As you may be aware, I read a lot of webcomics. Fewer these days than it used to be, but there are still probably a dozen or so I regularly follow. My cousin, Alex, asked me to recommend some to him, and I figured the list might be of general interest, so I’m putting it up here.
These are comics which have completed their run. This makes it especially easy to recommend them, because I know for sure they won’t turn bad (webcomics have a habit of going a bit wrong in a variety of different ways. There are a lot of comics that I used to read that I got really tired of).
Our cynical and pragmatic protagonist is a miner. She hits a patch of bad gas underground, wanders off course, and finds herself surfacing in a strange land full of gods and monsters.
Oh yes, she’s also a wombat.
Digger is a wonderfully charming story. It balances light entertainment with good fiction and some darker themes really well, and you absolutely have to go read it.
A policeman from an organisation whose job it is to hunt down and help to cure people suffering from Science Related Memetic Disorder (colloquially, “mad scientists”) is assigned a partner who represents the giant global brain formed by the Mars colony. As per the job description, they have to hunt down a mad scientist. This doesn’t go entirely as well as expected.
Full disclosure: I love mad scientist fiction. A lot. So I was pretty much going to like this unless it was really quite dreadful. Fortunately it’s not at all dreadful and is in fact really quite good. If you like hard sci-fi and mad science you’ll definitely like this. If you’re merely indifferent to those I’d recommend it anyway – it’s solidly plotted and with really enjoyable characters.
More mad science! A very different tone though. Although it does grow more serious as the strip goes on and we get more attached to the characters, this is mostly a fairly light-hearted strip.
The plot? Our protagonists are Helen Narbon, a mad scientist, Mel, her slightly psychotic intern and Dave, the computer science graduate who ended up working for them as their tech guy because a) It seemed slightly less evil than Microsoft and b) Casual dress, smoking permitted. Hijinks ensue.
(There are various significant subplots, and there is an over-all arc, but it’s very much a character driven comic rather than having a single grand plot)
Similar disclaimers to a miracle of science, but I really love this strip and think it’s worth reading. Although the tone changes throughout, I think you’ll figure out fairly quickly from the first couple of dozen strips if this is your cup of tea or not.
One over zero is… decidedly experimental. It’s a comic entirely without a fourth wall – the author is an active participant in it and regularly talks to the characters. The characters in turn actively contribute to the creative process. It starts out a bit weakly as the author finds his feet, but once the main cast appear it’s a really neat exploration of the medium.
Qualified recommendation. I really enjoyed it, but many wouldn’t. Give it a little while to get going before deciding if you do or not though – until junior, manny and the running gag are around it doesn’t really look very much like the way it does for the rest of the run.
Goofy noir space-opera done by the authors of Girl Genius. If that sounds appealing, you should probably read this.
Schlock Mercenary is probably my favourite webcomic. It tracks the antics of a group of mercenaries in the 31st century. It started out very light-hearted, but has evolved into extremely solid and well constructed fiction over its run whilst still maintaining a good balance with the humour. The beginning is a bit rough, particularly artistically speaking, but it quickly finds its feet and has been an incredibly enjoyable read ever since.
Part of why I’m very attached to it is that it has been consistently updating every single day (seriously: It has never missed a day. There was the day when the data center it was hosted in exploded. Howard posted the comic for that day on his livejournal) for the last thirteen years. I think I started reading it in year one or two. It’s the only webcomic I know of that has managed to stay good over that sort of stretch of time. This does unfortunately mean that the archives are kinda huge, so you might want to schedule some time to read them…
I said I like mad science, right?
Girl Genius is a fun steampunk comic set in an alternate Europe where a largish subset of the population are mad scientists (“sparks”). Our protagonist, Agatha, discovers that she is one of them and that her family history is much more interesting than she’d been lead to believe.
A lot of people really love this strip. I merely likely it a lot. It has its problems, not least amongst them that it’s very visible in the artistic style that the artists got their start in pornographic comics, but it’s pretty thoroughly enjoyable.
Recommendation: Solid for what it is.
Surreal comic, mostly about how people relate to eachother. Full of walls of text. Usually lovely. I don’t really know how to describe it other than that. More idea-centric than anything else – there are some recurring characters, but there’s no plot per se.
Recommendation: Really quite worth checking out.
Effectively the successor to Narbonic. Set in the same world, and occasionally with overlapping characters. The thing about having a world full of mad scientists is that you end up with a world full of the mad scientists’ non-human creations. Skin Horse is the government department responsible for assisting said creations (and any other non-human sapients along the way) and helping them become productive members of society.
Recommendation: Read Narbonic first. If you liked Narbonic you will like Skin Horse.
Here are some comics I like enough to read but not enough to strongly recommend (at least partly because I’m bored of writing reviews at this point). Your mileage may vary.