Thursday, April 19, 2012

Recommendations: Web Comics

I read a lot of webcomics.  And that's an understatement.  At the moment, I regularly check out xkcd, the Gun Show, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Hark a Vagrant, Penny Arcade, Scenes From a  Multiverse, Guilded Age, Looking for Group, Girls With Slingshots, Questionable Content, Something Positive, Order of the Stick,Goblins, Starslip, Oglaf, Wondermark, Wonderella, and Girl Genius.  And I'm almost certainly forgetting some of them.  I thought that, for today's recommendation, I'd randomly blather on about three of them, chosen by a random number generator.  I'll discuss them, after break.

Starslip by Kris Straub.  It's a sci-fi comedy series that's been going for... Good Lord.  Nearly seven years now, and updates regularly.  Though it may not hit exactly its stated goal of MWF updates, it's pretty close.  So that's a pretty huge backlog of strips, which is either a plus if you're an obsessive type, or somewhat daunting.  If you're interested, then I'd recommend just reading the character bios, and jumping right in.  Ongoing sci-fi comedy is a rare genre in webcomics (at least, one rare to see done well), and Straub's really created a likeable cast, which is by far the strip's strong point.  Memnon Vanderbeam, for example, the museum curator turned ship captain, is consistently entertaining for his fastidious approach to captaining.  For the geeks in the room, he makes Picard look like Kirk.  The book's failing is its glacier pace (a common problem for webcomics).  In this case, it means that I often lose sight of the larger story, or noncentral characters.  But the focus on the main cast is usually pretty good.

Scenes from a Multiverse by Jonathan Rosenberg. I was kind of hoping this random number wouldn't come up, since it's the other sci-fi based comedy series that I read, which kind of belies my earlier claim about it being a relatively rare thing.  My roommate introduced me to this one, and while he's a little more enamored with it than I am, I still catch myself up once a week or so. The big idea behind amultiverse (the abbreviated version of the title) is that it investigates multiple universes, so that whenever the author feels like it, he can go somewhere new.  That means he can go back to universes that appeal to him and do a series of related comics, or do something new every day.  And amultiverse updates five times a week, a pace matched only by my "slice of life" strips, so there's a lot of opportunity to move around.  It's less story-oriented than Starslip; you get a few stories set in the same universe rather than dedicated story arcs.  Today's entry, by which I mean April 17th's (apparently, you can forget what I said about regular five-times-a-week updates) feature brick and kaplonski, which is clearly an X-Files pastiche.  Other ongoing story arcs include pastiches of BBC Sherlock, King's Gunslinger series, and repeated returns to a galaxy where everyone worships horses, which has no "real" basis, but lets Rosenberg comically muse on religion.  EDIT: The Brick and Kaplonski is definitely Castle, not X-Files.  You know, careful readers would have caught that gaffe.

Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew.  Another one I hoped wouldn't come up.  The gods of randomness are against me today.  (Actually, the combination of divine fate and random chance is rather contradictory.  That probably means the gods of randomness are generally very confused and consequently grumpy deities and thus against everyone, which would explain a lot.)  Anyway, the reason I was hoping to avoid this one is that a much bigger blogger than me has done a piece on them recently.  So check that out, and come back.  I really don't have a lot else to add to MGK's analysis.  The basic premise is pure fantasy quest-based: the Order of the Stick is out to prevent various villains from unleashing an eldritch evil.  It started as a fairly broad take on D&D conventions, but has progressed into something more.  In particular, I'd like to reinforce what MGK says about its sense of progress.  Like Starslip, it has a very long history, but while reading, I never feel that events are going on too long, or that forgetting something that happened a hundred posts ago is going to hurt my enjoyment of the strip here and now.  And that, paradoxically, makes it easier to delve into the back catalog, as it's something a reader can do purely for their own enjoyment without feeling that it's a necessity.  The one downside to the strip is that Burlew can get rather sporadic in terms of updating.  It's understandable; he has life and career outside of the strip.  I hope I can speculate, without sounding presumptuous, the success of his $1 million + Kickstarter campaign means he'll be able to focus more on the strip.  But time will tell.

There you go.  Three webcomics.  Order of the Stick is the best quality, Tales from a Multiverse is the most accessible.  You're welcome.

EDIT: I'd actually be interested in hearing what webcomics any readers might consider their regulars.  Are you also a fan of something on this list?  Or do you have a favorite that's just dying for a new audience?  I know no one ever, ever replies, but I thought I'd make the effort.  NOW MEET ME HALF WAY, PEOPLE.

Later Days.

No comments: