Season’s greetings and welcome to another Infernal Review. Today’s material is truly something special. So special, in fact, that I feel the need to drop all pretexts and simply be frank with you. This comic needs to be read. You should read this comic.
The Abominable Charles Christopher follows the eponymous character, a strange yeti-like creature, as he lives in and travels through the woods and mountains. Along the way, he and the reader encounter all manner of woodland creatures, each with their own personality and story. Driven as much by instinct as he is by volition, Charles wanders the world, learning about life and getting into all sorts of antics with the colorful characters he meets. However, the scope and nature of Charles’ journey are far greater than he (or, indeed, the reader) yet realizes.
The art for TACC is amazingly masterful, which comes as no surprise when you consider that Karl Kerschl, the creator, was also the illustrator behind Teen Titans: Year One. It’s incredibly detailed, but it never completely loses that clean, expressive quality to it. A lot of the animals can get a little hard to discern from one another, but most of them are merely background presence while the critters we’re meant to focus on are usually recognizable enough. Charles himself and a handful of other recurring characters are wonderfully designed and lovingly drawn, with expressions that convey their mood and thoughts so poignantly, even without the use of words. The vast majority of the pages are colored in a kind of blue sepia tone (yes, I know sepia is a color and nothing at all like blue), though a rare few are posted in simple black and white, usually because of then mitigating conditions. By serving as a midway shading point as well as balancing the black and white, the blue toning actually helps create contrasts and shading without making it too hard to differentiate separate elements. The simple yet subtle color palette lends itself well to the quasi-allegorical nature of the comic’s story.
The story itself is so odd and multifaceted, it boggles the mind to think of it. The plot threads that follow Charles, his companions, and all the rest of the animals cover every genre from family comedy, romance, and satire to crime drama, family drama, and tragedy. By all accounts, something stuffed with this many different mindsets shouldn’t work… yet somehow it does. Equal parts spiritual journey, humorous fable, and epic quest, TACC has managed to fuse disparate elements and moods into a tale that is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. The world, despite mostly consisting of forest, is enchanting and immersive. One thing that does confuse me, however, and this may be addressed later, is how there are metal bear-traps, guns and a circus in this world at one point, but later on, there’s an ancient-style kingdom with swords and spears. The wild speculator in me wonders if perhaps Charles is somehow able to travel across time periods simply by walking through the woods, but goodness knows how long it’ll be until that question is answered, if ever.
Every character is fantastic, but there are just too many to write about. Charles himself is a little bit of an odd character to describe; he never speaks and indeed he appears incredibly simple-minded. However, like with the art, there’s a deep subtlety to him. He has fears and desires, simple as they may be. He mourns the suffering and loss of others and rages at what he perceives as injustices. He carries deep emotional scars. Charles is an enthralling, nuanced character. Even though he’s a yeti man, his journey illustrates his humanity, and we as readers respond to it. When he is lost, or afraid, or alone, we feel for him, because on some level, we all know what that’s like. We see him almost as a child, never realizing that he’s a representation of us at our purest.
The other most interesting character, in terms of plot, at least, is the old bear Vivol. Introduced early on, Vivol’s story is revealed through periodical flashbacks that parallel Charle’s development in the present story. In a strange inversion of Charles, Vivol can speak, at least to the other animals, but he does not actively socialize with anyone else, choosing to remain by himself, though he does not mind when people come to him for advice. There is a tragedy in Vivol’s past that still haunts him, and while his story and Charles’ may not appear connected, there are threads that tie them and, possibly, the whole forest together, as if forming a complex tapestry.
As Charles is able to figuratively walk in both the animal and human worlds, naturally there’s a human character in the comic as well. I won’t say the character’s name, since there’s a a bit of a reveal and knowing who it is will most likely affect the reader’s perception of the comic’s setting. I will say, however, that this character is ridiculously fun, in a Calvin & Hobbes sort of way and is currently traveling with Charles on his journey. Like Vivol, there are indications that this character may also be linked to Charles in ways that they and the reader have yet to realize.
With beautiful art, ambitious narrative range, and an eclectic cast of characters, The Abominable Charles Christopher is no doubt one of the better webcomics available online from a single person. In my mind, at least, it’s one of the best and it’s not surprising that it won an Eisner award for “Best Digital Comic” in 2011. There’s a little something in it for everyone. I truly enjoyed this series and I’ve little to no doubts you will too.
The Abominable Charles Christopher was created by Karl Kerschl. This webcomic, including all images used here, belongs to him. It’s currently slated to update on Wednesdays. The first two chapters have been collected as two print volumes and are available online. A general FAQ about the Mr. Kerschl and the comic can be found here.
What about you? Are there any online series that you’d like to share?