Webcomics Capsules is all about webcomics short reviews—more like recommendations, actually. See what our staff is enjoying around the web, choose your favorites and get to reading!
Silver Saaremael and Kaija Rudkiewicz
Dark medieval fantasy
It is 1612, Spain. Under the reign of Queen Isabella The Kind, there is a certain Inquisitor #2. She hunts witches and all kinds of aberrations, killing them with her chain and mortal moves. But, of course, nothing is as simple as that. Inquisitor #2 has her own secrets—and the “freak” in the title may not only refer to the creatures she hunts.
What first caught my eye was how different the visual style looked from everything else I am reading right now. The lines are thin and angular and the black and white was wisely chosen. Lettering is unconventional, especially in the narration, and are a great example of how lettering can be a more active part of storytelling: leading the sight to places it wouldn’t naturally go, playing with caps, size, and the shapes of the drawings behind it. Some panels are long and tall, as thin as the protagonist. It all has a huge visual impact.
Besides the first impressions, a careful read did not disappoint, too. While I’ve already mentioned the visual appeal of the narration, the text is poetry: repetition of words and themes, alliteration and word play. It’s smart, without suffocating the dialogue.
The plot is being carefully unraveled. Each chapter is a short story, an adventure of #2 that can be, mostly, appreciated by itself. The bigger story is there, though, putting questions in the readers’ heads and occasionally explaining one mystery or two…only to introduce three more.
B/W with colors, gag-a-strip, embellished autobiographical, anthro/furry
Curtailed is a semi-autobiograpical comic about the author, Seley, a snow leopard, and her partner, Fox–exactly what it says on the label. Seley is a free spirit but still down to earth—when her imagination is not running away with her, that is. Fox is bluntly honest, a little destructive, and just the tiniest bit maniacal. The comic details their romance, their adventures, their gaming tendencies, their child-free lifestyle, and their interactions with Seley’s family.
There are occasional short arcs about one thing or another (like Fox’s job hunt, or cicadas, the one bug Seley doesn’t mind), and one of the series’ running gags is that Fox has extreme reactions to caffeine and/or energy drinks. The distinction between anthro and furry is made because although the people in the comic are furry, their appliances are somewhat anthropomorphosized themselves. So are some of the smaller living things.
The art is Disney-esque anthro, which means the characters look a lot like they could’ve come out of one of the Disney Afternoon TV shows or Disney’s Robin Hood, but the style has a distinct anime influence, with face-faults, and the like. Mandy makes it her own though, with wonderfully emotive expressions, and the splashes of color that she adds when the mood takes her. She goes for unique angles and effects, which I always appreciate.
The comic has been running since 2012, updating fairly regularly, with occasional “sketchbook intermissions,” so there’s a good-sized archive to go through before catching up to the regular updates.
Jackie Rose: The Treasure of Captain Read
Full color, adventure
Jackie Rose is an Indiana Jones style adventure, starring a redheaded teenage girl in the Indy role. Her sidekick Eddie is a boy her age who has a crush on her but is too shy to speak about it. The motivation for Jackie’s leap into adventure is a mundane one: her widower dad is having money problems and could lose the family home. But as luck would have it, there’s been a robbery and there’s a reward for getting back the stolen shiny thing!
The art has a retro vibe, it looks like it’s the 1940s-1950s, very “Metropolis”-esque. Ulrich has clearly done his homework as the clothing styles and fashions mostly look right out of that decade—except for Jackie’s steel-toed leather boots with zippers on both sides. The younger characters have a literal-wide eyed thing going on that’s really charming. Ulrich alternates characterization and story advancement with brilliantly illustrated splash pages when the action needs ramping up!
The storytelling doesn’t shy away from real life issues appropriate to the timeframe. Jackie’s not a rich girl, and the adults of means all look down on her for being so, despite being in the company of Eddie, who is wealthy. Given the 99% vs 1% concerns of the present day, it reminds us that the more things change, the more things remain the same. Jackie, however, is too plucky and spunky to let the sneering rich folks break her stride for more than a minute. She squares her shoulders, determined to make friends and have fun. When the real action starts, Jackie only waits a heartbeat before jumping in with both feet.
Impressively, the villains, of the first arc at least, are women who are easily more competent than the rich guests and who didn’t study at Stormtrooper marksmanship academy. Not only that, but Ulrich doesn’t hold with the “women must all be beautiful, no matter what, and their perfect skin never unmarred” trope that so many media adhere to as if chained. His sky pirates have scars from their rough lifestyle, and tattoos, indicating they do with their bodies as they want. Best of all, his villains are constructed thoroughly. The head sky pirate is ruthless, but capable of compassion. She has motivations that aren’t simply “maniacal laughter, extra dark eyeliner” evil.
Brace yourself, though. Jackie Rose only began in 2013, so there’s a short archive. You’ll get caught up to the latest one quick. However, if you want a one-and-done, the comic is available to order from Josh as a PDF.