There’s a yearly webcomics battle going on right now. There’s too many to read all at once, so the best option is to just read whatever’s opposite something you want to vote for. (It requires facebook to vote but doesn’t seem to care how old the account is, so if that’s an issue you can easily make a dummy account. Or, if your favorite webcomic is losing, a few dozen.)
Anyway, since that’s on we’re going to have a recs post now. Webcomics are free in every way except time, so these range from those I absolutely love to those I found enjoyable enough.
Gorgeous art taking place in an extremely deep and well-developed world with a great magic system that manages to be incredibly versatile while having easily understandable rules.
My favorite part of it is the characters. The opening made me think it was just an annoying wacky/straight pair thing, but Sette’s obnoxious idiot behavior is a cover for the con she’s running on her partner or her own insecurities (at times, both), Duane has a set of motivations of his own that go far beyond the initial explanation of blackmail, and they’re really just two of a large and well-developed cast.
A completed comic that plays with the fourth wall and the nature of its characters. The author writes them as if they’re actual people existing in the initially blank space of the comic and for his (often not too well thought out) additions to become part of the underlying functioning of that world. Starts off very rough, but it develops into something unique. One caveat, though – the handling of gender and sexuality is, at best, pretty poor.
A story about running a speakeasy during Prohibition, using anthropomorphic cats. The art starts off amazing and improves from there. The characters are fluid and expressive, and have surprisingly complex personalities to go with it along with a very rich background.
A weird one. Sometimes, it’s joke strips about forest animals acting like human beings, with advertisements and D&D games. Other times, it’s more serious strips with the title character, an apparently mute yeti-like creature that never harms others who seems to be slowly proceeding on a quest. Sometimes, the two mix. Beautiful black and white art.
Magical boarding school done well. The setting isn’t a backdrop or convenient excuse, but a major part of the mystery the characters have begun to unravel. Also, not about a boy.
Incredible art. There’s actually a plot to this, but it takes a while to get there.
the world is made up of cities, and the spaces between them.
(And people; and the spaces between them.)
A poetic sort of webcomic, done as a combination of prose story and comic, where a boy who doesn’t know who he is leaves the house of the witch taking care of him to discover a door in a tower that turns into a man that is a demon who thinks he knows him. Each panel of a page contains text from the narrator or dialogue. Delicately lovely.
Screencap comics about roleplayers playing in a world based on the respective movies. The first is more of a traditional game, while the second is a more collaborative affair.
Steampunk mad science! Only rather than madcap wackiness, set in a post-apocalyptic world of fighting mad geniuses that was nearly destroyed by something only known as the Other and recently hammered into something like an empire to try to keep things from falling apart entirely.
Elaborate, inventive, with a huge cast that has a lot of great characters, many of which are female. You probably already know if it, but if you haven’t read it you really should. The first act of the comic can be quite frustrating if you’re waiting to see what’s going to happen, but it’s amusing in its own right.
The amazing thing about Rice Boy is how rich and chaotic the world is. More than anything else I’ve read, the comic feels like a glimpse into a real if bizarre place, full of sweeping complexity of which only the barest part intersects with this particular story. At times this is a downside, making bits hard to keep track of, but overall it makes for a unique and intriguing experience. Complete.
By the same author, Vattu shows leaps and bounds of improvement, keeping the sense of a complex alien world without throwing so much out it can be dizzying.
(A third comic lies between the two. It is undoubtedly of quality, but I didn’t particularly like it. Still, if you like the others, you should give it a look.)
Gag strip with a scientific, philosophical bent, often focused on sex. Unusually diverse cast.
A nervous encyclopedia salesman gets a mysterious letter about an inheritance that requires him to travel to a small town. Sort of like what a Lovecraft story would be like if everyone was more endearing and less bigoted, and also in cute cartoon form. Also, the main character manages to be kind even to animals he’s terrified of.
A young boy finds himself the chosen one of another world. Lovely art, low-key story full of wonder.
A mashup of various fairy tales, starring an absurdly delicate princess on a quest to find the moon.
Basically how the world feels when you’re depressed, presented in a relatively lighthearted manner with a somewhat magic setting. Flat Affect: The Comic.
Another mad science one. This one starts out with a heavy dose of wackiness (and crude art) but develops in complexity and skill as time goes on, becoming pretty solid around the time they end up on an island paradise full of giant maneating ur-gerbils. Much of the story was planned well in advance and it shows, not just laying down the groundwork for major developments but building a five story mansion of it.
Set in the same world as Narbonic, Skin Horse has the quality developed by the very end of that comic the whole way through, and it’s full of slow development for glorious payoff. Pay attention to Sweetheart, she’s the recipient of a particular reveal that managed to surprise everyone at the time while being obvious on reread. Also, it has the most adorable cobras imaginable, with the mutant napalm-spitting axolotl nearly as cute.
In addition, it manages to avoid the tiresome pitfall of the fantasy creatures being a metaphor for gayness or whatever by actually containing people like that in the first place in addition to the sentient bee swarm, intelligent office machines, cyborgs and killer zombies.
Very, very slow paced but subtly creepy story that’s strongly focused on the lives and personalities of its cast.
A talking wombat gets lost and confused while digging and pops up in a strange land in front of a talking statue of a god. Things get steadily weirder from there, to the misery of Digger, who like all wombats prefers the practical to gods and magic. Also, hyena people!
Creepy comic set on a post-apocalyptic world, with the main character living on a battered boat. Wonderful art.
Much darker than it first appears. A player in a virtual reality game is constantly tempted to hack, despite the severe consequences if she was found out and her own sincere desire to be good.
About family, relationships and how you relate to others, as illustrated by the hero having to descend into a series of dreams and solve increasingly difficult problems with the help of his now-talking dog in order to rescue the people of his town before the birds carry their souls away to the land of the dead.
One day, a transforming fox killed a girl’s family and took the form of her sister. Now she’s grown up. Also has a heavy romance plotline, but I have no real interest in that.
In a world where sleep has been eliminated, the protagonist is one of the miserable few allergic to the wonderdrug. He also seems to be the only one noticing increasingly bizarre events.
About the running of a halfway house for the ridiculously masculine characters seen in videogames trying to reintegrate into normal society.
Some gorgeous visuals and an adorable main character, but only has 44 pages after years of running.
More great art and a story that seems to be going somewhere quite interesting, but plagued by hiatus so don’t get too attached.
A boy with numerous mental disorders is picked as the chosen one of a struggling fantasy world. Lavish, trippy artwork, very dark story.
Webcomic about an imaginary roguelike game that uses reader inputs to move the story along.
MGS comic. I found it’s one of those things where the jokes are funnier as a whole. I was linked to a couple pages at various points and found the joke dumb each time, but when I read the whole thing from the start it became hilarious.
Nonheroic heroine done hilariously.
Humor strip focused on life in a toystore, with background fantastical elements and periodic Batman jokes. Far more aware of sensitive subjects than many webcomics, and better at handling them than most.
A Nuzlocke-based pokemon comic that manages to explain the conventions of the genre and avoids the usual pitfall of sticking too close to the author’s exact game.
The art of this is terrible, but if you can get past that, it’s extremely inventive and has an interesting plot.
a “philosophical science fiction manga strip which tells a metaphoric and purposeful story with a definitive beginning and ending.” Bizarre and definitely not without issues, but worth it for the uniqueness, as are the comics that follow it. The author’s main strength is her invention of universes.
Someone from our world is pulled into a world that resembles a cutesy computer wargame and has to figure out the rules and a way to win before his grossly outmatched side is wiped out. Contains a number of major female characters and canon no-issue bisexuality (with a lesbian relationship being the primary one) with the caveat that so far it’s been only het and lesbians, and the lesbian relationship (with some unhealthy issues) is part of a love triangle against a wholesome traditional guy, and not yet clear which is going to win.
D&D stick figure comic that starts out with a focus on rules jokes and developed into an epic plot with a great cast of characters.
Is not, as it sounds, about the typical fantasy gamer comic of a party or people at a table pretending to be one. It’s focused on the lives of various monster races that live in the caves of a mountain, and the art is expressive and cute. Also contains perhaps the only depiction of drow where the males aren’t seething under the unnatural and bizarre dominance of the females but are living in an actual society where that’s considered normal.
A humorous strip based on Exalted rather than D&D, done in a similar style as Order of the Stick. Currently on hiatus, the author also has another Exalted comic:
Imageboard interactive fiction about an amnesiac newly exalted Lunar set well in the future of the canon games, with all sorts of new stuff having happened to change the landscape and balance of power.
Speaking of which, you absolutely must read Ruby Quest. Just go do it.
Well. I’ve surely missed plenty of other webcomics, so recommend what you’re reading in the comments.