online comics / graphic novels

I never quite know what term to use for comic strips or comic books or graphic novels now that the medium has expanded so wildly beyond what those terms originally referred to. But I’ve got two online comic strips that I highly recommend because they’re charming and delightful and I just love the characters and the stories and the artwork.

First up:

WildelifeWilde Life
by Pascalle Lepas
2014 – ongoing

The plot is: “A graphic novel about a writer who rents a haunted house from Craigslist and makes not-friends with a werewolf.”

It’s essentially a series of short stories set in a rural town around the main guy who’s rented a house for a while to just get away from his previous life that’s mostly not mentioned. The illustrations are excellent (and just keep getting better) but the characters are where this really shines. Every character is so very much themselves and so very delightful. (And don’t forget to check for roll-over text comments from the author on later pages because they’re pretty darn funny too.)

The author has just finished the sixth chapter / plot arc, and it’s so incredibly delightful and I really hope she does another kickstarter so I can order hardcopy versions. In the meantime, you, gentle reader, should immediately go check this out: http://www.wildelifecomic.com/comic/1

Second up:

powerballadPower Ballad
by Molly Brooks
2017 – ongoing

This only has eight issues out so far but it’s scheduled to be updated weekly and those eight issues are an utter delight!

Meera is the personal assistant to international pop star / masked vigilante Carina. So while Carina does music videos and fights crime batman-style, Meera tries to make sure appointments are made and kept. And they both have adorable pining crushes on each other but neither have said anything (yet!) and it’s just too cute for words.

Also, the illustrations are amazing and doing some really interesting things, because first they’re working with the online medium by displaying each issue as a single page down which the reader scrolls rather than trying to mimic a hardcopy comic book (at some point I think it would be really interesting to see if hardcopy comics can be made on scrolls to mimic websites), and second, they’re illustrated with just a couple of colors in a handful of shades, which gives it a sort of quick-sketch first impression while still being amazingly effective and detailed.

So check it out here: http://www.webtoons.com/en/drama/power-ballad/list?title_no=987

 

The Bible: Chronicles 2

I am fast approaching the two-year anniversary of when I decided to read the bible within a year. And this is the 15th book (out of 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament). So, you know, kudos to all those amazing people who actually manage to make it through the whole thing in a year. In contrast, I (very, very slowly) trek onwards.

You know how sometimes two books will be published as a book and its sequel, but in reading them you realize that they were actually intended to be one book and the publisher just cut that book in half for reasons of their own? So, yeah, Chronicles 2, the second scroll of Chronicles. It’s the same thing as the first one, with an extremely nominal break.

King David is dead, and his son Solomon is now king of Israel. After the funeral and 1,000 burnt sacrifices, God appears to Solomon asking what he wants. Seriously. (Chronicles 2 1:7) Solomon asks for the wisdom and knowledge needed to lead the people of Israel, which is actually a pretty good answer. God says that since Solomon didn’t ask for wealth, honor, death to his enemies, or long life, God will give Solomon not only the wisdom and knowledge he asked for but all the other stuff as well. Sweet!

Now recall how, in Chronicles 1 16-22 and 28-29, there are detailed descriptions of the temple that King David really wanted to build? Well, in Chronicles 2 chapters 2-4 Solomon has the temple built, with more descriptions, and in chapters 5-7, the temple is consecrated and God enters it as fire from heaven and there’s a lot of descriptions of how the temple is to be used, mostly in the form of “If X, then Y” statements.

And then we switch over the wonderful successes of Solomon:
In chapter 8, he builds a lot of towns and was generally so religious that he built a special house for his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh because he didn’t want his own house tainted with her presence.
In the first half of chapter 9, the Queen of Sheba comes to visit and inspect the situation and is so impressed that she gives him all sorts of presents and he is so taken with her that he gives her anything she wants, and then she goes away. (Verses 1-12)
In the second half of chapter 10 (verses 13-31), a bunch of other important people give Solomon a bunch of expensive presents because he is just that amazing. And then he dies.

Chapters 10-12 follow the next king, Rehoboam, son of Solomon, generally being an ass (essentially telling the people: don’t complain to me, or I’ll give you something to complain about)

Chapter 13: King Abijah reigned for three years, and there are battles and rousing speeches, and much calling out to the Lord. Also, he took fourteen wives, and fathered twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters.*

Chapters 14-16: King Asa did what was good and right, mostly by destroying the items of any other religion, including casting out his own mother. However he still ended sinful by relying on political allies at wartime and physicians when he got sick rather than on the Lord.

At this point we’re have caught up with the timeline told in the second book of Kings and there is a lot of repetition. Do you remember the list of the Kings of Judah, as recounted in Kings 2? Well, here they are again in Chronicles 2. Enjoy:

Chapter 17-20: King Jeshoshaphat
Chapter 21: King Jehoram, who died in great agony from a bowel infection and no one mourned him. Ouch.
Chapter 22: King Ahaziah dies, his mother Athaliah tries to kill the rest of the family in order to rule herself
Chapter 23: The downfall of Athaliah: there was a mutiny, she called treason, they decided it wasn’t right to kill her in the king’s house, so had her removed in order to kill her.
Chapter 24: King Joash
Chapter 25: King Amaziah
Chapter 26: King Ussiah
Chapter 27: King Jotham
Chapter 28: King Ahaz
Chapters 29-32: King Hezekiah
Chapter 33: King Manasseh and King Amon**
Chapters 34-35: King Josiah
Chapter 36: King Jehoahaz, King Jehoiakim, King Jehoiachin, King Zedekiah, and generally the downfall of the kings of Judah, with a bit of a teaser at the end for King Cyrus of Persia building the house of Jerusalem again.

Almost all of these chapters start with something along the lines of
“_____ began to reign when he was ____ years old; he reigned _____ years in the city of (Jerusalem/David).”***
and end with something along the lines of
“____ slept with this ancestors and they buried him in the city of _____. His son ____ succeeded him.”

Summary: Oh the repetition: there are a lot of kings who got up to a lot of things, but really, there aren’t any more kings than previously mentioned.

Moral: All things come in cycles, the rise and fall of kings, the good and evil of kings, and there’s no particularly good way to tell the difference between good and evil.

* Let’s pause a minute for the math: 22 sons + 16 daughters = 38 children. 38 children / 14 wives = 2.7 children per wife. And all of this in three years? It’s possible, but the timing is certainly tight. Especially given the number of battles and ambushes, rousing speeches and sacrifices to the Lord. And apparently his other behaviors and deeds were written up in the story of Iddo. So Abijah may not have lived long, but wow did he live intensely.
** Poor King Amon got four versus as a tag at the end of his father’s chapter before his son’s chapter. On the other hand, he was apparently evil and only ruled for two years, so screw him anyway.
*** A surprising number of times, it also includes “His mother’s named was ____ daughter of ______” which is kind of cool.

Next up: Ezra

A Net of Dawn and Bones

chancyA Net of Dawn and Bones
By C. R. Chancy
2015

This is a self-published book available on Amazon, written by one of my favorite fanfic authors, who described it as:

Urban fantasy for anyone who’s stared at the latest vampiric/werewolf/whatever supposed “love” interest, and prayed the main character would have the common sense to set them on fire.

It really was a joy, with a great deal of awesome world building, and wonderful characters and interesting plot. In addition to the general fantasy elements, it also has a lot of religious exploration, which is something I enjoy a great deal. Plus a significant amount of interesting historical information is inserted into the story, too, to the extend that there’s a bibliography at the end of the book with recommended non-fiction books.

One bit of lovely backstory is the premise that a lot of people wind up in Hell –- via original sin or being cursed or whatnot — who don’t really deserve it. Our main character is a “Hell raider”, who breaks into Hell and then back out again, carrying souls with her to be released to face a more fair judgment. The book starts with our main character in Hell, discovering a rather worrying link to Earth that will need to be fixed from the Earth side of things.

Meanwhile, on Earth, the backstory is more like that of the Anita Black series: that various supernatural creatures have revealed themselves to the public and are now granted citizenship and legal protections. And the police are struggling a bit to figure out how this all works out. This is an awesome premise, and I’m still somewhat bitter about how awful the Anita Black series got after a really wonderful start. Chancy is doing something similar, but doing it right.

And thus our Hell raider and our local police attempt to work together to stop a supernatural evil. Yay!

It’s fun and relaxing while also being fascinating and surprisingly informative, and addresses a lack in the vampire/werewolf fantasy genre, for heroines who aren’t going to fall for beautiful monsters.

My one caveat to a positive review is the presence of a few casual anti-Islamic descriptions which threw me off, both for the prejudice and for it’s offhandedness, given that most of her other statements tend to be more backed up with either research or world-building. The anti-Islam sentiment had neither, alas, and I honestly think her editor should have removed them for literary as well as ethical reasons.

That said, I have a lot of experience reading and enjoying problematic things and it only came up twice and I, at least, was able to easily put that aside and enjoy the rest of the book for what it does right.

The first chapter and a half are readable in a preview on Amazon if you’re interested.