Single Sentence Scrutiny: 11 Action / Thriller / Crime / Espionage Webcomics

This is another Single Sentence Scrutiny post. This time I focus on Action/Thriller/Crime/Espionage webcomics. Each one gets one single sentence of explanation.

Note that neither order nor sentence length are indicative of relative awesomeness. The same goes for sentence quality.

This time I do not differentiate between categories, but rather list the comics in alphabetical order. Note that a few of them have been listed under the Spy-Fi heading in my previous post Single Sentence Scrutiny: 44 Science Fiction Webcomics.

Also not that some of them, unfortunately, are currently on hiatus.

Here we go! Do you like or dislike any particular comic? Let us know in the comments.

A Girl and Her Fed is an astonishing twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-supernatural-elements espionage webcomic that features really evil villains, but also shows political antagonism coming from different viewpoints and goals rather than from moral deficiency, and how the good guys sometimes make questionable choices as well.

Amazing Agent Luna and its prequel Amazing Agent Jennifer are high-tech espionage stories, with cloning technology at the forefront, set in High School, adhering to many of the Manga-stlye tropes, even the more disturbing ones, but also with pretty solid storytelling.

Broken Telephone is an intriguing story that interweaves in Rashomon-style six different more-or-less concurrent plot lines each featuring different protagonists who are the hero of their own story and the villain of someone else’.

Note: You may also want to read my recent post Seven Questions About Broken Telephone.

Drugs And Wires is a pretty dark and disturbing take on Cyberpunk.

Femme Noir is about a Femme Noir, obviously, chasing crime etc., with well crafted writing and beautiful and stylish visuals.

Gravedigger is my favorite webcomic about an anti-hero who’s pretty damn good at figuring angles and covering bases, goes down with style, but is always prepared, makes sure he’ll lick it, eventually, and narrates his tales with dry wit and quick perception.

Note: You may also want to read my recent post Seven Questions About Gravedigger.

Opportunities is a webcomic that will develop into something like space opera, but since the entire first book is set on Earth, it is a twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-aliens-and-spaceships espionage story, and it relies on continually rising dramatic tension instead of mindless action, and constantly surprises the reader in spite of being very upfront and hiding very little from the reader.

Note: You may also want to read my recent post Seven Questions About Opportunities.

Protege is my favorite dark and gritty action thriller spy story webcomic, because it is told fast-paced, with constantly rising tension, doesn’t shy away from going really dark places, but without invoking much gore, and has the most interesting characters and superb world-building.

Note: Protege will resume updating tomorrow, Nov 25th., and you may also want to read my recent post Seven Questions About Protege.

Spy6teen is high-tech espionage meets high-school drama, well written and professionally visualized.

Three Minute Max is an action-packed dramatic story with teleportation technolgy and sorta-kinda superheroes that is sometimes over-the-top but has a heart that never stops (unlike that of the hero).

Note: There are more Action/Thriller/Crime/Espionage webcomics than I could possibly cover here, or even know of. There are also those that I don’t like, but that may nevertheless be very good (because my taste is just my taste, duh).

Can you express in one sentence why you love your favorite webcomic? Tell us in the comments!

Of course, many of the explanations given in the one sentence descriptions above deserve further exploration. I will revisit them in forthcoming posts.

Advertisements

Single Sentence Scrutiny: 44 Science Fiction Webcomics

This is another Single Sentence-Scrutiny post. This time I focus on Science Fiction webcomics. Each one gets one single sentence of explanation.

Note that neither order nor sentence length are indicative of relative awesomeness. The same goes for sentence quality. Much to my dismay I have to focus on quantity rather than quality in this article, because I want to list as many comics as possible. Note that I only mark comics as NSFW in very strong cases.

I grouped the comics based on whether they are set in space or on Earth, and whether they qualify as spy-fi rather than sci-fi. I’ll move from Earth to outer space in several steps.

Here we go! Do you like or dislike any particular comic? Let us know in the comments.

Embellished Slice-Of-Life

Here are a couple of webcomics that are mostly slice-of-life but also feature some futuristic element:

Never Mind the Gap is a romantic story (of the steamy kind, if you catch my drift -> definitely NSFW) set in a world that has undergone dramatic changes from our current one but doesn’t really feel post-apocalyptic, let alone dystopian.

Drugs And Wires is a pretty dark and disturbing take on Cyberpunk.

Questionable Content is a relationship-drama-driven slice-of-life comedy webcomic, featuring humans that need to grow a pair and robots that are to cocky, with lots of humor and drama that are true to the characters.

Spy-Fi

A Girl and Her Fed is an astonishing twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-supernatural-elements espionage webcomic that features really evil villains, but also shows political antagonism coming from different viewpoints and goals rather than from moral deficiency, and how the good guys sometimes make questionable choices as well.

Three Minute Max is an action-packed dramatic story with teleportation technolgy and sorta-kinda superheroes that is sometimes over-the-top but has a heart that never stops (unlike that of the hero).

Spy6teen is high-tech espionage meets high-school drama, well written and professionally visualized.

Amazing Agent Luna and its prequel Amazing Agent Jennifer are high-tech espionage stories, with cloning technology at the forefront, set in High School, adhering to many of the Manga-stlye tropes, even the more disturbing ones, but also with pretty solid storytelling.

Retro-SF

Deep Dive Daredevils is an exciting pulp-style adventure webcomic that combines historical submarine action, retro-science-fiction thrills, supernatural chills, and bunch-of-ragtag-misfits shenanigans, and craftily employs all the old, well-known tropes and twists them like no one else, delivering entirely new levels of surprising, yet inevitable.

Westward is a very weird story on Earth and in space, in the past, the present and the future.

Far-Future Earth

Two webcomics that are set on Earth, but in a far away in time future:

Datachasers is very dark and disturbing, but also full of drama and excellent action.

Alice Grove is mostly irreverent fun.

Not Yet In Space Or No Longer In Space

Opportunities is a webcomic that will develop into something like space opera, but since the entire first book is set on Earth, it is a twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-aliens-and-spaceships espionage story, and it relies on continually rising dramatic tension instead of mindless action, and constantly surprises the reader in spite of being very upfront and hiding very little from the reader.

Relativity is about the aftermath of an experimental space flight that has strange unintended consequences that unravel mankind’s knowledge of space-time as well as the relationships of the protagonists in crazy ways.

Space

First lets look at some science fiction webcomics that play out in space:

Schlock Mercenary is a science fiction webcomic that applies poignant satire on many levels (visual, narrative, dialog, plot), with multiple scopes (personal, relationship, professional, technical, organizational, strategic, political), and to different effects (silly, funny, weird, dramatic, dark and disturbing).

Space Mullet is a dark-and-gritty-but-also-quite-funny science fiction (in space) webcomic, where the guys are valiant and wise-cracking, the girls are tough and pretty, the aliens are alien and relatable, the moons and planets are gourgeous, and the weapons and spaceships are top-notch designs.

Greasy Space Monkeys is special for being a webcomic that spices up Gibsonian high-tech-low-life underdog-in-space slice-of-life shenanigans with Crocodile Dundee-esque romantic comedy sprinkles, including courtship rituals ranging from impersonating a spaceship captain to refusing to either confirm or deny allegations of being a murderer to threatening inevitable nuclear annihilation.

Galaxion is a wonderful webcomic featuring Live. Love. Hyperspace., which means that it got its priorities right.

Trekker is a cool webcomic that starts from a pretty standard science fiction setting and premise, but the story is interesting, the plot is well executed, and the visuals are easy on the eyes.

Quantum Vibe is a science fiction webcomic that populates an epic world in a setting limited to our solar system and speed-of-light communication with an incredibly diverse set of characters even without any aliens. (Note: This changes with the new storyline, set a long time after the initial three books.)

Drive is a great webcomic that combines serious, incredibly creative world-building and goofy but loveable characters into an intriguing story.

Space Corps is a science fiction webcomic with world-buildung based on blatant setting rip-off (Semper Fi IN SPACE) enforcing ridiculous constraints on alien design (only the head can be different, and it still has to fit into a standard human-sized helmet), which is great fun because it unflinchingly runs with the concept and includes alien characters which are pretty cool despite the constraints.

Spacetrawler is a very remarkable science fiction webcomic populated by a plethora of incredibly versatile alien designs that take full advantage of the freedom afforded by the medium and accept no constraints whatsoever.

Space Pest Removal is a cute science fiction webcomic characterized by cartoon-style visuals and storytelling that always makes me smile and often makes me wonder.

Crowded Void is particularly nauseating science fiction webcomic. (Seriously, can you imagine any science fiction setting as gross as the intestines of a giant space worm? If so, please tell us in the comments.)

Intergalactic Medical Doctor is a new science fiction webcomic that mixes low comedy, high satire, and a dramatic center.

Supermassive Black Hole A* is a sci-i story that takes the antihero concept to hitherto unknown places, making you root for a selfish mass murderer simply because she is an attractive women on so many levels.

Cassiopeia Quinn is fanservice and funservice, in space.

Space Junk Arlia is about space pirates versus the space fleet, and who’re the more respectable ones?

Terra is all about fighting in space, with a motley crew.

Flight Of The Binturong is a fun little story about a spaceship crew that gets screwed over by the powers-that-be.

Dressed For Success is about two guys running away from the mob, in space.

11th Millennium is concerned with girl problems in space, including, but not limited to, friendship, sex, gaming, betrayal, crime, sabotage, smuggling, militant rebellion, and interstellar war.

Star Shanty features pirates in space! [The site has been down for some time now. I hope it – or at least the comic – will resurface some day.]

Starslip shows us space (and time) adventures with a captain who is a museum curator.

dord is the science fiction webcomic that Samuel Beckett would have written.

Yesterday Bound is all-out fanservice and action, in space.

Praesidium devolves into pure tragedy & death in space!

Space Pulp is called Space Pulp for a reason! Fun to read, but definitely NSFW on occasion.

Merceneiress gets really dark and disturbing on so many levels.

Crimson Dark could be described as Star Wars meets Firefly.

Blue Milk Special is a parody of Star Wars that will be lots of fun for fans of the franchise.

The Lydian Option is pretty much the webcomic equivalent of a Die Hard style action movie in space.

Velocidad is an action-packed space pirates/rebels/renegades story, set in a fairly standard sci-fi world, but with a twist, and with a visual style that took some time for me to get comfortable with, but is certainly unique and interesting, an dfull of cool space-stuff designs.

Note: There are more science fiction webcomics than I could possibly cover here. And if I don’t like them, they may nevertheless be very good (because my taste is just my taste, duh).

Can you express in one sentence why you love your favorite webcomic? Tell us in the comments!

Of course, many of the explanations given in the one sentence descriptions above deserve further exploration. I will revisit them in forthcoming posts.

Note that my next blog post is Single Sentence Scrutiny: 11 Action/Thriller/Crime/Espionage Webcomics.

Seven Questions About Protege

Here’s the sixth installment of Seven Questions About: This time I interviewed Terence Anthony, the writer of the outstanding webcomic Protégé, which I wrote about a couple of times on this blog, especially in the post spoilers Surprising Your Audience The Webcomics Way spoilers .

Note that Protégé is currently on hiatus (at a perfect stopping point), but will resume updating a new chapter on November 25th., which gives you an excellent opportunity for an archive binge to get up to speed in time. And as always, I encourage you to do so.

Note: If you absolutely must take a shortcut, you can read this spoiler-free introduction instead.

Here we go:

Q1: Who are you?

I’m a guy who loves telling stories. I write mainly plays and comic books these days.

Q2: What is Protégé about?

Protege is the story of two killers who, instead of killing each other, are forced to work together. While they’re both extremely good at what they do, Trane and Allumette have vulnerabilities that, I think, make them interesting characters to write within the action-spy genre.

protege 11-11

Q3: Why and how did Protégé get started?

I’d created comic books when I was younger and about four years ago the itch returned. The broad strokes of the Protege story was stuck in my mind. I love action when it’s done right, and I’d been wanting to do a story that both embraces and deconstructs the genre in a way. I wanted to write a spy story that focused on the lives of rogues who don’t fit into the military-industrial complex as easily as, say, James Bond or Ethan Hunt. It isn’t an accident that the two protagonists are African American and Algerian respectively.

Note [TGC]: Not only the protagonists are interesting characters of diverse provenience, the same is true for the allies, and also for the villains. I’ve never seen such an admirable villains gallery.

After I started plotting the book I took a course at UCLA taught by Nunzio Defilippis and wrote the early drafts of the first issue. Soon after that I saw Juan’s work and his style fit what I had in my head for the look of the book. Protege is the kind of story that fluctuates between straightforward kick-ass action and complex character work that I could experiment with while learning and honing the craft of comic book writing. It’s the kind of story I could develop as my skills as a writer developed.

Q4: What influences made Protégé into what it is?

I’ve garnered inspiration and influence from (in no order at all): Takeshi Kitano, Antoine Fuqua, the Trevanian books The Eiger Sanction and Shibumi, Elmore Leonard, Mark Mazzetti, the Bourne movies, Walter Mosley, Don Winslow, Jeremy Scahill.

Q5: How much does the writing itself owe to the artist’s contribution?

With comic books I think the writing should always be significantly shaped by the art. When Juan and I first started working together there would be panels I wrote that he would draw completely different from what I described in the script, and most of the time they’d be vast improvements. Now that we’ve been working together for a while there’s a symbiosis; I feel comfortable being less detailed at times in my scripts and just looking forward to what he’s going to come up with visually and play with.

Note [TGC]: The artist is Juan Romera.

Q6: How far ahead did you plan the outline, and how did that plan evolve over time?

I’ve got the whole series plotted out right to its end. At this point I’ve constructed it as 5 story arcs, with each arc running 4-5 issues. That could be subject to change (the first story arc expanded from 4 to 5 issues) but there’s a definite end to Trane and Allumette’s story.

Note [TGC]: Since we have just seen the end of chapter 6, this means that we only crossed the 25% mark. Which means that there is so much more to come. Yay!

Q7: How do you decide whether including a specific depiction of violence, horror, or gore is necessary versus gratuitous?

To me, if you’re writing about violent characters you need to be willing to go into the deep and really explore violence. I hate stuff that tones down violent acts, sanitizes them and makes them “PG.” I think that’s copping out. Violence is messy, brutal, insane business and I’m not interested in stories where everyone only gets a flesh wound. At the same time, I try to make sure that when violence happens in Protege it’s in service to the story. To me an action scene should do the same work as any other scene and show us something about the characters involved, their motivations, all that. And if there’s some cool shots to the head as well, it’s all good.

Note [TGC]: That’s what I refer to as Breaking Bad level storytelling. And I love it.

protege 11-12

Got any comments?

In my opinion, Terence Anthony‘s answers are short and straight to the point, which is a good fit to the story he and Juan Romera are telling.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments!

PS: Let me remind you again that you can, and definitely should, do an archive binge of Protégé to get up to speed before it resumes updating on November 25th.

Provocative Praise Picks #12

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick is yesterday’s page from Schlock Mercenary by Howard Tayler.

When Captain Tagon, in the third panel, complains about the need to do desk work, his father, General Tagon, in the fourth and last panel, explains to him that officer is almost the same word as office.

This presents an interesting idea of what it means to be an officer. Certainly, patriotic stories like An Officer And Gentleman tell us a very different story.

In the real world, German military training loves to refer to the words of one of the founders of the General Staff, who explained that officer comes from officium, meaning duty in Latin. This may or may not include sitting at a desk as an essential function.

As much as they were very different personalities, both Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill thought that state business and military affairs are best conducted through the written word. On the other hand I’d assume that the saying attributed to Stalin, the general staff is the part of the army that produces the greatest number of documents, was probably not meant as a compliment.

What is pretty clear is that the way Captain Tagon and Sergeant Schlock would love, namely to do only the fun part of the job, falls short of the actual requirements.

Do you have a webcomics pick that may pique our interest? Tell us in the comments!

Provocative Praise Picks #11

Today’s Provocative Praise Pick is a page from last week’s Opportunities by Elliwiny and Sincerely.

It is the penultimate page of chapter 6, a page which delivers great dialog and characterization and sets up some crucial plot development.

The main characters on that page are Kyan, chief of security for the spaceships of an alien goodwill mission, and her subordinate officer Rex. Also important is the subject of their conversation, the wonderful lover & killer, sweet-talker & liar, charge-taker trouble-maker, and all-around femme fatale, Sara Emmet. That the latter is not an active part of the page, but still plays a central role, is a particularly charming storytelling detail. Another one is that Kyan has only one line of dialog, and it’s just a cheap quip, on a page that focuses on her thinking, and all the important visuals are dedicated to her reaction to what she hears.

The page has ten panels in four rows. Panel two, three, and four show the human visitors from a distance, with voice-overs from Rex, whose gesture in the first panel introduces these panels as the subject of his explanations. In the foreground of panel four we see Rex’ index finger pointing out Sara as the subject he wants to talk about.

Panel five shows both Rex and Kyan, but the emphasis is put on Kyan, who gives her subordinate a derisive look. On panel six she makes an hourglass gesture to point out the obvious: Rex is rather fond of shapely woman, and his obsession with Sara may be based on that, instead of the professional paranoia that fuels herself. Fun fact: Rex made a similar gesture when he came down from his observation round of the hotel pool on the roof.

Panel seven shows Kyan becoming rather introspective, and in panel eight she is even surprised and openly curious. This change in her attitude, clearly visible in these three panels which form the third row of the page, is caused by Rex’ explanations that he was indeed a professional observer, at least in part, and had noticed how Sara was performing some shenanigans that must be part of the evil plan that Kyan is so paranoid about. Note: Her professional paranoia is well-merited; we know that Sara and her co-conspirators are up to no good, indeed.

Panel nine is a close-up on Rex, again, while he relates the most crucial information: The additional pseudonym that Sara used while she was disguised.

Panel ten shows both of them, and closes this page with a sarcastic remark she would be dead if which emphasises Kyan’s drive to for action following from the information.

All in all, the dialog on this page is concise, cut out to form, and well-paced, and both the dialog and its effect on Kyan are excellently visualised.

In a sentence:Very well done!

What is your favorite webcomic page or panel from last week? Tell us in the comments!

Storytelling Scrutiny Squared: Beyond The Trailer, By & With Grace Randolph

This is another installment of the Storytelling Scrutiny Squared feature, where I link to other folks who are interested in storytelling and provide information and insight, and demonstrate appreciation, attitude, or amusement.

Today I want to talk about the YouTube channel Beyond The Trailer, which is created and hosted by Grace Randolph. On that YouTube channel you’ll find a plethora of videos about movies, especially geeky ones – whatever that’s supposed to mean – that are coming out now or are in development.

Grace’s speciality, as the title indicates, is to look at movie trailers with critical intellect and fully engaged heart.

She does quite interesting movie trailer reviews, e.g. Minions and The Martian, but she also talks about details that are leaked or otherwise much discussed. There is a whole series of videos that I’d call Suicide Squad Speculations, about who’s gonna behave good versus bad or about who’s gonna die?

Most interesting are Grace’s breakdowns or shot-by-shot trailer reviews, for example Suicide Squad and (the Netflix show) Jessica Jones. She goes into incredible detail, describes everything as it appears on the screen, and gives us her mind. She talks about artistic choices, speaks with great enthusiasm about all the stuff she likes in the movies, but also discusses problematic aspects, like pitfalls with the origin stories of female superheroes.

Grace also does full movie reviews. She loves to cheer movies and glee over them, she clearly loves great film-making and great stories, but she also looks into the deeper context. Her review of The Martian brims with optimism, but she doesn’t shy away from discussion of history and politics where it is important for the movie, like in her review of Sufragettes.

And if I don’t fully agree with all of her opinions when it comes to movies like Kingsman and Spy – for example I do not think that Miranda Hart’s performance in Spy was unfunny – I always find her comments thoughtful and interesting.

Check out Grace Randolph’s Beyond The Trailer!

Where do you look for information about upcoming movies? Tell us in the comments!

Drive: Pushing The Limits Of Space Opera

Today I’m talking about the webcomic Drive, created by Dave Kellett, which is a story that’s Pushing The Limits Of Space Opera. I already mentioned Drive in several blog posts.

Space Operas are awesome!

In movies, the coolest Space Opera lately was Guardians Of The Galaxy. Facilitated by technological progress, it sported amazing visuals. The combination of Space Opera and Superhero Movie was done very well.

Guardians Of The Galaxy even profited from the fact that it came late to join a long history of Space Opera movies: Non-human characters as part of an ensemble cast are no longer something that stands out too much, which enabled the film-makers to integrate all these genetically enhanced/modified/created characters so seamlessly that they could perform any imaginable movie character function. Paradoxically, by adding a raccoon and a tree to the cast, Guardians Of The Galaxy manged to make both the Superhero and the Space Opera genre appear more human.

Space Opera Webcomics are eve more awesome

I have no considered opinion what the latest, greatest Space Opera is on TV, in novels, or in printed comics, but I do have an opinion about webcomics:

Since Space Operas as stories are awesome, and webcomics as a storytelling medium are awesome, it come to no surprise that Space Opera Webcomics are super awesome.

Ever since the great webcomic Space Trawler by Christopher Baldwin (which will be the topic of another blog post here, some day in the future) came to its brutal conclusion, which was most fulfilling, if also very sad, there can no longer be any question that the webcomic Drive, created by Dave Kellett, is the current apex of Space Opera in webcomics.

What do I mean with: Pushing The Limits Of Space Opera? The possibilities to enlarge the size and scope of space operas in a numerical sense are endless: Adding more planets (or even galaxies), more races, more weapons, more magic, greater time spans; you name it, someone has done it. And this approach isn’t necessarily bad, as evidenced by a couple of great works which do this, for example one of my favorite webcomics, Schlock Mercenary. (Just to be clear, Schlock Mercenary does a lot of other cool things as well.)

Also, science fiction stories or space operas that do not push the limit as described in this post can still be totally awesome: Space Mullet (see also these posts), Trekker (see also those posts), Opportunities (see also those other posts), and Space Junk Arlia are fine examples.

Drive: Beware The SPOILERS!

Now I will have to back up this bold claim with hard facts, but to do so requires countless SPOILERS, so I encourage you to check up on Drive first.

It’s about 200 pages in, so reading it all will take some time, but it will be totally worth it: You will you avoid SPOILERS, and it will also be one of the best stories you have read in a long time.

Now, if you have read Drive, or are not afraid of SPOILERS anyway, you can proceed.

Drive: The Promises

Drive is very upfront and open with its promises to the reader:

  • By the end of the prologue, at page three, we know the main premise of the world-building, namely the Ring Drive and the Second Spanish Empire build from it. Tone and style are already being established.
  • About two dozen pages later, we know the main characters, but one, and also much more about the world-building, and most of the premise for the story. We have also seen a couple of amazing backmatter pages from the Enciclopedia Xenobiologia.
  • When the last addition to the main ensemble cast is introduced, it takes little more than a dozen pages till it is revealed that Orla keeps some secrets from the rest of the crew.
  • When the Filipods are introduced, it is made clear that they are poets whose loquaciousness can bore people to death, but also super awesome scientists and engineers.
  • Further into the story, we are presented with a map of the galactic powers that tells us about every place we will ever encounter.
  • When their home planet is cracked in half, the Filipods, because of their unique evolutionary development, are kept alive, and not thrown into the air like every Tesskan who lives on the same planet.
  • We also see, quite early on, an organisational chart that hints at a super-secret unit called Jinyiwei, headed by the Puno Gris.

Drive: The Surprises

But despite being so upfront, and never playing hide-and-seek or smoke-and-mirrors, Drive manages to surprise the reader, again and again, and on so many different levels:

There are many, many more. Which one are your favorites? Tell us in the comments!

Drive: The Big Payoffs

What makes Drive truly extraordinary is how the different surprising developments interact with each other and form a fabric of world-building that has few equals with regard to complexity, creativity, cohesion and clarity.

There is no hokus-pokus, mumbo-jumbo, yadda-yadda bullsh*t going on; everything in this story is mind-blowing exactly because it all makes sense, it all comes together.

Here are the examples for payoffs that fulfill the promises, surprise the reader, pull story elements together, and also intrigue us by promising even more fantastic story developments:

Just to make it clear, there are a couple more important developments that could be listed here as well, time and space permitting. This is a blog post, and not an epic!

Drive: The Future

The best thing about Drive is that we are just a little into the second act now, which means that the best is still to come. I’m really excited about the future of Drive and so should you; go check it out!

Now, what do you think? Please tell us in the comments!