The Webcomics Weekly returns after finally putting away that garish pumpkin spice and replacing the git with Candy Cane dust! That candy can dust is “Hellbound” which is also our new review of a comic written by Train to Busan writer Yeon Sangho. “Lavender Jack” is certainly in a tough spot with the world war unfolding at the start of the third season. “Lore of Olympus” continues to be its own well-made pastel, however.
Written by Yeon Sangho
Illustrated by Choi Gyuseok
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
Netflix’s numbers are notoriously hard to pin down, but it’s no secret that Hell has been sitting very high since its debut a few weeks ago. Why talk about it? Well, since it’s very popular, and there’s a webtoon of the same name written by the creator of the TV show, Train to Busan director Yeon Sangho, I felt it was incumbent on me to take a look at the origins of this series and see what it was all about. I would regale you with a story of how this thing came about, but I literally couldn’t tell if the comic was written before the show but after the two-part animated short, after the show was announced but before his debut, or if this is a remake of an older version of the comic that was originally written and drawn by Sangho. That doesn’t matter, though, because “Hellbound” is an intriguing comic regardless of its origins.
The basic premise is this: people are suddenly given a period of time, ranging from hours to decades, telling them when they are going to die and at the exact time given, strange muscle creatures appear to kill them and train them. their soul in hell. We follow Detective Jin, a haunted single father, as he begins an investigation into one of these deaths and becomes embroiled in a web of religious cults, revenge, and family tensions. It’s a compelling choice for a central character in a series that hopes to examine sin and earthly justice. That said, in Chapter 5, not much happened beyond that first death and a lengthy conversation with the religious/sectarian leader, President Jinsu Jeong.
We are still in the construction phase, so that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, the conversations just aren’t that interesting, at least the ones with Jinsu. The conversation itself has a slight theological bent to it, although that’s kind of the point; Jinsu’s philosophy is meant to counter and tempt Jin while providing a basis from which to have a discussion on our ideas about what justice really is. A big part of the reason the scenes don’t work as well as they should has to do with how Gyuseok draws those scenes.
Gyuseok was the right choice for this comic, there’s no doubt. The black and white aesthetic accentuates the horror and gloom of the comic book world in a way that color does not. The panels are kept tiny, creating an atmosphere of constant closeness and suffocation, while the monster designs are suitably horrifying. When things need to open up, they do, as evidenced by the prologue’s brutal side panel. The pacing is also excellent, not too slow but not too fast. I haven’t seen many webtoons use horizontal panel placement to control pacing and intent – they prefer to use vertical gutter space, reserving horizontal placement for more utilitarian placements – and none do too good. From the moment Jin returns home in Chapter 4 to the end, it’s truly masterful. But, and you knew that “but” was happening, it’s not very dynamic.
Gyuseok’s facial expressions and the series’ mundane violence are far less impressive than the over-the-top horrors present in the prologue. Reserved facial expressions help the comic not fall too far into melodrama, but they also limit the tools at his disposal to step up the mundane into something that can sustain tedious conversation. Thus, conversations with Jinsu are made boring and tedious not because the components are bad – slow pace, small panels, philosophical discussions – but because they are not well suited for this kind of conversation.
That said, we’re in the early chapters of “Hellbound,” before it really reached the first turning point. Despite my reservations about Jinsu’s scenes, this is a well-told series with a solid hook. Looks like he’ll have some things to say about our desires for revenge, what sins mean, and who benefits from society’s fractured moments. We’ll just have to wait and see…or buy enough plays to read the whole season now. This is also a possibility.
By Dan Schkade (writing and art), Jenn Manley Lee (color)
Reviewed by Michael Mazzzacane
Season 3 of “Lavender Jack” begins with a slightly tweaked art style and an even bigger structural change for the better. There’s something slightly no looser, but alive, about the linework and digital inking of these initial strips. Maybe it feels that way due to the changes in Jenn Manley Lee’s coloring, but things look less polished. Lines and shadows threaten to unravel at the end which lends that edgy energy to a story that sees an alternate world war erupt. As Madame Ferrier notes in episode 91 “no one is safe”. The biggest change is the decision to split each strip, at least for now, into two separate segments.
There’s the gallery-based segment that focuses on Honoria Crabb and Ferrier doing what they do best in a sort of Rockford Files routine. Together, their probono for a charity detective agency is currently investigating the disappearance of journalist Abacus Ma, who has been a thorn in Chief Justice Gal’s side since Gallery went to war on the side of the “allies”. I pray there will be an amicus brief style pun in the future.
The other segment features Mr. and Mrs. Last of the Bastrops themselves Mimley and Ducky. They live a life of luxury on a journey across the Atlantic and Europe dodging assassins and lamenting the diminishing quality of threats to their lives. Despite the constant presence of these two, we haven’t really had much time where it’s just these two who have been playing each other for quite a while. After another threat to their lives, they decide to return to Gallery and work things out, a daunting task given the tiny nations locked on borders. Which means it’s time to meet Ducky’s long-lost Uncle Sal, aka Richard Lewis.
Dividing the sub strip in this way perhaps over-formalises the cross-sectional style that “Lavender Jack” used before, but it does effectively represent how disconnected our main cast are from each other and the clear collision course they’re on. . I would also be up for a spinoff of the Crabb and Ferrier files, just do a slice of life adventures, that would be awesome.
The more things change, the more they stay the same in “Lavender Jack” as things get off to a good start.
By Rachel Smith
Reviewed by Mel Lake
Complications and interference are this week’s themes on “Lore Olympus”. I finished my last review after Apollo’s assault on Persephone and his avoidance of dealing with Hades on the phone. In the episodes following the incident with Apollo, Persephone gets scraps of detail about Hades’ life and tries unsuccessfully to extract even more intimate details about his love life (or lack thereof). Neither Hades nor Persephone are one hundred percent honest about their romantic entanglements, but Hades eventually comforts Persephone, who feels insecure about her place in Olympus.
Then enter Hera. Zeus and Hera have a famously complicated relationship and that dynamic is definitely present here, with Hera always cold towards her husband and seemingly neglectful towards some of her children. In these panels, she reminds me of the hilarious series of Gatsby the magnificent– comics inspired by “Hark, A Vagrant!” where Daisy blatantly ignores her child while lounging on a couch. Hera drinks like a fish and smokes all the time, which is a funny character trait, and maybe it’s meant to show how world-weary older women are, turning to vice to escape their husbands and to the other men of Olympus? I mean, ouch? But maybe that’s right? Meanwhile, Hera presents Persephone with an offer: to work as an intern in the underworld. Persephone is conflicted, having pulled off a loophole in her “eternal virgin” contract by not yet having taken the oath, and also (understandably) not wanting to work for her crush.
This is where the world building in “Lore Olympus” starts to fail me a bit. And I know, I know, it’s not the goal. The point is the romance and the aesthetics and the adorable fluffy dogs of Hades. But since that’s not the topic, there isn’t much attention on How? ‘Or’ What exactly Olympus is structured, and what are the parallels between Olympus and our world. The underworld is supposed to be some kind of society, but aside from housing dead mortal souls, it’s unclear exactly what Hades is up to. Or what Persephone is supposed to “study”. And I know, it doesn’t matter. The world is a showcase for character dynamics and beautiful art style, but personally I could use a little more structure just to know it’s been thought through to some degree. World-building in fiction is so hard, but even a little crumb here or there can really help ensure characters don’t appear to be floating in a vacuum (admittedly very pretty).
Episode 32 takes us back to Hades in the Underworld, where he meets Aphrodite at dog daycare and confronts her about the incident that started the whole story. The idea of an Underworld dog daycare is so cute that I don’t care if it makes any sense. I’m not as interested in gods analyzing the past as I am in seeing where it takes Hades and Persphone from now on, so we’ll just have to see what happens if/when Persephone begins her “internship” when “Lore Olympus” continues .