For this week’s addition to Webcomics Weekly, I’ll be looking at a pair of relatively new tapes, “The Academy’s Undercover Professor” and “Re-Possessed.” The first because the title intrigued me and then I read the first quarter of the strip. The second because Yishan Li makes art and I’m a fan of their work. So let’s start.
The undercover professor of the Academy
By WAG (art) sayren (original story) Tana (adaptation) INSA (Background and effects) Chacha Kim (Coloring) PASA (Art director)
Reviewed by Michael Mazzzacane
One of my constant complaints about webcomics is that they can take a long time to start. This is one of the pitfalls of having the theoretically infinite space and time of all-digital publishing. The first episode of “The Academy’s Undercover” does not take long to start, one could even say that it goes too fast. In the first maybe the 10th of the episode we go from an homage to the beginning of My Chemical Romances “Welcome To The Black Parade” before turning sharply left into “Shaman King”, before taking a right on the boulevard of broken dreams and the whole thing becomes an Isekai. Because I did so well not to choose them! And oh, yeah, really the series synopsis talks about how the strip is about assumed identity with maybe a hint of Hitchcockian flair. All of this is mostly covered in the first strip, the supposed identity comes to the fore through the third.
The creative team is throwing narrative spaghetti on the wall and damn it, I want to see what sticks. Despite all the excesses of this first episode, the false identity is wonderfully well done. All of this omniscient storytelling comes with framing that obscures and prevents readers from getting a good look at the character. It makes you think you are reading and seeing one thing when in fact it is quite another thing. Through all that first-moment Isekai nonsense, we’re introduced to a character named Ludger Cherish, he’s off to be a teacher at a school of magic. Of course travel by train. On that train, he happened to sit with a man named Gerrard who was heading in the same direction. And then the train is attacked by bandits (terrorists?) and he blows himself up in a suicide bombing!
In the dust Gerrard’s face begins to peel off, Gerard is not Gerrard and not even Machiavelli. This many-faced man is a regular “Grimjack” on the battlefield. To the art teams’ credit, they seem to pay homage in terms of pose if not costume.
For the art teams, the action in these episodes is solid with a bit of flair. There’s this habit of using speed lines that override panels, which would be a problem if their content looked visually engaging. Instead, you have those breaks where the tape turns into geometric shapes as the generic magic mixed with the steampunk aesthetic kicks in. This creates a sense of energy and dynamism for what are generally very good, even engaging, panels.
As the dust settles, Gerrard realizes he doesn’t exactly look like a man in his 40s anymore and the cops arrive. And so the man with many faces puts on a new one, a freshly minted professor of magic!
The art team draws a mostly captivating fantasy-steam punk environment, the techniques used are all in this Clip Studio Paint Manhwa. It might sound generic because you’ve seen the default presets thousands of times before, but there’s a subtle enough energy and differentiation that it at least intrigues me. You don’t burn that many referrals without having a plan or burning out spectacularly quickly.
By Trevor Mueller (writer) Yishan Li (artist)
Reviewed by Michael Mazzzacane
A few weeks ago, artist Yishan Li announced the debut of a new comic, and I was intrigued. Li is one of my favorite artists after doing Top Cow’s “Swing” series and a “The Adept” inspired by wuxia, her time-traveling superhero as a life management series “Paradox Girl “Also worth a visit. “Re-Possessed” Isn’t Like Those Previous Series, It’s Closer The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and ghost hunters as its now working-class protagonist is hired to rest some spooky objects and perhaps fulfill a world-saving fate along the way.
In my years of reading and consuming media, I’m predisposed to dislike characters like Troy. A slacker guy who, despite going to college for free, can’t seem to apply himself or bother to try while his best friend – a working-class woman of color works and thrives. Takemichi Hanagaki has a class consciousness for him, and that’s why he hates his life. Troy has no conscience. Trevor Mueller’s handwriting is a bit thick as everyone around him reminds him to try harder. Who knows maybe in 20 episodes we’ll start to unpack the trauma surrounding his absent mother and maybe diagnose it with some stuff. Until I cared much more about everyone but him.
Everyone else is a fully realized dynamic character, doing something interesting. Mari maintains it and works in a creepy pawn shop run by Adelin, who is a very fashionable witch. Cheryl Anderson makes sarcastic comments. They are all doing something. Troy does nothing.
While the reference points and basic structure are obvious and tired, Yishan Li’s art pushes it above the ordinary fantasy webtoon one would find here. It’s just unlike anything else here, there’s a real softness to the way she renders those contrasts with the sparse use of black lines. It’s not painterly but it doesn’t feel pushed in this style of highlighted drawing. His facial expressions continue to be engaging, though there’s a degree of face sameness to the characters if you look at their previous work – and they all seem to have the same nose. The ability to move and the willingness to respond effectively to the chibifi/cartoon is what helps sell the working class comedy bits, like in episode 5 when they realize the chair is alive. It helps sell Tory’s humanity in a way that the writing just makes me want to fire him.
The main character may be a piece of white bread, but everything else is engaging and well-executed.