brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks, is a YA comic about high school and friendships. As the about page says:

"You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely — until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders, and the cheerleaders retaliate by making Charlie their figure-head in the ugliest class election campaign the school as ever seen. At stake? Student group funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms — but not both.

"Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not! Nothing can possibly go wrong."

"Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong" updates pretty frequently and has great clean stylish line art by Hicks. The dialogue is snappy and the writing fast paced, characters are very well designed. The two main characters are white males, but the supporting cast is fairly diverse with POC and women given speaking roles. The comic touches a bit on bullying, and Charlie's got some issues with his parents in the background, and one of the members of the Robotics Club is a young woman which is always nice to see.

I'm a fan of Hicks' work, and this project really showcases her strengths well. This is Shen's first book, but the writing and dialogue feel very tight and polished with none of that "new author" feel.
brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)
I know I originally started this promising to review YOUNG ADULT webcomics and then listed a bunch that were more middle-school level. Sorry about that. However, What Birds Know, by Emelie Friberg & Mattias Thorelli, is more YA-ish.

When I say it's more Young Adult-ish, what I mean is the POV character(s) is what I'd consider Young Adult (12-18 years old), it's targeted more towards teens than adults, and it deals with the internal struggles and rites of passage that happen in that age range. A friend of mine who's a YA librarian compares YA and adult literature to "The Hobbit" versus "Lord Of The Rings." They're both great books about people going on an adventure. However, "The Hobbit" is a very personal story about one person growing up and leaving home for the first time, then returning safely. There's a lot of world building and action and adventure and singing Dwarves, but ultimately it's about one guy growing up. "Lord Of The Rings," on the other hand, has a whole fate of the world hanging in the balance thing, ultimate evil, sweeping epic, tons of characters, etc. POV characters grow and change and have rites of passage, but The Story is more important than their personal issues.

"What Birds Know" is a long-form comic that's published a few pages at a time. Like most long form comics it's best consumed in chunks and the wait between updates is deliciously difficult. The story follows a small group of girls who travel into the local forest as part of a school assignment and find something very unexpected.

The art is really pretty, the characters are well fleshed out, and there's a lot of really great world building and mythology. The comic is not a horror comic per se, but it has some incredibly creepy moments in it, some really disturbing and unsettling scenes. Much of the comic is set in a small town near the ruins of an older civilization. Interactions between various townspeople are handled really well, and a lot of information is conveyed through casual dialogue and attitude. There's also some really great foreshadowing about the ruins and former civilizations, mostly delivered by a delightfully nerdy dad.
brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)
Paranatural, by Zack Morrison, is a kids' comic about a group of twelve year olds who live in a town thick with monsters, ghosts, and other creatures. Some of the kids, and adults, can see ghosts and have special abilities and tools which they can use to fight the ghosts.

Max is the POV character, a new comer to the town and school. As an outsider, everything is as new to him as it is to the readers, and explanations are less info-dump-y than they might otherwise be. It's a gripping comic mixing adventure/fighting and mystery. The art is pretty slick and the color is well done. The character design is good with different characters having different silhouettes and their personalities coming across through their clothing/hair styles. The ghost/monster design is also excellent and very creepy. The dialogue is snappy. Morrison is doing a great job of setting up big whacks of mystery and hidden worlds and revealing little bits and pieces of them, leaving the reader wanting more. Heck, the characters want to know more, too, but the child protagonists have a hard time getting the truth out of the knowledgeable adults around them. And, of course, they're still dealing with school work and teachers and other students (including bullies) and finding their place in the social order.

It's a good comic and a fast read. If you haven't read it before you'll get up to speed pretty quickly.
brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)
"Monster Pulse" is a kids' comic by the very talented Magnolia Porter, who you might know from or The Good Crook (the latter two aren't really kids comics, though). It follows the adventures of a group of kids, aged 12-14, who have had their body parts transformed into monsters that can fight/defend them. I say "have had their body parts transformed" because it's not something the kids chose. It was something that happened to them by accident or design. Why yes, there IS a shadowy agency lurking in the shadowy shadows orchestrating a bunch of stuff, and yes it IS pretty scary. But it's also not the focus of the comic.

"Monster Pulse" follows the adventures of Bina, Julie, Abel, and West (and their monsters) as they navigate family and personal relationships, cope with the changes their monsters have created in their lives, and try to protect other kids from what happened to them. Porter recently introduced a kid-and-monster antagonist into the groups' lives, and I'm interested in seeing where she goes with that. Her story telling is really top notch, her art is very solid, and her character design of both humans and monsters is creative and distinctive. Porter is a dedicated craftsman who has spent years so far honing her art and writing and it shows. "Monster Pulse" feels very real, the world and science feel very solid and well founded. Her dialogue, her characters' voices, are also very well done. There's a lot going on with the comic (interpersonal relationships among the group (including crushes both romantic and platonic), family relationships, health concerns, the threat of ARMA which created the monsters, social pressures, etc) and Porter weaves it all together, handling it well. It'd be easy for the comic to be entirely angst, or slapstick, or goofy fighting monster Pokemon ripoff but it's none of that. It's nuanced and rich and enjoyable.

Frankly, Porter is a comic creator who I trust implicitly. Whatever she comes out with, I'll read it knowing that I am very likely to enjoy it. So I'm incredibly biased toward her work. But if you like adventure stories and interesting monster design, give Monster Pulse a try.
brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)
"Shauna. Charlotte. Mildred. Three schoolgirl sleuths. Jack. Linton. Sonny. Three schoolboy investigators. Tackleford. One mid-sized city with a history of countless mysteries. Is there enough room at Griswalds Grammar School for two groups of kid detectives? There better be, because once these kids have set their sights on solving a mystery there's nothing that can derail them. Nothing, except maybe gossip, classwork, new football player cards, torment from siblings, or any number of childhood distractions." (from the first collection's description)

"Bad Machinery," by John Allison, is a long-form webcomic about a group of school children in Tackleford, West Yorkshire, England who solve mysteries. Allison has been creating webcomics since 1998. His previous efforts, "Bobbins" and "Scary Go Round" featured adults doing adult things, sometimes involving current events and real world situations and other times venturing far afield into some truly off-beat paths.

In some ways, "Bad Machinery" is a big departure from his earlier works. The target audience isn't adults, but children. The characters aren't adults in the work place, they're kids in school. The stories are still quirky, but they are much more focused and tightly scripted. And, of course, they all center around various mysteries... most of them supernatural in origin. Allison, of course, is no stranger to the supernatural world. He's dealt with Ghost Trains, Leprechauns and Fairies, Zombies, Devils, Hell, Warlocks, Ghosts, Witches, Grim Reapers, Parallel Dimensions, Time Travel, Elves and Goblins, and more in his previous runs. And his current stories are set in a very established world, one that he's spent years fleshing out and making real. However, one needn't go back and re-read the years and years of previous comics if one doesn't want to. Don't let that be a barrier to picking up "Bad Machinery."

"Bad Machinery" features an ensemble cast of 3 boys and 3 girls from varied socio-economic backgrounds and very different personalities. Shaunna, Lottie, Mildred, Linton, Jack, and Sonny are initially at odds in a girls vs boys dynamic. Who is better at solving mysteries? Who will solve the most mysteries? Who will emerge triumphant? Over the course of the stories, the two groups learn to work together and form a network of friendships and relationships. Behind the mystery solving, we learn more about the individual characters and their histories and personalities, and watch them grow and mature as well. Allison isn't afraid of shaking things up, and change is a constant but quiet theme in his work.

Allison has a fairly diverse cast with an equal gender split and female characters who are as fleshed out as male characters. While he only has one POC protagonist, his characters have different economic backgrounds and family situations (although all are heteronormative). He is fantastic at showing the different threads of friendship and shifting relationships of middle school, and spot-on at portraying sibling relationships. His characters have unique designs/body shapes and differing body language, and have unique voices as well. In a script without the speaker noted, you'd be able to tell who's saying what.

Oni Press has published the preamble and first story, and you can buy it through Topatoco: The Case Of The Team Spirit. In addition to the already-published story there's some reworked art and a bunch of extras. In Allison's words: "Running to about 140 pages, it features many new pages of story and loads of extra material, including an in-depth guide to the fake history of English football that I can only describe as "dense", "nutty" and "extremely time-consuming to write"." Or you could just read the original story online, starting with the preamble. You can find a list of all the chapters here, but my favorite is The Case Of The Fire Inside for so so SO many reasons.

"Bad Machinery" is currently between storylines, but there's a bit of filler in the form of another "Giant Days" feature, a short about a previous character's college experience.
brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)
Selkie, by Dave Warren, is a slice of life comic about families set in an AU world that has human-like aquatic creatures. One of them, named Selkie, is in an orphanage at the start of the story, waiting to be adopted. A man named Todd Smith, who was himself adopted, winds up adopting her. Initially unprepared for her special needs, he gets a crash course in caring for her... and is surprised to find that the CIA is interested in her as well.

Warren has a pretty good eye for dialogue and is handy at showing and not telling, two valuable skills many writers lack. Like many long form comics that update a page at a time, the story is compelling but slow moving and works best when read in chunks. He captures inter-kid and kid-adult dynamics really well. His characters have distinct designs, personalities, and voices. He's also made what looks like a conscious effort to show a wide variety of ethnicities and body types, and represent gender pretty evenly, without it feeling forced.

What's most appealing about Selkie is the amount of work he's done into fleshing out Selkie's character design. Her body is the way it is for a reason. He's worked out a lot of her biology. What does she need to breathe? To eat? What kind of culture does she have? What kind of clothing suits her body? How does her race influence her personality? The mystery of who, and where, her people are is also intriguing and something he's alluding to slowly.

The art is rough but improving, and gets an A+ for effort. I really look forward to what Warren puts out, artistically, in a few years. Selkie's speech, however, really bothers me. She sounds a bit like a parody of Skwisgar Skwigelf from "Metalocalypse." I don't know if the extraneous ending S-es are supposed to indicate sibilance or what. That's a pretty minor complaint, though.

Check out the comic and tell me what you think! Can you think of any other comics like this? Can you think of any other kid-oriented webcomics that need some loving attention and reviews? Post suggestions!
brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)
Having been kicked in the pants by a special someone, I'm going to try really hard to post a review of a webcomic every day this week.

I also want to stick to a theme this week.

This weeks' theme? YOUNG ADULT WEB COMICS, webcomics aimed at a younger audience.

I'm especially looking at Bad Machinery, Monster Pulse, Paranatural, Selkie,What Birds Know.

Any other suggestions? Link us up in comments here OR write and post your own reviews!

EDIT TO ADD:

Now that I think about it, most (all?) of these aren't YA, they're more middle school.
susanreads: David, Katchoo and Francine from Strangers in Paradise (comics)
It's time to talk about Riot Nrrd again! The art has improved since [personal profile] brigid mentioned it last year, and the comic continues to be awesome. It recently passed 100 posts, so it's not too late to catch up with the whole archive. Start at the beginning, where three young women who are about to go to college decide to create a comic together. They all have different ethnic backgrounds, different skills and different body types, and it's full of all sorts of intersectional goodness! (some of which would be spoilers ...) Also, occasional meta dispatches from the Joss Whedon Puppyverse, and the comic has transcripts. I can't remember seeing a webcomic with a transcript anywhere else. Woohoo!
anke: (Default)
"A wombat. A dead god. A very peculiar epic."

Digger by Ursula Vernon is a story-driven comic (I mean, as opposed to a gag-strip) that has been going for quite a while at a rate of two pages per week.

The main character, Digger, is a wombat, who apparently by nature are very sensible. She finds herself far from home, where things seem a lot weirder...

I'm afraid I'm not very good at summing up things. What I like about this comic:
  • The simple but effective art.
  • The humour, which hinges on "oddity", which however usually are part of the story, rather than degenerating to pointless gimmicks.
  • The feeling of a larger world Ursula Vernon creates by making references to the made-up peoples' mythologies part of the story
  • The fact that Digger is sensible and pragmatic.
My favourite webcomic. Make sure to have some spare time if you delve into the archives, it's over 600 pages.
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)
Skin Deep, by Kory Bingaman, kicks off with Michelle starting college and trying to make friends. When she picks up and dons an ugly medallion she sees someone drop on the ground, she's catapulted into a world where mythical creatures, angels, and demons-- often disguised as humans-- live in and next to the "normal" world. Michelle finds that she's not only not human, but she's apparently the last of her race and someone is gunning for her. As she freaks out over falling deeper and deeper into freakyville, her new college friends (who are all apparently creatures of mythology) try to help her come to terms with who and what she is, and what she can do.

Bingaman dips into a large number of pantheons and mythologies, and Judeo Christian Angels rub shoulders with Native American trickster gods. Dropped as we are into the middle of things, it's very obvious that her characters existed before the story starts; they have personalities and history and motivations of their own that are larger than the existing story. The writing is very strong, the characters unique and interesting, and the art is not just good but improving as the comic continues.

Although the comic doesn't have that large an archive, the current storyline is a very good introduction to the world if you don't have time to devote to an involved archive crawl.
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (Default)
It seems a little silly to call a comic on the internet, with a world wide following, “top secret.” But "Dar: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary” by Erika Moen, is at its heart very personal and very much a diary. Moen talks, in her strip, about sexuality and gender, about coming out as a lesbian and later about her confusion of being attracted to and falling in love with a man, about breaking up and making up with lovers, about her family, about her dreams, about her goals, about her quirks and habits and mental illness. And also about her really horrible flatulence.

One might expect something so personal to fall into the realm of navel gazing, but there’s something universal about Moen’s diary comic. Everybody wonders about themselves, everyone falls in love, everyone has quirks, and everyone farts. “Dar” is a slice of life comic, specific enough to have a very solid and definite personality, but general enough to be accessible. Moen writes about herself and the people in her life, and in doing so, she writes about the human condition. Also, she’s a really great artist and her comic is very stylized and fun.

Check this comic out. It’s personal and universal all at once, and is pretty kick ass as well.

This comic is often not safe for work, as it discusses human sexuality and has nudity fairly often.
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