Unbound: Getting in on the ground floor

There are some things about comics that work better online than print, and there are some things that just don’t work as well.

For instance, you can pick up a 200-page graphic novel and read it in pretty much one sitting, and usually that’s a pleasurable thing to do. Reading 200 pages worth of webcomic archives? Not so much. No matter how interesting a comic may be, a screenful of links to past episodes is a daunting sight to the new reader, and clicking, waiting for each page to load, and scrolling can become tedious pretty quickly.

So, for those who don't have time to wade through pages of old comics, here are five promising startups, all new comics that have launched since the beginning of 2010. There's a variety of styles and genres here, but all are so new that you can be up to speed in a few minutes. And all look like they will be worthy additions to any RSS feed.

Yellow Peril just started last week, so creator Jamie Noguchi has only posted a few strips so far. However, it looks like he has taken the basic webcomics model to heart and written the T-shirt right into the comic. In this case, it’s a Kamen Che Guevara T-shirt that seems to be keeping his lead character, Kane, from moving up the corporate ladder. (Well, that and general cluelessness.) Noguchi seems to have thought things through pretty well—there are some as-yet-unseen characters on the Cast page, and he even has explanations for the title and the navigational aids. That’s not surprising, as Noguchi is a seasoned comics artists, with stints on Fans, Erfworld, and some print things under his belt. (NSFW for language, as Noguchi makes the very bold choice to kick off the very first strip with the F-bomb.)

Sailor Twain got some good press at its launch because the creator is Mark Siegel, editorial director of First Second Books, which is the home of some mighty fine print comics. That was last week, though, which is 17 years in Internet Time, and you have probably forgotten all about it. Well, go check it out. The story is still just getting under way, so at the moment we only have a vague outline: A mysterious disappearance, a beautiful, possibly neurotic, woman, a taciturn sailor, a pendant of obscure but undeniable significance. It's very readable, and Siegel’s art is interesting enough to carry the story while we wait for the big hook; he’s using charcoal (or something like it) to create a smoky, moody waterfront atmosphere, and it’s fun to just sit back and watch.

Christy Lijewski's Samurai Host Club is the newest of the batch, with just two episodes up, so it's too early to say much about it, but I'll go out on a limb here and say that Lijewski is an accomplished artist who is just hitting her stride, and this will be a comic worth watching. She draws long, lean figures with plenty of energy, so her style is perfect for a story like this, which she describes as "Assassins, Mafia wars, gunfights, massive bleeding, hookers and hosts. Maybe a samurai or two thrown in for good measure." Indeed, the comic comes with an adults-only warning, and there's a bloody corpse on page one. Lijewski got her start with Tokyopop, and they just published the last volume of her well-received series RE:Play, a story about punk rockers with a supernatural twist. Samurai Host Club looks like a natural next step for Lijewski, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Outside Infinity is the heaviest of these comics, in terms of both mood and subject matter. Creator John Barber works in a painterly style, with overlapping panels and text boxes full of narration, to tell his story of a dying scientist searching for answers to a cosmological problem while stationed on the front lines of World War I. If advance notices are to be believed, it will be taking a sharp sci-fi turn shortly, but it's definitely more Twilight Zone than space opera. The narrator seems a bit overbearing at first, but now that the prologue is over with, Barber is letting the characters take over, which is good. I like the choice of setting and the characters, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes. If this piques your interest, Barber's earlier, Flash-based comic Vicious Souvenirs is up on the same site, Modern Tales, but it has, you know, archives.

Let’s end with some laughs: Luci Phurr’s Imps is a light take on the old selling-your-soul-to-the-devil chestnut. It starts out with a cute prologue in which Hell is presented as a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies being what they are, nothing works our the way it’s supposed to, so when TV weatherman Lou C. Phurr makes a deal with the devil’s people, they take their time about getting back to him, and they wind up working for his daughter instead. What’s more, the imps assigned to the job are not exactly the best and the brightest. Things are just getting rolling, but already this strip has gotten some good digs in, and it looks like there are plenty of laughs to come. And the candy-colored palette is a good signal that this won’t be turning into Split Lip anytime soon.

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