As promised, I am back to reviews again this week, although I do appreciate the responses and re-tweets for last week’s “Why I read webcomics” post! In case you’re wondering, I still think webcomics are great and I have two more to recommend for you today. As usual, check my Links section for all the comics I have reviewed here.
First up is Ignition Zero by Noel Arthur Heimpel, which is a story of a hidden, magical world hidden beneath the surface of fictional Glory, Maryland, home to Godeliff University. But before I even get into the story, let me say that what initially drew me to Ignition Zero was the artwork. Within the first three pages, you have this wonderful title page and another splash page showing the front of Godeliff U, which really show off Noel’s watercolors to good effect right off the bat. That is immediately followed up with an attack by a monster that is an inky void that reminds me in a positive way of the Demon Bear from Bill Sienkiewicz’s run on the New Mutants. The monster is in fact a personified nightmare, which is a neat idea and an example of the invention that backs up Noel’s fabulous art. Noel uses graphite pencil (outlines), watercolor, inks, and salt for his artwork. (I can say this with authority even though I know nothing about art, because he says so right here under the splash page.) I think this is the only webcomic I am currently reading where the artwork is not partially or wholly done on the computer, and it makes for some very nice pages, such as the splash page I just mentioned and also this one and this one, to share a few examples. To me, the art feels more personal and unique this way, less like I’m reading a story and more like someone is sharing their sketchbook with me. Bottom line: it’s just cool.
Back to the story: Robbie is an artist and has been in contact with Orson online for years. Now he’s moving to Orson’s hometown, Glory, to attend Godeliff University and to meet Orson in person for the first time. Robbie has read Orson’s fantasy stories but he never suspected that they were based in truth. It doesn’t take him long, though, to be pulled in to a world where magical creatures and lands are hidden just out of sight of the mundane world. Sure enough, Robbie gets caught up in a war between powerful forces, but the story does not rush into that potentially epic battle. Instead it takes it time to present the various inhabitants of Glory, the vegans, the aces, the drinkers of soy, and an apple-sharing, blue-headed bug-bearish creature named Hugh. You know, a typical college town.
The story, the characters, and the artwork in Ignition Zero combine for a great webcomic experience. Go check it out.
Next up is Hominids by Jordan Kotzebue. I’ll start off this review by mentioning the navigation and archive system for Hominids. Normally I wouldn’t talk about something like this, but with Hominids it was the first thing that stood out for me. Most comics have the familiar First, Previous, Next, Last buttons and an archive page of some sort, but Hominids has an illustration of a tree for each chapter, with thumbnails of the pages draped and looped around the branches. It has an organic feel that works well with the setting of the comic. I’m not saying every webcomic needs such a setup, but it’s a pleasant, artistic change. The navigation is also nice. Click on any page and it balloons up to take center stage; the rest of the screen is black. Press the left and right arrow keys to scroll back and forward through the comic, with seemingly no load time. As someone who strives to read the entire archives of a comic before I write about them, I cannot express how much I appreciate being able to quickly read through the story this way.
Okay, if you’re still with me, let’s get down to the story and art. Chapter One is in black and white and starts off with a five-page prologue that I mostly forgot as I read the rest of the story. It details the different hominids who inhabit a forest and a nearby mountain, but only describes them and does not give them names. There are ones that live underground, wanderers with nasty-sharp teeth, bear-sized men who live by the water, ones that live in the canopies of the trees, and regular men who live on a mountain with scarce resources. It’s a bit much to keep track of with no labels to put on them yet, so I basically set that aside and read on. The next section is titled “Homo Neanderthalensis AKA Neanderthal,” so I figure each type of hominid will get its due at some point. The first Neanderthals we meet are Keyli, a hunter, and Sno and Gosh, albino siblings. Gosh is set up as being clumsy, and he is soon captured by tiny furry hominids (Australopithecus?). Keyli and Sno rush to rescue him but he apparently can handle himself just fine.
The story continues with a lone human meeting up with the Neanderthals with some information that completely changed, in a good way, where I thought this webcomic was heading. I won’t give away any more than that because it is worth your while to go read it yourself.
The black-and-white art in Chapter One is well done, but the later chapters in color were easier for me to follow and to tell who’s who. The art is very clean and to me I get some shades of Disney’s Tarzan movie mixed with a 300-era Frank Miller/Lynn Varley art style (although much less heavily inked). (I should note here that bare breasts abound in this webcomic, in a sort of National Geographic-like way. It’s not salacious but I guess you might not want to be reading it at work.)
The Kickstarter for Five Ghosts finished on Sunday and it exceeded its goal. Congratulations! The first issue isn’t due until September 2012, so I hope my future self appreciates the gift that my present self is sending him. (I know, I’m weird.)
Next up on Lithicbee
Friday: Some flash fiction for Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog. The theme? Death. (This will actually be up tomorrow to meet Chuck’s deadline, but I am still calling it my Friday post, so there.)
Sunday: Part 10 of The Only City Left. This is the continuing story of Allin Arcady, a young man who is lost amidst the ruins of a planet-sized city called Earth. Think Trantor meets Cube meets Mad Max meets monster movies, and you have some idea of the setting. I am having fun writing and sharing this story and would love for you to give Part One a chance and let me know what you think, if you haven’t already.