostly) autobiographical piece that follows the day-to-day life of the author, outlining the struggles and celebrations in a humorous and occasionally self-deprecating way. Readers follow Jane through such trials and tribulations as exams, roommates and… social interaction, brrr… So all in all, everything that the modern 20-something student can and will worry about.

The main reason I wanted to bring up The Pigeon Gazette is that represents a genre that is becoming increasingly popular among webcomic artists. It’s not uncommon to see professional artists juggling multiple comics, and one of those may be a satire of their own lives. Heck, I’ve even tried it myself (but let’s not go there… it was a long time ago). It doesn’t have to be a side project either; like Jane and The Pigeon Gazette, some artists use it as their primary outlet. Comics like Whomp! by Ronnie Filyaw and 4-Panel Life by Jen-Jen Rose follow this logic, using exaggerated circumstances and life experiences to entertain people and let the artists do what they love. The Pigeon Gazette is the latest example I have discovered, but I’m not going to start flinging words like “unoriginal” around; each one of these artists is a unique individual, and while the inevitable common themes of a life in the arts does crop up (and the social deprivation that is both a symptom and cause of it), we get to see these people’s unique life stories through their own eyes and minds, where they are more entertaining than anyone else could describe them.

The Pigeon Gazette is a funny, quirky, aesthetically cartoony comic that updates Wednesdays and Sundays. It’s been running for about a year, so the archives are not particularly extensive. You can blast through the whole thing in an hour or so, but you’ll be smiling the entire time. Go check it out on Jane’s Tumblr right here, she’s on Twitter @PigeonComics and on Patreon too, and has just made some shirts available on her store, so go show her some love.

That’s all for this week, hopefully I’ll stumble across some more cool stuff to share with you guys soon.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – PARANATURAL

wotwcardBlehhhhhh… That was your standard, middle-of-the-week, universal greeting, hope you are all blehing to the highest bleh of bleh. And as we bleh into the second half of the week, let’s mix it up with a new webcomic, so that we don’t bleh ourselves too hard.

This week’s webcomic is Paranatural, by Zack “MidnightTelevison” Morrison. A modern fantasy tale, it follows one Maxwell Puckett (that’s Max to anyone who values their life), a new resident of the small town of Mayview, having just moved there with his dad and little sister. Cynical and grumpy, Max rolls his eyes at just about anything that looks at him funny, but the problem is that there’s a lot more looking at him than he wants to deal with. Upon arriving at his new school, Max suddenly has the ability to see ghosts, spirits, and all other manner of supernatural beings, and it’s freaking him out. Fortunately for him, there’s a group that can help, right in his new school: The Paranatural Activity Club. With the help of the fiery Isabel, eccentric Ed and straight man Isaac, Max finds himself in a world he doesn’t fully understand, but one he is going to grasp by the throat and shake until he does.

What really grabbed me about Paranatural was the unique take it has on spirits and the mythology behind them. Max and his friends are “spectrals”, humans that can manipulate their own spiritual energy for various purposes, and are able to use “tools”. A spectral’s tool is an item that is possessed by a spirit, and can only be used by a spectral with energy of the same colour. These spirits can range from obscure deities, manipulative demons, or just pure savage ghostly beasts, which gives you a healthy appreciation for just how tough these kids are; Isabel in particular takes no nonsense from anyone. Another big factor that I enjoy is the art style; the characters are often drawn with over the top reactions in a parody of anime, and their personalities are similarly exaggerated for comedic value. Contrasting with the rather serious story, it makes for a plot that will make you laugh, but can throw you for a loop when you least expect it.

I first read Paranatural sometime last year, but lost the bookmark and thereafter the story for a while. I recently discovered it again and had a blast catching up on everything I’d missed, and I had missed a LOT. Paranatural has been running since 2011, and updates Tuesdays and Fridays.

That’s all for this week, go check out Paranatural, show the creator some appreciation, and don’t forget to leave your suggestions for future reviews in the comments.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – CASSIOPEIA QUINN

wotwcardHey everypeoples, it’s Wednesday and time for a new webcomic! While I normally like to binge on long-runners, I’m going to mix it up a bit with a comic that hasn’t been around too long, but is too darn entertaining not to talk about.

This week’s choice is Cassiopeia Quinn, written by Gunwild and drawn by Psudonym, members of the Hiveworks network. It follows the adventures of the titular character, a flighty thief with a heart of gold as she travels the intergalactic spaceways with her robotic cowboy companion Zeke in search of the next big score. But relentlessly pursuing the daring space pirate duo is Captain Madison Vrax of the Prime Galactic Navy, a young blue-skinned officer with a head for order who often ends up the victim of a humiliating defeat. This does nothing to deter Vrax, who considers capturing Peia and bringing her to justice a point of personal pride as well as her duty.

No matter what goes on in Cassiopeia Quinn, there is something on every page that will make you react anywhere between a smile and an outright laugh, whether it’s a funny punchline, a ludicrous plan gone horribly right, or even just a tiny quirk in the art. The characters are incredibly endearing, especially Ms. Quinn herself; Peia enjoys her work for the adventures it brings, and she generally goes about enjoying it with no pants. Rather than outright sexualizing this particular trait, (although it is known to happen) Peia’s hatred of pants is often played for laughs and establishes her carefree attitude in stark contrast to Vrax’s strict, law-abiding code. Vrax sees Peia not just as an outlaw to be hunted, but also as someone she’d want to put in prison for being really, really, REALLY inappropriate and annoying. Though it’s hard to argue with that logic when someone escapes you by piloting an alien spacecraft with her butt…

Cassiopeia Quinn is a webcomic I appreciate when I need a pick-me-up; whether I read through the hilarity of the story, or just check out the gorgeous artwork, I always enjoy myself. The comic recently celebrated its one year anniversary, meaning the archives aren’t too extensive, so take the afternoon off and be entertained.

That’s all for this week, go check out Cassiopeia Quinn and show some love to the creators, and don’t forget to leave your suggestions for other webcomics in the comments.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – KIWI BLITZ

wotwcardHey everypeoples, it is the middle of the week and time for a new webcomic. I’ll confess, I’m going to cheat a little with this one because I didn’t have time to binge through anything this weekend, so I’m going with one of the webcomics I’ve been reading for a while. No judging, this one has an extensive archive, plus I’ll be throwing in a few extra recommendations at the end.

With that out of the way, this week’s webcomic is Kiwi Blitz, by Mary “Cube Watermelon” Cagle. Set in a futuristic sci-fi version of New York City, the story follows Steffi Frohlich, a 14-year-old girl with a passion for battling giant robots and far too much time on her hands. While initially satisfied with dueling other mechs in the arena, Steffi takes her piloting skills to the next level when she receives her birthday present: Kiwibot, which is exactly what it sounds like i.e. a giant mechanical kiwi bird. Fed up with being confined to the junior Robot League, Steffi adopts the moniker of “Blitz” and takes her new mecha out onto the streets to fight crime as a superheroine. To aid in her daring-do is Ben (short for Benzene) who is totally not her boyfriend (surreptitious wink) and the cute yet incredibly creepy robot girl 42 (yes, that’s the only name she has). Along the way, Steffi encounters a variety of foes such as master burglar The Raccoon, the psychotic cyborg girl Gear, and a shady group called Alter who have their own conspiracy within the police force…

Kiwi Blitz is another comic where I have to gush a little about the artwork. It’s heavily inspired by anime and manga style, but is drawn with a cutesy charm and vibrant colours that make it truly unique. Even the most badass of characters have an almost huggable look about them, which provides a sharp contrast to many of the things they are capable of (watch out for flying limbs, yikes…). It also manages to be incredibly detailed without overwhelming the eye, something I’ve always had trouble with and envy. Add to this the range of stylized facial expressions taken right out of a Saturday morning anime and it’s practically begging to be an animated series, which I would watch religiously, by the way. Art aside, the characters are fun and have great chemistry; Steffi is headstrong and reckless, taking to the role of a superhero with gusto, even though she doesn’t really think the whole process through. Once Ben gets wise to her activities as Blitz, he helps to be her voice of reason and mission control, and their friendship grows stronger for it.

Kiwi Blitz has just recently started its 20th chapter and has been running for more than 400 pages, so take a day out of your busy schedule and dive in. And while you’re at it, Mary Cagle has two other webcomics running as well: Let’s Speak English, an autobiographical Yonkoma strip about her life as an English teacher in Japan, and Sleepless Domain, a recent collaboration with artist Oskar Vega starring a team of Magical Girls!

That’s all for this week, go check out Kiwi Blitz and the Cube Watermelon’s other projects, she’s a fantastic writer and all-round nice person so show her some love, and don’t forget to leave suggestions for future comic recommendations in the comments.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – DEMON HUNTER KAIN

wotwcardHappy Wednesday everybody, if you are the sort of person who holds a special place in your heart for the middle of the week. The true significance of it to me is simply to refer you all to a newly discovered webcomic. Going to slap a warning on you right now: this week’s webcomic contains scenes with violence, gore, disturbing twisted monstrosities and strong language. Mature readers only, folks!

This comic with a disturbingly diverse range of deviance is Demon Hunter Kain, by Burrell Gill Jr. It follows the story of two characters: Zandalee, a high school student plagued by terrifying hallucinations despite her medication, and the titular Kain, a boy with a tragic past and the power to battle demonic invaders. Match made in heaven, right? The scene is set with Zandalee attending her first real day of school in four years, having spent the intervening time hospitalised and medicated for her schizophrenic visions. It isn’t long before she starts seeing things lurking around her school, and her less-than-subtle reactions to them immediately brand her as weird and disturbed. But when the supposed hallucinations start attacking her, only the intervention of Kain saves Zandalee’s life, and helps her understand that she isn’t insane.

The first thing I really want to praise regarding Demon Hunter Kain is the artwork. For a story as dark as this, one could easily have done it as a stark, dramatic, tonal piece with plenty of shadows. On the contrary, the pages are fully coloured in a western-manga style, allowing the reader to see every horrific detail of the gruesome abominations that Kain fights, and the intense emotion on the characters’ faces. Gill Jr. has a flair for the monstrous, and while the demons never reach a Clive Barker level of horrific, they will easily make your face crumple in disgust. The human characters are equally well designed, everyone has a distinct look that is recognisable at a glance. The two leads both have tragic backstories that feed into their current lives; Kain’s guilt over past mistakes and his relative inexperience with demon hunting make him driven to prove himself to his superiors, while Zandalee seeks to learn more about why she is able to see things no-one else can and, for the first time in her life, have a real friend.

Demon Hunter Kain was initially a title I found on a list of webcomics that I thought sounded just corny enough to be good, and I was right, albeit for the wrong reasons. What I thought would be an over-the-top, angsty drama turned out to be an intense, character-driven urban fantasy that I am thoroughly enjoying. The comic updates on Mondays and has archives dating back to 2011, so set aside a few hours and prepare your stomach; it’s a wild ride.

That’s all for this week, go check out Demon Hunter Kain right here, and if you can recommend any webcomics for me to binge and review, let me know in the comments.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – PENNY BLACKFEATHER

wotwcardGood evening, everypeoples. It is Wednesday and therefore time for me to espouse my views on a newly discovered webcomic.

This one is another chance find that I made during my vacation, and it goes by the title of Penny Blackfeather. Written and drawn by Francesca Dare, who describes it as a “regency-punk adventure”, this comic follows the story of Penelope Blake, a young noblewoman living in 1812 England. While her mother and older sisters are obsessed with increasing their social standing and enjoying the finer (read: frillier) things in life, Penny longs for the sort of adventures her late grandfather Nathaniel Blackfeather would go on. This is exacerbated by the fact that Nathaniel, once a famed pirate and sorcerer, is still around as a ghost and Penny is the only person who can hear him that he knows of. Penny’s wish is finally granted when she sneaks away from a ball to search a haunted library, and through a series of mishaps meets a fellow adventurer and his bright blue parrot, and a world she could only dream of opens before her.

With a tonal, stylized art style with occasional colour for dramatic effect, Penny Blackfeather derives much of it’s humour from character expressions and interactions. Running gags like Penny’s terrible sense of direction and the Adventurer’s name never being revealed crop up constantly, and the fact that all of the characters are incredibly stubborn means everyone is always butting heads; Penny demands to be taken on adventures, Nathaniel insists on talking to anyone who will listen (when he can’t find anyone to hear him, he’ll settle for narrating to the reader), and the Adventurer steadfastly refuses to believe that magic exists, even when it’s happening two inches from his face. Behind all the humour is a compelling mystery adventure involving monsters from another dimension, the secret behind Princess the parrot, and a mysterious man named Rook whom Nathaniel is sure he used to know…

Having started in 2012 and updating only on Sundays, this webcomic’s archive is not overly-extensive, and is easily binged in a day. This isn’t a bad thing though, because you’ll want to keep reading until you run out of pages, which just makes waiting a whole week for another page a foot-tappingly impatient affair.

That’s all for this week, go check out Penny Blackfeather, show the creator some love, and if you know of any webcomics I should binge for future posts, let me know in the comments.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST

wotwcardTGIF! Wait, it’s not Friday… DIOW! (Damn, it’s only Wednesday). Still, it’s not all bad, because I discovered another great webcomic to share. Heads up though, this one involves occasional profanity and violence, and discusses some rather mature topics, so anyone under 16 should probably stop reading now.

Strong Female Protagonist is a superhero comic by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, and does a deeply introspective deconstruction of the genre. The titular protagonist is Alison Green, formerly known as the teenage powerhouse Mega Girl. As a “biodynamic”, Alison was part of the super-team known as the Guardians, and put her super-strength and invulnerability to use against super-villainous threats. However, coming to the realisation that helping people was about more than just beating up bad guys, Alison publicly reveals her secret identity and quits the team, determined to have a normal life and find better ways to improve the world. Now living as a student, Alison has to deal with the prejudice of those who see biodynamics as dangerous freaks, and with the moral dilemmas of just how (and if) she should use her powers.

The underlying theme of SFP is the question of how much good superheroes actually do in the “real” world. Alison agrees that they were necessary when the world was facing supervillains in giant robots and the ability to brainwash people into becoming their slaves. She questions, however, just how relevant that all is when there is still disease, poverty, war, rape and violence in society. The world is incredibly complicated morally, and Alison admits that all she really knows is how to break things. Her soul-searching journey and the questions she asks herself throughout the story give insight into her need to help people; Alison wants to be a hero, but she wants to do it right this time. Along her way she encounters friends and enemies, both old and new, and the line between them becomes blurred by her changing outlook on life. Make no mistake, the title is less about her powers and more about her character than it lets on.

I discovered Strong Female Protagonist over the weekend and blasted through it in a day; the archives go back to 2012, and the story is really engaging. This could easily have turned out as dark as Watchmen, but the characters are likable while remaining realistic, and there is remarkably little cynicism to be found. Despite everything that goes on in a world of questionable morals, there is always a sense of optimism that helps you believe that everything will get better, and isn’t that what superhero comics are supposed to be about?

Strong Female Protagonist updates Tuesdays and Fridays, go check it out, you will not be disappointed.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – WEREGEEK

wotwcardHey everypeoples, and welcome to my Webcomic of the Week, where I discover a new (new for me anyway) online comic, binge through the archive, and review it for no good reason!

Well, that’s not technically true, I just like talking about my favourite webcomics and hopefully convincing others to read them. You will never see a negative review here; I’m not here to rip on anyone, because independent creators tend to deal with enough negativity already and that’s not what I’m about. If I don’t like a webcomic, I won’t talk about it, simple as that.

This week’s webcomic is one I discovered while on vacation: Weregeek, by Alina Pete. It follows the story of Mark, an average guy who is, deep down, a massive geek. He denies it to others and himself, dismissing activities like gaming and role-playing as silly. But at night, when the moon is full and the urge overtakes him, he unconsciously gives in to his inner geek and stalks the gaming store in search of d20s and rulebooks. This quickly puts him on the radar of the mysterious Hunter, a black-garbed, stubble-chinned desperado who tracks down and eliminates geeks lest they infect the world with their weirdness. With the Hunter on his trail, Mark narrowly escapes thanks to Joel, an out and proud geek who introduces Mark to his gaming compatriots, Sarah, Dustin and Abbie. Thanks to the group, Mark is introduced to a whole new world of geekiness, primarily LARPs (that’s Live Action Role Play, for anyone also in denial of their inner geek), a wide variety of tabletop games, and the workings of nerd culture in general. While a little overwhelmed at first, Mark grows to love his new hobbies, all the while keeping them a secret from the world at large, reveling in his dual nature as a Weregeek!

What sets Weregeek apart from other geeky comics, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t try to conform to any specific niche. Covering everything from games like Vampire: The Masquerade and Dungeons and Dragons, to commentary on cult movies and comic books, there is something for everyone here. The main cast are all quirky and fun to read, and have a diverse range of character beyond the simple label of “geek”. They take part in grand tales of adventure and intrigue in their gaming personas, while still being a very real group of friends who help each other with their real world issues. Weregeek has been running since 2006, so the archive is huge; I’d tell you to pace yourself when reading it, but then I binged through it in two days straight, and I don’t want to be called a hypocrite.

I’d like to finish off with a bit of fan art I did of my favourite character from the comic: Abbie, depicted here in her vampire persona “Talon”. (Also my first outing into Manga Studio 5, woo!)AbbyTalonThat’s all for this week, go read Weregeek right here, and if you know of any webcomics that have a decent archive that’s worth trawling through, let me know in the comments and I may feature them in a future column.

Ciao for now.