Angel and I had a blast at this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF); a free festival for the public where they can check out cool indie comics, creators and panels. I wrote about my experience of the festival which you can read here. We grabbed a ton of comics but couldn’t review our entire haul due to time but we hope our mini reviews will spur you into picking up these titles. Enjoy!

Agents of the Realm: Chapters 1-3

Mildred Louis
2015/2016

I first heard about this webcomic from fellow WWAC writer Ardo, but held off on reading it until I could get a print copy. Louis pays tribute to familiar magical girl stories and tropes–think Sailor Moon and Puella Magi Madoka Magica–as we follow college student Norah’s freshman year. The colours are bright, though not quite as vivid as I’m used to seeing in magical girl media. While the art is a little muted during most of the first few chapters, it also feels like a conscious choice, alluding to the way growing up sometimes means losing the things that brighten our lives. Once Norah begins to take on her new mantle, Louis’ art seems to respond, stretching her and the other characters’ expressions and personalities. I really enjoyed this collection and will definitely be following the comic from now on.

— Angel

Magical Beatdown Vol 1

Jenn Woodall
Friendship Edition Press

One of the main reasons I picked this comic up was because of its cover. The neon pink blood on a schoolgirl’s uniform and her wrapped-up hand. Visually, it’s already telling us what the title suggests: this won’t be your average magical girl comic. Inside, the comic continues to intrigue. Expecting the black and white pages common in indie titles, instead we get blue lines and shadows. We have our ordinary schoolgirl done with her classes and spending her time at the arcade which is a nod to the popular magical girl manga, Sailor Moon. Some guys hassle her but soon realize they messed with the wrong person. The one page transformation sequence is my favourite. The page is split into two panels and from left to right, it slowly abandons its blue lines into purple before finally resting at bright pink. After that, it gets pretty…violent. I loved the use of colours in this comic. Blue is often associated with masculinity and the schoolgirl bringing the guys into her pink world has regained her power but also has redefined what being a girl could mean. Out with the ideas of docility and weakness. Enter the violence of femininity. I really enjoyed it and would love to read more from Woodall.

–Ardo

Connection Lost By Carey Pietsch

Connection Lost

Carey Pietsch
2016

Carey Pietsch’s art caught my eye as I wandered around TCAF, and Connection Lost was the first comic I decided to purchase from her. The book contains six different comics, all to do with moments in Pietsch’s life that played a role in how she grew up. “Pocket,” the first comic, turned out to be my favourite: in one page, Pietsch describes the way memories change and shift in our minds over time, and how we change in response. I related a lot to the transitionary nature of her comics, and will check out the rest soon.

— Angel

Rixa Ep.1

Hary Adhi
Translated by Elan Wahyudi
Kosmik
2016

Rixa is an Indonesian comic about a young girl named Antariksa with aspirations of becoming an astronaut. I got a copy of the translated first issue from Kosmik which goes back and forth in time with Riksa as a kid in love with space and an as a grown woman who’s become an astronaut. It’s an emotional comic that looks at death, science, and the stars. I really enjoyed the relationship between Riksa and her father. Though she only sees him once a year to due the nature of his job, her father inspired her to aim for the heavens and even named her to reflect that (Antariksa means “outer space”). I liked the art which was in black and white and it did a really good job at making the emotions feel real. It was a lovely read.

–Ardo

Raibarong Ep. 1 & 2 by Alex Irzaqi. Translated by Elan Wahyudi. Kosmik. 2016

Raibarong Ep. 1 & 2

Alex Irzaqi
Translated by Elan Wahyudi
Kosmik
2016

I read the first two issues of this comic about raibarong, which is a mystical art of doll-making from ancient Balinese mythology where dolls come to life. The main character is a raibarong and he’s on a quest to find the Golden Haired Warrior to “settle a certain score”. It’s a comic where the author is present by making comments and side notes and even interacts with their character at the end of an issue. It reminded me of Inuyasha and Naruto in that it features quests as a major plot point as well as humor and lots of action. The art style stands out with its frenetic feel that’s “almost electric” as one friend stated. It feels sharp. Cool read especially with the mythology link to it. It’s not a book I’m a fan of in terms of personal taste but I can easily see a fanbase for it.

–Ardo

Lima Menit Sebelum Tayang (5 Minutes Prior Airing) Ep. 1 & 2

By Ockto Baringbing and Muhammad Fathanatul Haq
Translated by Elan Wahyudi
Kosmik
2016

I got the first two issue of this comic which had an interesting premise involving a video editor at a news station. The comic looks at the pressures of working in news and how much of it gets put out at the last minute. In terms of execution, I wasn’t a fan of the comic and I wonder how much of it was translation related since it was definitely not as good as the last two comics. One problem is that there is a lot of telling versus showing us what’s happening which becomes a problem since comics is a visual medium. I did like seeing a Muslim woman in a hijab as a video editor which isn’t a surprise given that the largest religion in the country is Islam. Overall, this one was a miss for me.

–Ardo

Confessions of a First Year Animation Student by Jade Lillico-Armstrong. 2015/2016.

Confessions of a First Year Animation Student & Confessions of a Second Year Animation Student

By Jade Lillico-Armstrong
2015/2016

I had a lot of fun reading JLA’s two comic strip collections and they were my first purchase at TCAF. They follow her time as an animation student where she Snapchats with her friends, participates in Hourly Comics Day, procrastinates on her homework and moves into an off-campus apartment in her second year. I connected with it a lot; even though I graduated from university two years ago the tears, laziness and anxiety sweat still stays with me. The art ranges from quick doodles to inked strips and it’s in black and white. I dug this and look forward to reading more from JLA.

–Ardo