New to Comic Rocket: Sam & Lilah

If you’ve seen our Google+ or Facebook feeds you’ll notice we’re following webcomics collective Act-i-vate. It’s mostly because they’re some long-time comic pros and webcomic-ers led by veteran Dean Haspiel. But also because they’ve become more um…active…in their promotions lately. Most importantly though they have good comics. Sam & Lilah is one of them.

The writing is crisp and the story is engaging–even if it DOES endorse soccer at one point. Most importantly the author jumps us right into the story with the main characters interacting. We don’t have to wait some 200 pages before the protagonists kiss or whatever like some webcomics (cough Menage a 3 cough cough) do. And even though there is magic and fantastic elements like a Gypsy curse the characters themselves are believable as human beings.

The art meanwhile is a neat hybrid of Japanese comics style and standard American comics art. The characters have a certain angular construction and the linework echoes chops from something like old school Macross. (Lilah could cosplay Misa Hayase!) There are also similar sorts of visual cues like floating hearts and stormclouds that mostly don’t exist in Western comics. What’s really amazing though are some of the page layouts and panel structures that are used to advance the tale; The story-telling is incredibly effective. There’s one great sequence involving a parallel dream that is told superbly from both characters’ points of view and the art communicates their side by side journey as well as the dreams do.

For this strip, I can’t complete the review without discussing the technical execution of the art including letter and colors. The coloring is pretty spectacular, very lush and evocative like the characters are living in a chromatic world of perpetual sunsets and sunrises. I can’t tell if it’s digitally painted or done by hand but it’s stunning. The lettering, while bothersome with its serif I’s in the first half, does afford some neat tricks seldom seen since Windsor McCay. Some letter balloons and SFX have unique tails that convey extra emotion from the characters or are even used to indicate intangibles like the passage of time.

Overall this is a fine comic and I expect it to do well. Not only are we already following Act-i-vate online, now I’m going to follow this particular comic on Facebook also. The only problem I can find with the whole endeavor is that their update schedule is too infrequent! I wish they’d do more than one strip a week on Mondays.

This strip is highly recommended.