Back with more webcomics... * ERFWORLD recently wrapped up its first book, "The Battle of Gobwin Knob", and I have to admit that Rob Balder and Jamie Noguchi had me fooled. I'd pegged this series as a cute, light-hearted parody of D&D, mainly because that's what you see for the first thirty pages or so: you've got an Evil Overlord besieged by an Alliance of Noble Men and Elves, armies moving and fighting in "turns", all profanity being replaced with the word "boop" (it's much funnier than it sounds)... and there's no shortage of amusing moments scattered about. But once the titular battle actually gets underway, ERFWORLD turns into a tightly-plotted war story that reads like an exercise in strategic thinking: we get to see Parson's tactical plans both before and during the siege, and Balder and Noguchi have a great knack for setting up the dominoes and tilting them over at precisely the right moment. An EXCELLENT start to what I'm sure will be an epic series.
* Ursula Vernon's DIGGER used to be restricted to paying subscribers over at Graphic Smash, but it went "public" a while back and I figure I'd give it a try. The art's lovely, but I thought the story was a bit too formulaic: to wit, a wombat named Digger accidentally tunnels into a distant, magical landscape and has to find her way home. It's done competently enough, I suppose, but this sort of story tends to hinge on an attachment to the characters, and I never warmed up to Vernon's cast. OKAY.
* The opposite is true of BOBWHITE: Magnolia Porter's characters are instantly likeable, though admittedly they're based on some very familiar archetypes (Marlene's the eccentric film student, Ivy's the disinterested artist with no ambition, and Cleo... Cleo needs Ritalin. Lots of Ritalin). So why is this VERY GOOD where DIGGER isn't? I think part of it has to do with the genre: you have to work a lot harder to make the inhabitants of a fantastic/magical world accessible to readers (especially if they're non-human characters), but "slice of life" comics like BOBWHITE and OCTOPUS PIE derive their strength from verisimilitude. I've had conversations with my friends that were a lot like this one. And that's probably why I've enjoyed what Porter's been doing so far.
* DUBIOUS TALES has been over for almost two years now, but it's still worth flagging, because Andrew James does some pretty interesting things in the space of five "books" (one of which is a text-only piece). At first glance, DUBIOUS TALES is a soap opera about a bunch of quirky college students living together somewhere in England. Darren's got a Greek tragedy mask stuck to his face, Caitlin claims to be a demon hunter, Gwilym has some pretty unorthodox ideas about theatre... they're all unusual, and James develops the complicated web of relationships even as he keeps the plot moving at a fairly rapid pace. What I enjoyed most about this series was that you never quite knew what to expect: the gang could be dealing with a perverted landlord one second and fleeing two-dimensional tin-foil demons the next, followed by brainwashing hypnotists from the Soviet Union. And while I would've loved to see more, at least James ended the story on a high note. VERY GOOD.
* It says a lot that even after nearly 150 strips, THE NON-ADVENTURES OF WONDERELLA still makes me laugh on a weekly basis. Whether it's guest-starring Patrick Stewart or Morgan Freeman, or exploring the profound question of what makes mankind unique or showing us the many, MANY flaws of time-travel, Justin Pierce keeps the funny coming. EXCELLENT.