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Modern Tales is the big thing in webcomics right now. A collective of some of the best and brightest comic artists online, it offers subscriptions to view the archives--and so far, it's worth it. (You can click on the link to learn more.) Some of my favourites:

Bitten Apple , by Jesse Hamm--Snow White gone horribly wrong. And with banana slugs.

Cuentos de la Frontera, Whimville and Magic Inkwell Comics, by Cayetano "Cat" Garza--It means, "Tales From the Border". This is a really cool idea for a comic. The narrative isn't really linear; instead it's mostly a bunch of short musings and recollections based on (apparently) Cat's real life growing up on the Mexican border. It's based on the extremely rich vein of folklore and customs to be found there, and the result is totally enthralling. Each segment is more-or-less self-contained, some taking an almost documentary style (his description of Mexican easter eggs sounds WAY more fun than ours), others more of a confessional, or an old-fashioned campfire tale. There's a loose frame story about the hero's encounters with the ghost of his Grampa and his delving into Mexican folklore, but the narrative is beside the point--or rather, it's just the mechanism on which to hang all the other, tangental narratives. Reminds me a bit of Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man. And speaking of illustrations...yow. This is one of the most lavishly drawn and coloured strips out there. It's also incredibly epic in its graphical ambitions, so do NOT go to the site if you're not prepared to wait for a slow server! Oh what the heck, go anyway. A real bold step forward for the burgeoning art of webcomics.

The Makeshift Miracle, by Jim Zubkavich*--I'll bet you've heard of this one. In just six months (about the same amount of time WEB! has been around...ahem...) "Miracle" has become one of the most widely-read and well-known webcomics out there. There's a reason for that, too. Slow-moving, contemplative, dreamlike and beautifully drawn in monochrome, it somehow evokes teenage-hood as (of all things) an innocent and idyllic time. But despite that, and the fantastic setting, it manages to maintain a sense of magic realism. Some people have criticized this strip as being too slow-moving, and setting up mysteries that take too long to pay off (actually, we still know very little about what's going on, though there have been hints). There's some validity to this, but if you come to the strip now there's a graphic novel's worth of stuff there already, so you shouldn't have much trouble keeping yourself occupied. And anyway, this story is sort of weirdly Zen...I get the sense that the plot and twists (if there are any) aren't the point, but rather the journey is. It certainly makes for one of the most unique and distinctive comics on the net.

Pewfell (AkA The Weird Worlds of Pewfell Porfingles), by Chuck Whelon--To my intense embarrassment, this entry has had my own partner's name misspelled for the last few months. Gah. Well, I've been writing this strip since October, so I can't really review it NOW, can I? But here's what I wrote back when Chuck was still writing it: "Why do I keep thinking this is what Harry Potter's going to grow up to be? This oddball fantasy parody strip features charming artwork and memorable's almost like what "Dungeons & Dragons" would be like if done by the creators of "Absolutely Fabulous". Pewfell Porfingles is a lazy wizard who spends all his time...uh...experimenting with his potions. He's married to the chainmail-bikini-wearing warrior princess Tina and has a Gnomish roommate, some drinking buddies (both savoury and otherwise), and an all-round comfort with his lack of magical ability. This isn't as funny as Bruno the Bandit--in fact, Chuck often stretches way too hard for a limp punchline--but it has a few clever satirical digs (such as the fact that being a wizard entails a certain "pharmaceutical enhancement") and it can surprise you every so often. More importantly, the art is really nice, and the overall veddy British tone lends the series a memorable and likable voice."

The Circle Weave, by Indigo Kelleigh--My favourite "pure" fantasy strip.


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