Our last webcomics roundup was a little spooky, but December’s webcomics are a little more … superlative. Though there’s some elements of the supernatural in a few, the stories are less scary and more intriguing (and adorable!). Two comics feature caped crusaders, but all of them feature secrets. Secret identities, secret powers, and even a secret voice (okay, so maybe it’s a little eerie). There’s a werewolf, more than one witch, and plenty of intrigue for your winter reading!
Updates on Fridays
I recently interviewed Bill Walko about the Kickstarter for the second season of The Hero Business (which really needs to be an animated series). The comic hilariously combines typical caped shenanigans with Walko’s own experience in the marketing industry. Because what hero (or villain) doesn’t need a good PR team behind them to help them capitalize on their world saving (or ending)? Walko’s artistic style has really grown throughout the series, as have the characters. The main character, Parker Jameson, learns something significant about her past in this latest story arc. This chapter also introduces Deus X. Machina, a mystic who, like the literary device itself, has a lot of convenient moments to add to the plot. If you’re tired of what superhero comics have to offer these days, this is exactly the comic you need to read. Walko’s sense of humour and his marketing expertise are a perfect combination.
Dumbing of Age is ostensibly a comic about college students, but it’s also one about superheroics, in case you’re wondering whether I’m on brand here in my regular reading of it. A consistent, running narrative has been the conflict between of Amber, a shy, asocial abuse survivor, and her alter ego of Amazi-Girl, a vigilante who stalks the college campus violently beating attempted rapists and other would-be felons. Willis has made no bones about his love of Batman her and in other strips he’s done, so it’s nice to see him exploring those concepts in a way that highlights how dangerous the idea of a vigilante really is, without sacrificing the humanity of the character in question.
Through a truly years-long plotline (though not in-story), Willis has taken the time to highlight how much damage Amber carries, both as a result of her abuse and from a fateful convenience store encounter years prior with another of the strip’s regular characters, Sal. I won’t spoil the events of that encounter, or each character’s role in it, but this past month has been all about the culmination of it. It’s like watching a catastrophe in slow motion; a vigilante and her nemesis inching ever closer to throwing blows, and repeating, “oh no, don’t do that” under your breath the entire time. It’s intensely gripping and emotional; a Dark Knight story with an understanding of the consequences for the people involved.
Super Secret is a slow-burn supernatural romance set in South Korea. Emma doesn’t realize her neighbor and best friend Ryan isn’t just the boy next door: he’s actually a werewolf. Unfortunately, Emma can barely remember her homework, much less that Ryan sometimes sports a tail, all thanks to Ryan’s older sister, witch Hailey, and her liberal use of forgetfulness spells growing up. The webcomic follows Emma, Ryan, and their friends, mundane and supernatural, through the trials and tribulations of learning to survive school and each other.
What I love about Super Secret, aside from the bright artwork, is the exploration of how two worlds collide and what happens to those caught in the crash. The mundane and supernatural communities coexist primarily because the humans don’t realize their coworkers, classmates, and neighbors might actually be vampires or mummies when the sun goes down. But Ryan, Emma, and their friends and classmates are breaking all the rules, and it’s fascinating watching the Association try to keep up.
Updates weekly, mostly
Soul on Hold is a breezy fantasy comic that really leans into the vertical, mobile-optimized layouts on Webtoons. Ayden is a hunky, hard-drinking sex idiot, going from bar to odd jobs. He’s also perpetually haunted by a voice only he can hear, one that’s been with him since an accident in his teen years. The comic is very new, but AustenMarie is setting up what promises to be a very nicely layered story, with Ayden’s past weaving into his current life, which is blowing up—literally. First he meets a woman who sparks when they shake hands for the first time, and then he’s hired by a very witchy business woman as muscle. That job leads him to tap into potential neither he nor his voice were expecting. AustenMarie relies heavily on lettering to tell the tale and set the mood. Ayden’s conversations with his voice slide down the screen into different scenes. The art is bright and poppy, and though it’s a little heavy on floating heads the format makes it work.