Time for Some Summer Reading

The Reviews are going on a summer hiatus.

However, that doesn’t mean I won’t be busy. I’ll be tearing through my backlog of new and favorite webcomics looking for things to love.

Your mission dear reader, should you choose to accept it, is to speak up for your own favorites, be they up-and-coming talent or old veterans. Any genre, any style, I want to read them.

Just post a link or two to your favorite series down in the comments section and be sure to give a quick description about the comics and what you enjoy most about them.

Hopefully, by the end of the summer, everyone will have found a new reading list.

See you all then. :)

Monstrous Mayhem: Monster Pulse

I am so sorry this is so late. I am such a terrible, irresponsible blogger.

Kids love dinosaurs. They love Godzilla and giant robots and space aliens. If they’re like me, they grow up on franchises like Pokemon, Digimon, and Monster Rancher. They draw fierce creatures and imagine them locked in epic battles for Justice, for the world, for sheer unadulterated awesomeness.

Kids, in short, love monsters. But what happens when a kid actually gets a monster of their own, one that they have to hide and care for on top of all the usual drama that comes with being a kid? What if that monster is literally a part of them?

This is Monster Pulse, by Magnolia Porter.

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About

“Monster Pulse is an all-ages adventure story about kids whose body parts transform into fighting monsters.”

Do you really need to know more?

Cast

Bina is a lonely, thirteen year-old girl who daydreams about dinosaurs. One day she comes across a mysterious “ghost” which flies into her, possessing her heart and transforming it into an enormous creature which she later names Ayo. Initially shy, unassuming, and plagued with self-doubt – exacerbated by her struggling relationship with her mother – Bina is slowly becoming an outspoken young woman with steadfast convictions.

Abel, a detached loner with a flying, laser-shooting eye monster named Rixis. He’s haunted by something from his past and has been living alone on the streets for years as a result, wandering from place to place, never getting attached to anyone or anything. Despite his prickly demeanor, Abel finds himself growing close to and even befriending the other kids, something that maybe he wants more than he’d ever care to admit, even to himself.

mp3page24Julie, a hyperactive tomboy with a hair monster named Kera. Loud, brash, and completely wild, she’s often comes across as insensitive, immature, and selfish, though she is actively trying to become more considerate about others’ feelings. She’s the first other person with a monster that Bina meets and the two quickly become fast friends.

West, a geeky kid with a walking stomach called Guuzy who eats for the both of them. Although originally just Julie’s friend, West is the kind of kid who makes friends with everyone… or at least tries to. He’s insecure and a little sheltered, but his heart is full of good intentions and unlike Julie, he often puts others’ feelings before his own, perhaps even too much. He has his share of problems, but feels they aren’t as real or important as everyone else’s and so he hides them behind a friendly smile.

For more in-depth descriptions of the characters, just visit the comic’s About page.

Art

While at first I found the comic’s art to be a little rough around the edges and somewhat – for lack of a better word – “cartoony”, it grew on me very quickly. In actuality, the art is very charming and the style is perfect for an all-ages story like Monster Pulse, although the art in the first couple of chapters was a bit heavy on the lines. Each character is given a great design that reflects his or her personality perfectly and conveys all the expression that a scene might require.

mppage25The monsters themselves are all well designed with each one clearly resembling whatever organ/body part they sprang from. Some monsters, like Ayo and Guuzy, are heavily based on the overall shape of the organs, while others, like Kera or Rixis, feature key elements that are meant to invoke their origins. The monsters also range from adorable to awesome to downright horrific and terrifying. They no doubt remind people of some of the more unusual Pokemon designs.

With the exception of a few pages here and there, the first eleven chapters of the comic are drawn in gray scale. The first couple of chapters, in particular, feature some rather heavy line-work, but the comic’s overall image smooths out quickly and almost seamlessly, though there are times between later chapters where slight redesigns have clearly been made. Once we get to chapter twelve, the comic shifts over completely to colored pages, with the colors being a pleasant blend of soft pastel colors with a few louder tones thrown in. The pages themselves use just a few colors each, such as warm yellows and oranges for sunlit scenes and cool blues and purples for night time. I can only imagine how nice they’d look on paper.

Writing

As much as I enjoy the art for Monster Pulse, it’s the writing that never fails to astound me. The writing is heartwarmingly, heartrendingly deep. The characters aren’t just wacky kids having adventures with their organs turned monsters – they are fully developed people, each with their own understandable desires and all too relatable flaws and fears. Not only that, but the characters develop (gasp). Even more amazing is the fact that the children’s parents also act like people (double gasp). It’s unfortunately common in media with child protagonists to portray the adults as ineffective at best, antagonistic at worst. In stories where children behave like adults, it only makes sense that their parents share in their drama and struggle with it just as they do.  This is one of the most highly effective themes a story about child protagonists can have.

mp4page27There’s also the usual fare for children protagonists; fear of their parents finding out their secret, growing romantic feelings, and struggles with self-awareness, to list a few. Each theme is handled wonderfully and the characters that undergo them are written superbly, from their motivation to their dialogue. Add in a plot element about having a monster’s growing out of part’s of people’s bodies, separated but still linked to them, while a shadowy organization hunts them down and you have a great sci-fi/action premise. Monster Pulse is by far one of the more smartly crafted, profound, and emotionally conscious comics I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far.

Run-Down

  • Charming art and fantastic monster designs. Reminiscent of Pokemon and Digimon, yet still unique.
  • Deep, character-driven writing makes every character worthwhile.
  • All ages comic perfect for young adults but readily enjoyable for not-so-young adults.

All in all, Monster Pulse is a great looking, beautifully written series that I would wholeheartedly recommend to veteran or casual comic readers alike, regardless of age. Seriously, go check it out if you haven’t already. It just might get your heart pumping.

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Monster Pulse is written and drawn by Magnolia Porter. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to her. The comic currently updates Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Monstrous Mayhem: Gronk, A Monster’s Story

Monsters don’t always need to be big, or scary, or even horrible in order to be monsters.  So what do you call a monster who’s small, adorable, and uncontrollably rambunctious?

A little kid.

This is Gronk, A Monster’s Story, by Katie Cook

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 About

Gronk was never too good at being a monster. She hates the food, is too cuddly to scare anyone, and the other monsters make fun of her for it. So she decides to leave… and ends up meeting Dale, a young human who lives near the woods with her pets Kitty and Harli. Despite a rough first impression, Dale quickly bonds with the little lonely monster and invites her to come live with her. And so begins Gronk’s life in the human world (and the magic that is pop-culture geekdom).

Cast

I really don’t need to do more than link to the comic’s lovely About page, but in quick blurbs we have

2011-06-17Gronk the eponymous monster. Small and childlike, she loves all things cute and fluffy… well, most things. Despite her own adorable exterior, she has a tendency to revel in morbid humor or imagine herself as a force of inexorable destruction. She’s inherited her love of all things geeky from Dale.

Dale Wilco works out of her home in the woods, with her feisty pet cat Kitty and her large and lovable dog Harli. A music composer who works from home, Dale has a deep love for sci-fi and fantasy, classic films, iconic children’s books, Sesame Street, and animated media. Naturally, she’s the sensible parental figure to Gronk’s unruly childishness, although she certainly has a few quirks of her own.

Art

2013-03-08Simple, clean, and invitingly cute, the art for Gronk is a perfect fit for a comic all about a little monster with a love for plush kitties and all things geeky awesome. Gronk “inherits” her geekiness from Dale, which opens up the door for all kinds of geeky references. I adore Gronk’s squat little body and nubby tail and the giant beanbag chair on legs that is Dale’s dog Harli. Gronk also has some of the most hilarious expressions you could ever find in a comic and it’s particularly great seeing her go over the top.

Writing

Gronk is mostly a slice of life comic and as such, there isn’t really much of an over-arcing story. The closest we get are miniature arcs of two to four that are really just extended jokes. That said, the writing is great for what it is and what it is is a Calvin and Hobbes-esque four panel comic about a wild, imaginative, precocious young monster and the loving parental figure she’s slowly driving up a wall. There are even a few nods to Bill Waterson’s work and others.

2011-10-21The writing itself successfully runs the gamut from sharp social commentary to the most quintessential forms of comedy. A lot of the jokes are derived from situations that virtually every parents knows or hears about; the discovery of cursing, potty training, drawing on the walls. You name it, this comic covers it. Like I said before, the best comedy comes from things that can happen in real life.

Run-Down

  • Adorable art with clean, simple designs and wonderful expressions.
  • Witty, all-ages humor full of geeky references and insights into parenthood a la Calvin & Hobbes and Family Circus.
  • Updates are rather sporadic, but a lengthy archive should tide most readers over for a while.

All in all, an adorable, hilarious series that highlights the delightful craziness (and heart-touching emotion) that comes with raising a child.

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Gronk, a Monster’s Story is written and drawn by Katie Cook. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to her.

People are People: Monster’s Garden

Alright, I’ll be honest – I can’t come up with a clever way to intro into the title. With that said, this week’s comic is…

Monster’s Garden, by Ash G.

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Deep in the urban heart of Centro, the reigning heavyweight champion tended to his prized garden sanctuary. He enjoyed his solitary paradise in peace, until a simple act of kindness grows into the biggest challenge he has ever faced.

Luckily for the Kilo Monster, this time he will not be fighting alone.

Disclaimer – “For viewers 13+, for strong language and mild violence/gore and horror elements.”

Cast

The paltry blurbs I write are not nearly as charming as the comic’s Character section, but briefly we have -

Kilo, the titular monster gardener. He’s incredibly big and has quite a temper, but this heavy-weight champ has an equally large heart. Down to earth and street-tough, he finds himself reluctantly making friends after he saves a small robot from thugs.

2013-01-17-Chapter_1-Page_17NIKA, the adorable little robot in question. She’s not actually a robot, but an ATLAS (Arcane Technology Lifeform Automated System), a member of a colony of sentient mechanical beings. She’s searching for someone, but until she finds them she’s adopted the Andrews as a surrogate family. Long-lived, well spoken, and a total comic book girl, her child-like demeanor helps mellow out Kilo’s gruff rage.

Jaymi, an engineer and member of Nika’s human family. She’s by far the most sarcastic of the cast, but also incredibly caring in her way. She’s crass, blunt, and just a wee bit foolhardy, but she looks out for Nika and for her brother and calls people out when she thinks they’re being dumb.

Todd, Jaymi’s brother and a member of the city’s Peacekeeper Corps. Unlike his sister, he’s soft-spoken and timorous and his nerves are easily rattled, but he does not shirk the responsibilities he feels towards people. It seems much of his skittishness may be the result of having survived one of the most horrific wars in their society’s recent history.

Doctor Nigellus Mayers, a colleague of Jaymi and Todd’s father. He’s articulate, musical, and highly intelligent, but is haunted by the loss of his family during the Fall of Rokk’che, which Todd was a part of. He takes medications to combat the effects of his trauma, but they seem to help very little. Because of their involvement in Rokk’che, Mayers has a distrust for all Peace Keepers (Todd included), though he seems to have a good work relationship with Jaymi.

Art

2013-01-24-Chapter_1-Page_24It’s surprising the number of comic about “monsters” that feature fantastic, stylish art and memorable, lovable character designs – Kilo looks striking, imposing, but not unfriendly and NIKA has an iconic, almost retro design. Jaymi and Todd also display their personalities very well through their expressions and postures. Action scenes are drawn well, but personally, I like the scenes where Kilo and NIKA interact, or where Jaymi and Todd argue. That’s where the heart of the story is, although the action bits do a nice job of getting it pumping.

The art style changes slightly between chapters, but I enjoy each one for it. The flat shading in the first chapter gives it a simpler, cleaner look, while the dot screen tone in chapter 2 definitely makes it look more like a manga, and chapter 3 gets very lively with the addition of color. The lush greens, warm oranges, and neutral grays certainly add a bit of visual depth and allow for more texture and dimension in the image.

Writing

On a technical note, the character writing is excellent. Each character’s speech has personality in it – Kilo’s is rustic, NIKA’s is articulate and appropriately robotic, Jaymi vocabulary is crude, Todd has a slight tendency to stutter, and Doctor Mayers often waxes verbose, but each one has such a distinct speech pattern that, if the reader were only given a snip of dialogue, they could probably figure out who was speaking.

2014-04-25-ch3-pg103I was impressed by the idea that, in this setting full of animal people, elves, robots, and humans, there are still social “monsters” like Kilo. That someone can still be shunned or prejudged in such a varied society is at once saddening and reassuring to me – it’s a reminder that, no matter their appearance, people are still people. For all our virtues, our flaws remain…. or perhaps it’s the other way around. A quiet individual can share surprising eloquence and hated enemies can hide matching scars. Kilo is a prime example of these oh-so-human contradictions, fighting to live but avoiding violence when he can, seen as ugly yet able to make something extremely beautiful. This subtle yet ever present theme is just one of the things that I find so compelling about this story, even though it’s scarcely past a hundred pages. In time, I think this could grow to be one of the more well-known comics out there.

Run-Down

  • Delightful art with impressive, stylish character designs
  • Great dialogue writing that gives each character a voice
  • Subtle but powerful themes concerning preconceptions, the struggles of others, and helping those who need it.

All in all, Monster’s Garden is a beautiful comic that takes a well-known moral about books and covers and makes it new again. It reminds us that, as weird or terrifying as some people might appear, sometimes the best way to grow is to go out there and meet them.

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Monster’s Garden is written and drawn by Ash G. This comic, including all images used here, belongs to her. Though the exact day varies, the comic is currently scheduled to update “Mondays”.

Sorry for the late post… again.

Monstrous Mayhem: Shadoweyes

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Shadoweyes knows!

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In the city of Dranac in the year 200X, aspiring vigilante Scout Montana is knocked unconscious by a brick in her first crimefighting attempt. Upon recovering, she gains the ability to transform into a superhuman blue creature which she quickly takes advantage of and becomes the antihero Shadoweyes. Forced out of society, yet still bound to it, she takes to the streets to kick the crap out of jerks, to help those in need, and to stand against Dranac itself. But Scout finds things aren’t going to be easy even when you’re a superhero.

Where Monsterkind had a focus on social awareness, Shadoweyes is all about social “justice”… usually via good ol’ fashioned vigilantism.

Cast

2010-06-18-SHADOWEYES1p_011Scout – formerly human now something… else. Scout is a young woman determined to fight injustice any way she can. After undergoing a freak transformation, she takes to the streets as the super-powerful vigilante “Shadoweyes”. Serious, broody, and painfully inexperienced in the ways of crime-fighting, Shadoweyes faces many challenges in her crusade to right her city’s wrongs.

Kyisha – Scout’s best friend and co-conspirator in social justice, she tries not to let her intersexuality define who she is. Sassy and well-read, she’s the first person to learn about Scout’s secret and the first person to call her out when she gets carried away in her role as Shadoweyes. She tries to enlighten Scout about different ways to fight injustice that don’t involve violence, but their views on the subject align less and less as time goes on.

Sparkle – bubbly and energetic beyond belief, Sparkle Park is Shadoweyes’ self-declared biggest fan, latching onto the rookie superhero with all her enthusiasm. Although she suffers from terminal lung cancer, ectrodactyly, and a persistent stammer, her spirits never lag for long. Her wish is help to Shadoweyes fight crime on the streets, but for right now she serves as Scout’s moral support when things get too dark or frustrating.

2013-08-12-SHADOWEYES2p_020Noah – Kyisha’s boyfriend, Noah Mendoza is a young man struggling with a deep-seated anger, fueled mainly by his broken home life and the injustices he sees in “the system”. When the vigilante Shadoweyes begins to appear in the news, Noah sees it as a call to take up arms and enact his own brand of “justice” on the criminal scum of Dranac City. Headstrong, stoic, and intense, Noah is a still pond that hides roiling depths.

For more in-depth character descriptions, just go and click over to the comic’s Cast page.

Art

The art is of a spectacular, professional quality, which makes sense considering that artist/writer Ross Campbell has made a name for himself through his previous graphic novel Wet Moon, as well the three or so graphic novel books he’s already sold for Shadoweyes. The linework is solid, sleek, and smooth, and everything, be it character or 2010-11-12-SHADOWEYES1p_056background, is filled to the brim with detail. Honestly, there might be too much detail – the busy backgrounds, forest of linework, and grayscale palette can sometimes swallow up characters and make it tricky to follow the action. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often and usually just in the scenes featuring the pipe-laced, garbage-filled, crime-riddled streets of Dranac city. Aside from that one picked nit, the artwork is superb, with great action scenes, solid character designs, and an impressive setting that makes you feel the grit and grime just by looking at it.

Writing

While a story about a dark broody teen superhero elicits certain preconceptions, I’m glad to say that Shadoweyes manages to avoid or play with all of them. The issues of rampant crime and an indifferent system are there, but one of the themes of the story is how the characters themselves don’t have the answers to those issues, let alone agree on them. However, we still see people get beat up for not only muggings and attempted murder, but also animal cruelty and bullying. It kind of undermines the message, I think, when the “heroes” run in and crowbar someone in the face for bullying someone else.

The characters themselves are well written, full of conflicting emotions, motivations, and all the angst-ridden drama that plagues young crime-fighters. Scout may fight violence with violence, but she strives to help her community in other ways, though her appearance complicates things. This sense of being simultaneously alienated from society yet still deeply connected to it is a huge part of what makes this story so compelling. Who hasn’t felt at once apart from the world and driven to help it? Scout’s frustration, not only with the system, but with their inability to fix it, is the most natural, human thing for a blue alien dinosaur to feel.

Run-Down

  • Sensational artwork and stylish character designs makes it a joy to look at.
  • Dystopian story is given a fresh, teenage angle.
  • Well written characters feel completely natural given the story.
  • An alarming amount of violence takes place despite the sub-moral of violence not being the only solution.

All in all, Shadoweyes is a great story that takes the dark edges of 90’s era comic books and modernizes them with a focus on social awareness and what it means to “fight” injustice. A great comic and the best way to enjoy it is to just jump right in and watch the action.

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Shadoweyes is written by Ross Campbell. This comic, including all the images used here, belongs to him. It currently updates every Monday.

Next week – Monster’s Garden.

Sorry for the extremely late update.