Welcome to this month’s Webcomics Roundup! In September we nestled down into reading complete (or at least extensive) archives of webcomics, really cozying in for Fall. It also turns out we’ve got a bit of an undead theme here, with ghosts and zombies galore. I can only imagine how spooky we’ll get next month for Halloween!
Power Ballad by Molly Brooks
This past month as I joyfully continued reading my stalwarts, I also tracked down a completed webcomic I’d remembered starting and loving, but then lost track of. And by “tracked down” I mean that I messaged one lone friend to ask, “WHAT was that webcomic in which a pop star was a secret superhero and her personal assistant had a crush on her and they like, broke into a museum to steal a dress? I think it had a vertical scroll?” The superhero costume is a skeleton! It’s great. Luckily, the friend knew exactly what I meant and pointed me directly to Power Ballad and I reread the beginning and devoured the rest speedily. I really like Molly Brooks’ characters. I want to be friends with all of them. And her plot is impressively engaging and believable, largely because the characters seem so real. I was deeply engrossed in both the adventure mystery plot and the romance plot, throughout. Also, I generally read webcomics teensy on my phone screen, and I am really impressed with Brooks’ use of the vertical scroll to make the world of the comic feel interactive and immersive. As I scrolled down for a falling character to land, or for a plot reveal after some white space, or for social media interactions to be displayed on screen, the vertical scroll felt thoughtful and appropriate all the time. After reading this comic, I sought out other work by Brooks and I will be reading Sanity and Tallulah (on paper! gasp!) next.
My Boo by Jeongseo
Don’t let the cute title fool you—My Boo is a mature, emotional and heartfelt ride. The series completed last year, but I’ve been it re-reading recently as the tender story has stuck with me for months.
Yuri So has struggled since childhood with her ability to see ghosts. As an adult, she copes by ignoring them, but she also emotionally shuts herself off from the living. After moving into a new home, she is dismayed to find that it’s haunted by Jun Ko, a young man who died there. The story follows how they negotiate this initially awkward living arrangement, and how their relationship slowly evolves.
What I love about this series, apart from the art and use of space between panels, is that it deals with feelings of loss without oversimplifying. It’s a fantastical tale grounded in reality, and manages to capture people’s need for connection. For me, this was a consistently strong story, with complex characters and an ultimately satisfying conclusion.
Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter
Updates Tuesdays and Thursdays
I jumped into Magnolia Porter’s previous webcomic, Bobwhite, just as it was ending, and was bummed to say goodbye so quickly. However, she swiftly revealed her new project, Monster Pulse, and I started following it immediately because ohmigosh do I love her art! It’s been a serious treat to be with Monster Pulse from the beginning. The comic follows a crew of, initially, four kids — Bina, Julie, West and Abel — who all had frightening interactions with strange, ghostly entities. These entities passed through a different body part on each kid, causing that body part to become a “monster.” Once the kids all find each other they begin investigating Shell, the mysterious organization behind these traumatizing experiences. Seven years down the line, Porter has grown her children into teens who, Animorphs style, have faced enough difficult battles and decisions to be a bit morally…complicated. Recent arcs have pushed the kids to ask how they truly feel about their monsters, which are monstrous mostly in appearance but in personality tend to be kind, protective, and more akin to animal familiars or His Dark Materials-esque daemons. Porter’s growth as a writer is stunning; she’s challenged her characters more and more, fully exploring both the natural complications of fighting through puberty and young adulthood and the unnatural ones of being a pre-teen (and, now, a teen) who’s already somewhat battle-hardened. I highly recommend diving into the archives and starting at page one!
Boyfriend of the Dead by Ushio Mushi
Updates Tuesdays and Fridays
Webcomics used to be a thing I read when I was bored at work, but I have long since fallen out of the habit of checking in on old favourites or finding new ones. But I have kids who have discovered Webtoons and, as many parents know, when your child loves a thing, you must partake of it too. Last month, Laura Stump talked about Boyfriend of the Dead and I was very excited to see it mentioned in the Webcomics Roundup. Not because I’ve actually read much of it myself, but because my 10-year-old daughter has read all of it and has told me allllllll about it. She is fond of telling stories, and what better story to tell than this one about a zombie, N, who loves to cook and falls for a badass living girl named Alex who won’t let an apocalypse keep her down. I’ve learned about the twins and the little girl and her mom, and Alex’s parents—all because one day during the kids’ summer holidays, my daughter got caught up on the 100 episodes and then proceeded to tell me all about them when I got home from work. She chatted at me through the bathroom door and while I cooked dinner and while we ate dinner. I was really impressed with the plot and character development she described, and the little touches when it came to the kinds of food N, a chef is his prior life, likes to make. I suggested that it might be faster to just read them myself, but no, my girl’s a storyteller and you’re damn well going to listen. And truthfully, I’m glad I did.
Dumbing of Age by David Willis
August concluded Dumbing of Age’s “Of Mike and Men” chapter, which sees various characters attempting – and sometimes failing – to overcome their self-repression and push past new boundaries. Mike and Ethan finally hook up after an uncharacteristically nice moment where Mike tells Ethan that his lack of confidence is the only thing preventing him from pursuing guys— which, through his homophobic upbringing and his own neuroses, has been a repressed desire of Ethan’s throughout the comic so far. This marks a first: Mike actually said something positive without any ulterior motive! (Besides perhaps getting laid.) But as the conclusion of last month’s flashback shows, it’s easier for him to hold the upper hand if he doesn’t care about anyone else – or if he can convince everyone else he doesn’t. His hookup with Ethan seems to hint that Mike does care, but it’s buried under about twenty layers of asshole. Maybe that’s just how Mike wants it… or maybe he’s growing dissatisfied with that decision, realizing that it could be the last barrier between him and an Ethan whose walls have finally come down.
Meanwhile, Joyce has pivoted away from pursuing her crush Jacob, thanks to an (un)healthy dose of sexual shame from her own religious upbringing. (Does anyone sense… a theme?) Dorothy, chagrined, encourages Joyce to explore her perfectly normal sexual desire. Which is an odd move for a nominally straight college freshman, even one as liberal as Dotty, but hey: Joyce is packing enough girl-UST for the both of them, so let’s see where this goes.
Wrapping up, Amber and Walky visit the campus rooftop to chat, and throw caution to the wind by engaging in sloppy rebound makeouts. Proving to us all that some boundaries should just stay uncrossed. What new romances and bad decisions does the next month hold? Knowing Willis, the answer will be whatever causes the most DRAMA.
Unlike the characters in Dumbing of Age, it seems likely that our intrepid WWAC contributors will continue to make excellent decisions—at least in our webcomics reading. Come back next month for (probably) more undead, more Autumnal cozy completed archives; and for confirmation that we have very good taste.