Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jazz and Jess

I'm about to do something I didn't really think I'd ever do.  I'm going to start this review off with a criticism:

Until earlier this month, when the artist contacted me through MySpace, I didn't know this comic existed.  This clearly suggests that their marketing department should be fired, with haste, because the comic itself is bloody brilliant.

Jazz and Jess seem to be your average young couple, living average young lives.  Yes, they suffer from some unknown form of amnesia which is slowly fading with the help of some new found old friends.  Yes, they share a sense of humor that is somewhat… violent; and yes, their favorite pastime involves the eradication of nocturnal zombies.  Still, this is clearly a character driven, comedic slice-of-life with definite direction and impeccably dry humor.  Now on its 30th strip, there honestly isn't a single thing I don't like.  The writing is solid, and though it seemed to be moving a bit too fast the first few strips, the plot has happily settled into a nice pace for comedic story telling.  Do not, my American brethren, allow the occasional use of UK slang to deter you.  You can figure it out, I promise – that's what Google is there for.  As an aside - "chauvinistic wank monkey" worked its way into my vernacular as though it were greased.   

The artwork is perfect for the comic.  The angular features and simple lines seem to work as a stage for the finer details and great sense of body mechanics.  I'll be studying his character's hands alone for hours, I guarantee it.  The backgrounds are similarly impressive – detailed without being obtrusive they even hold the occasional joke and plot point; something I began looking for in comics when I fell in love with Jhonen Vasquez but very rarely find.  The color work and shading are both fantastic and set the mood nicely – none of that impossibly dark nonsense here.  This is a bright, happy, kill fest. 

Frequently the art and writing work together to deliver a double punch, and even when taking the rare plunge into webcomic danger zones like breaking the fourth wall and sidestepping the plot, the end result is absolutely entertaining.  I'd place the comic pretty firmly in the Web14 arena, though in getting to know the artist just a bit I'd say he scores a firm WebMA, so I'm making no promises for future content. 

All in all – I highly recommend this one.  Start at the beginning and check it out. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dominic Deegan

I'm no stranger to the fantasy genre.  I was reading Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in grade school (and yes, even at that young age I found the last book in the Narnia series abominable).  I find it to be a powerful genre, unfortunately I've also found it to be a genre fraught with disappointment.  I no longer remember how I came across the link to Dominic Deegan, and it took me an age before I finally sat down to work through the archives.  

I was not disappointed. 

In fact, I found myself tense and anxious when forced to quit reading for the day in the midst of an emotional story line.  The next day I actually found myself swooning over a particularly tender romance.  (Though it should be noted that I'll violently deny any such swooning.)  The comic now rests rather securely in my top-ten.

Astonishingly, Dominic Deegan updates seven days a week.  Granted, there are many comics that manage this feat, but very few manage to do it well and fewer still do it in an eight panel format framing an intricate plot.  Drawn in detailed black and white Monday through Saturday and excellent color on Sunday the comic has a very natural feel to it.  Because the writing seems so effortless I very quickly gained the sense that these are real people and the art supports that feeling flawlessly.  The comic is believable.  No pretension, no blatant fan service, no cloying gimmicks. There are injuries so grave that even the most experienced healer is powerless, there are evils that penetrate even blood bonds, there are acts of heroism that fail with shattering consequences, lives are lost.  The character's circumstances are quite dramatically different than my own - but never do I get the impression that they are.  The emotions are genuine, and the body postures and composition elegantly display their subtlety when words cannot.

While the archive may seem a daunting task to overcome, with well over a thousand strips, it's worth the time.  The plot lines you'll find within are character driven, and the characters and well rounded and skillfully crafted.  Dominic Deegan himself is an Oracle for Hire, and it's his power of second sight that often kicks off a story line.  At Dominic's side is Luna Travoria, a powerful sorceress with a disturbing family history.  Spark is Dominic's talking cat, and though often used for comic relief his character is charming and well defined.  In Dominic's brothers you find both an optimistic and powerful healer in Gregory, and a ruthless necromancer in Jacob.  There is a thorough cast section in wiki form linked on the main page - but do yourself a favor and get to know the characters on their own terms. Should you ignore my advice and head to the cast section be forewarned:  There is a great deal of spoilage.  In fact, the entire plot is nearly played out as it relates to each character.  Pitiful way to enter such a beautiful story.

The comic isn't without humor, of course... though it often comes in the form of puns which are admittedly an acquired taste.  I've been blessed/cursed with a partner who's particularly partial to his penchant for puns, so I find their inclusion rather charming.

All in all - this is my favorite dramatic/fantasy comic.  It's never failed to hold my attention and I eagerly click the site link every day knowing that I'll be rewarded.  The only thing that would please me more is to have it all in book form so I could snuggle in bed and page through it all over again from the beginning.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Zip and Li'l Bit

Zip and Li'l Bit is described by the creator as "a 62 page comic starring a little boy, Zip, his sister, Elizabeth ('we call her Li'l Bit'), a friend of theirs, Officer John, and the semi-mysterious Upside-Down Me. Originally envisioned as a full-length printed comic book, it has been adapted for the Web and is presented here as a twice-weekly comic strip. Posting on Thursdays and Sundays."

The premise is simple, but revealed in such an endearing way I can't seem to bring myself to give it away in a simple description. The comic has an old-time feel to it, and an almost goofy innocence that I can't get enough of. It's presented artistically in full-page, color format with one added bonus I love – you can click on any of the individual comic panels for a full size version. Zip, and his upside-down counterpart, are perfect little trouble makers, everything I wish Dennis the Menace had actually been. Li'l Bit's dialogue is rather cleverly presented by other characters, with her either whispering or gesturing her thoughts and intent. Officer John readily brings to mind images of old Buster Keeton films, with just enough slapstick and pun laden quotes to illicit a chuckle rather than a groan. The occasional counting sheep and monkey wrench just add to the silly good-natured feel of it all. A good-natured feel that made this the first webcomic I introduced to my daughter, and something I would readily buy in print form.

Already on page 55, I can't bear the thought that the story will be coming to an end in a mere 7 pages. One can only hope that Zip and Li'l Bit will continue their adventures in another edition. I, for one, think it would be well worth the effort.