Last time, we reviewed the comics I’ve seen thanks to promoted Instagram ads: Cursed Princess Club and True Beauty. This time, we begin with another I’ve been seeing regularly through the same paid advertising, Lore Olympus, but I’m also branching out: I’m enjoying CPC and TB so much I’ve followed the webtoons Instagram account, and even started poking around the app at large. This column’s focus will be tiered: prioritising comics seen in promoted advertising, making a strong effort to cover titles featured (but not Promoted) on the Webtoons regular account, and occasionally giving time to titles I’ve found on my own content-hungry scroll adventures. I want to know about the best-supported webtoons, but I also want to know about the wider lie of the land.
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
Lore Olympus is a romance comic focusing upon the relationship between Hades and Persephone. It centres the weave on a love story we already know, a star-crossed romance fraught with familial duty and long-distance monogamy, which is a smart move. We always know how a fiction designated “romance” will end. That’s why we like them. Hades and Persephone—already a regularly-enough debated pairing: is he a wicked man taking her away from her family? Is Persephone’s mother, Demeter, who demands her daughter spend half the year with her, even after she finds love, unhealthily controlling? Is Persephone a doormat or a diplomat?—provides us with plenty of smaller questions too rare to see answered.
Melding drama-soap everybody-is-ungodly-(ha)-rich sensibilities with the long-established interweaving storylines of Ancient Greek mythology is another brilliant choice. It’s a perfect match. The glamour! The misery! The ennui! The disaffected sensuality of a rainy night outside of a museum that’s hosting a glitterati event! Hera as a society wife? Zeus as a hot, influential dumbass? Ancient and modern characterisation are crashed together with such accuracy it makes you feel foolish for not considering these archetypes in this new light before. Even without its fabulous artwork, Lore Olympus would be onto a winning formula.
As it is, Rachel Smythe’s “surely I was trained for animation” visual vim and digital brushwork make it an absolute killer. Luscious plum magenta, passionately mournful midnight blue. Heavy blacks evoke just slightly the urn decoration we recognise from Ancient Greek artworks. Characters’ huge eyes fall lidded or fly open, both ways emphasising the weight of their coal dust eyelashes. Demure characters try to actualise to their smouldering good looks, and Smythe shows us the latter without betraying the former. Noses and hair stream out like comet tails. It’s not an x-rated publication, but Lore Olympus is a comic that fucks.
Blood-Ink by Lupicut
Heavily influenced by ’90s anime OVA energy, Blood-Ink’s specific premise is impressively original. After assassinations become legal (so long as they’re licensed and regulated), it’s a job that some are driven to like any other bill-paying pursuit. Maya’s in the game until she can earn big enough to get out of it, and she’s good at her work. She can deal with sexual harassment and seduction-ploy client work because she has to in order to get close enough to kill someone who’s hated enough that someone’s willing to pay to see them dead. She and her agency peers can deal with the feelings brought up by killing, both their targets and their (legally killable) hired bodyguards, because they have to. It’s the job. Maya’s trouble begins when her legal assassination—of one of the men responsible for signing the assassination bill—is interrupted by an outlaw killer. Who?
Assassination may be legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to the loved ones of its victims.
Having had her kill disrupted, Maya’s erstwhile victim is out for revenge as well. Blood-Ink becomes the story of two bereaved and lonely reluctant assassins, trying to make their way together. (But not together—! Sure.) That OVA energy keeps on coming out to play, with shock at the indication of boobs and wildcat mini-arguments smoothed away in seconds, which makes it a harder read for me. Despite my dislike of that particular vibe, though, and despite how quickly its chapters—the same length as any other title I’ve looked at, averaging fiftyish panels—seem to fly by, Blood-Ink is a title I keep reading a little more of. It looks like it’s going to display a really interesting philosophical base, subject being life and love after love and death.
Lupicut’s linework is rough but careful; the effort is still visible in their hardcraft. It’s less beautiful than respectable, with the opportunity of watching them develop as an artist. With a successful Webtoons weekly update schedule, and each chapter working out to around fifty panels, cartoonists are essentially producing ten pages of traditional comics per week. That’s a terrific workrate, and one that will see the dedicated updater get well-practiced fast.
Check-in On Last Time
Cursed Princess Club hasn’t updated since I last wrote about it—I’m waiting on tenterhooks for the next chapter. True Beauty has at time of writing forty-eight chapters available to read for free, and in my last column I’d read thirteen. (I wrote that six days ago, and by now I’m fully caught up.) That’s the equivalent of monstering ten Western monthly issues in six days—two normal-sized trade collections. It’s not a staggering amount but it’s a dedicated amount, and if there were more, I’d have read that too. I’m pretty glad to have caught up to the weekly serialisation line, because True Beauty is such good, dense, intricate, heartfelt, original, modern drama that cramming too many chapters in at once is almost unsettling. Yaongyi is really an exceptional talent.