Salutations, fellow comic connoisseurs, and welcome to another Infernal Review. Continuing on with our Month of Monstrosities (I just thought of the name, what do you think?), we’ll be looking at another web comic that heavily features monsters in a prevalent manner. Last time we looked at a web comic that mostly centered around vampires. This time, we’re going ghost-hunting! Prepare yourselves for something beyond paranormal, beyond supernatural. Something…
Described by its creator as “X-Men meets Ghostbusters except everyone’s twelve”, Paranatural follows twelve-year-old Max Puckett, who has just moved to a new town with his father and younger sister after his crazy single dad decides to purchase a convenience store to live in. With a sarcastic and abrasive personality, Max not only has to deal with the normal pressures of moving to a new home, he’s also starting to see strange things he can’t explain; things that, apparently, only he can see. It isn’t long, however, before Max encounters the (Supernatural) Activities Club, a group of other children who can see and fight spirits, and the mysterious man who leads them.
The artwork for this comic is striking, full of heavy, dynamic lines and bursting with luscious color. The first few pages are done in simple black and white with color splashes for shading and backgrounds, but the energy and craziness of the comic is apparent in all the pages, which shift to full color by the ninth page. While certain elements are a little reminiscent of the style of Jhonen Vasquez, Paranatural has a refreshing look and style all its own. The art style is equal parts rough and fluid, lending to the sense of energy and movement that gives the comic life. You’d be hard-pressed to find a still moment anywhere in the comic that isn’t perfectly placed to set the tone.
In regards to writing, the pacing is excellent, focusing on action and development where it’s called for, while still taking time to slow down for the quiet, softer moments. Max’s first day of school is used to highlight the school, faculty, and students well, while the sudden appearance of a hostile spirit successfully brings Max and the Club together. The characters have distinct manners of speech and the dialogue flows as fluidly as the art sometimes. All the classic tropes of the genre are utilized as well, yet they are almost all subverted or lamp-shaded, while still fulfilling their roles. The sarcastic edge only adds to the comic’s zany tone and comical antics. The story and art can also become surprisingly eerie at times, as befits its nature as a comic about ghosts, yet even the creepy parts are used for morbid humor. While the art might remind some readers of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, others might see hints of Adventure Time and other shows along that vein in the writing, while recognizing the comic as a thing unto itself.
Max is an almost immediately likeable character, sympathetic, yet rebellious and scrappy enough to not be a real Gary Stu. Max’s dad is the kind of quirky father who’d likely earn a visit from Social Services, yet still have other children wishing for him as a parent. The other members of the AC are Isabel “an energetic, athletic girl” whose favorite course of action is leaping into it, Ed “a hyperactive” kid with a mean streak of insanity, Isaac a down to earth “know-it-all”, and the overly dramatic and unnecessarily abstruse Mr. Spender who acts as their decidedly unhelpful mentor. On his first day at school, Max also makes an enemy of Johnny, a delinquent bully who makes up for his lack of smarts with an abundance of punches. Weirdly enough, he quickly develops a sort of amicable animosity with Max, in which he beats him up with no hard feelings, right? There are several other characters, but so far they have little to do with the plot as it is and there are just too many to go into any real detail, but they are each enjoyable and distinct in their own way and only contribute to the comic’s already excellent cast (which can be found here).
With fun characters, exquisite art, and great writing, Paranatural is one action/comedy series that is sure to raise some spirits.
Paranatural was created in 2010 by Zack Morrison. Paranatural, including all images used here, belongs to him. The web comic currently updates roughly once a week and is running through its third chapter and counting. Backups of the comic and other artwork by Zack can be found on his deviantart account.