5 Comics on DA That Manage To Do Things RIGHT

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Wurr by Paperiapina
Linkage: wolfpearl.deviantart.com/art/W…
The skinny: Horribly deformed, heroic hellhounds seek out a new home in a land forbidden to their kind.
Why It Doesn't Suck: First off, the whole premise brilliantly takes the Beauty Equals Goodness trope and completely turns it on its head.  Aside from that, it just about subverts every wolf comic trope there is.  Sleek, beautiful, romantic icons these guys ain't.  There is no prophecy, no aesop about man being evil, and probably above all, no romanticizing what it means to be a hunter.  The pack has almost no petty squabbling, puts up with each other's foibles, and has to because they know the alternative is death.  No angst, no whining or existential crises, just shutting up and putting up with each other because it means living another day.  Considering most wolf comics take the opportunity to put whiny teenagers in wolf form, Wurr starkly examines the label of "bad guy" from the bad guys's point of view.  The characters are lovable, their struggle real, their stakes unbelievably insurmountable, and you have no trouble at all rooting for these guys.  Themes of prejudice, stereotyping, and moral absolutism (dare I say hellhound disenfranchisement?) are quietly in the background where they belong, which is a refreshing break from so many comics that hit you over the head with a sledgehammer moral.
Special Mention Goes To: The character designs.  Again, considering most wolf comics have cookie-cutter cartoon Balto-knockoffs that depend on garish color schemes  and/or anime hair to differentiate themselves, the cast of Wurr has highly unique attributes and striking silhouettes.  (My favorite being Ilrabe, who has eyes on his tongue.)  WolfPearl has a knack for expression, and lets her  characters convey their emotions through her charming drawings, instead of depending heavily on dialogue.  (Is it just me or do most wolf comics have snarl and pant as their only expressions?) Wurr has a downright huggable cast, despite their bizarre appearance, and that's really saying something.

Guardians by akeli
Linkage: fav.me/d21czak
The skinny: Big cats meets high fantasy; what more do you need?
Why It Doesn't Suck: While the art could probably allow a lot of forgiveness on the reader's behalf (we'd follow those pretty drawing anywhere), the author, bless 'em, actually provides some decent characterization. The six page exposition drop at the beginning had me worried, but the protagonist Kotu gets his character defining moment on page 9 as a naive, generous little cub.  That's right, folks, a main character labeled as such with a  characterizing moment in the first ten pages.  Gasp!  The world is not heavily expository and dumped all over us; rather, we get to explore it through Kotu's eyes.  Double gasp!  A protagonist used as a mechanism for the reader to explore the world!  Character is action in Guardians, and considering the sheer amount of work that must go into each page, the author makes each panel count.  Which is how it should be.
Special Mention Goes To: The religion of Akasha.  Spirituality as part of world-building almost never shows up in comics; most of the time, especially in fantasy, the simple morality of good versus evil is all we get.  We don't know why these ethics are instilled, what shaped them, or even what their rules are, but in Guardians, Akasha represents a respect for all life and a unity of all living things.  This religion informs the ethics of Kotu and his mentor, adding a richness and specificity to their good-ness that makes them unique.  Too many heroes are treated blandly ; they're the good guys because the author says so. People would have loved Kotu anyway because he's a friggin' snow leopard cub, but luckily, we are audience to Kotu's respect for life and like him on a level that is more than just appearance.

The Meek by shingworks
Linkage: www.meekcomic.com/2008/12/27/c…
The skinny: A naked girl sets off to save the world from a mad ruler and his hellish spirit advisor.
Why It Doesn't Suck: I could say the art, and be done with it.  However, I focus on story, and The Meek has plenty to offer.  First, the author knows the value of enticing the reader. Many questions are asked, and not quite answered, to keep you turning pages.  (Or screaming at the author to do more than one update a week.) Secondly, the author  brilliantly sketches well-rounded, sympathetic characters, with a definite nod going to the main villain.  The darkness of the world is broken by quite a few moments of humor, without breaking the feel, another tricky thing to handle.  You get a real feel that these characters use or appreciate humor in order to survive the very dark possibilities before them, as opposed to the author just throwing it out there because it'll make the reader laugh.  The Meek doesn't have just emotional strings; it's a damn harp, playing the reader on every page.  And last, the semi steampunk/cattlepunk feel is one that I wish I could see more often, in addition to giant, Miyazaki-style dragon salamanders.
Special Mention Goes To: The Dagre.  Holy.  Crap.  The Dagre.  I LOVE this villain.  I barely know anything about him, but I want to know more because I can't get enough of the guy.  The author takes full advantage of visual medium to convey how the Dagre speaks, and I love it. It's impossible not to hear his slow, sinuous voice in your head.  The Dagre also has a kind of elemental feel to him; he is a force attempting to influence the world, not just a bad guy.  Since I use this setup in a lot of my own writing, it was just squee-worthy to see someone else use it and use it well.  The fact that the Dagre has the potential to kick incredible ass in addition to causing an apocalyptic war is just icing on the cake.

Lackadaisy by tracyjb
Linkage: lackadaisy.foxprints.com/comic…
The skinny: A 1920s speakeasy run by cats in suits.  Actual cats.
Why It Doesn't Suck: Again, the art of this is enough to reduce me to a sobbing crumple in a corner, but I'll digress.  Character is Lackadaisy's biggest strength.  No one walks onscreen in the comic that you don't immediately "get" in all their glory.  Whether it's the wacky Rocky or his meek brother Freckle, the devious Mordecei, or hep cat Zib, all of them have nuance, sympathy, and reader understanding. The story walks a kind of razor's edge, between the rather humorous antics of the Lackaidaisy heroes, to the realization that much of the humor is derived from their sheer desperation.  These heroes don't have it easy, and in many cases, have no idea what they're doing.  They're just winging it.  This is direct anti-thesis to so many characters in comics who confidently know that they're going to save the day, and/or wind up in situations  that they've been in before.  Lackadaisy's setup is that not only is the world against the heroes, but they're not the best equipped to handle the situation.  We don't get preached at, or suffer ham-handed angst; we just enjoy watching these guys try to figure out the next twist.
Special Mention Goes To: The pacing.  I realize it's an art aspect, but considering it aids the writing so much, I had to mention it.  The comic reads like an animation, and every page is treated like an entire composition.  There has never been a time when something was out of place, or crowded, or off-beat.  You can practically watch pratfalls and hear interruptions, because the pacing is so brilliantly done.  Dialogue balloons not only convey frazzled shouts or deadpan whats, but they also act as little arrows guiding the reader to the next face and the next action.  Throw in the art to that understanding, and there's a reason why I wish I was the author of Lackadaisy.

Malaak, Angel of Peace by Majnouna
Linkage: www.malaakonline.com/I1.html
The skinny: Lebanon's first female superhero discovers some pretty sinister machinations behind the wars that plague her land.
Why It Doesn't Suck: Malaak manages to put a pretty fresh and unique spin on the classic superhero story.  While the Hero's Journey is all there, the trappings are very new, and very accessible.  That accessibility is truly Malaak's greatest strength.  The culture and history of Lebanon, as well as the city itself as a backdrop, all play an important part in the story.  The author is multi-lingual, and straddles the line between many different cultures.  She's taken it upon herself to become a bridge between those cultures, and damn if that's not what I love the most about Malaak.  The world has some sweet fantasy rules that have nice connective causation, but are also firmly rooted in real-life Lebanese culture and myth.  To read Malaak is not only to enjoy a good story, but to also become educated.  This is probably the last thing on anyone's mind when they're making a comic, but Malaak has an undeniable affection for its own origins.  And, you know, it doesn't fall prey to a lot of stupid things most comics do.  That helps.  Malaak has a flavor entirely its own, and I really can't think of anything else that comes to close to what it is.  The realization that it's the first of its kind is also pretty cool; you're not just reading a comic, but a representation of a cultural and artistic movement, too.
Special Mention Goes To: The symbolism in the story.  Just about everything in Malaak's pages has some kind of significance, either as a real-life landmark, or a real-life element of mythology in Lebanese culture.  I in particular enjoyed the hippocampus and the gryphons, but enjoyed the role they played in real-life history, too.  Malaak carries a theme that nothing is what it appears at face value: the enemies, the heroes, the landscape.  It's very subtle, and comics need more subtlely.
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Majnouna's avatar
I wanted to wait until I could catch up on all the comics listed here before commenting, and as a result I'm WAY late, but I can't tell you how flattered I am to be on this list! :dance: