Floppy Ears and Woodland Fears

Modern Tales continues to add quality comics to its roster – which is certainly not a bad strategy, as these things go. While recent days have been seeing all manner of discussion on Zudacomics, and ComicMix, and all manner of other BigName webcomic sites planning on launching, Modern Tales has continued to quietly chug along, and has resumed developing its steadily growing collection of enjoyable comics. I suspect it would take something big to really get attention (such as replacing their terrible archiving system and website layout), but it is nice to have a site that serves as such a reliable resource for first-class webcomics.

The latest addition to the site is Gothbunnies, which I stumbled upon today. It is a recent addition – so recent, in fact, it doesn’t even seem to have been officially announced! (Which, I’ll note, isn’t the first time I’ve reviewed a newcomer to Modern Tales before its official launch on the site.)

Gothbunnies clocks in at 85 comics, which I consider a nice and juicy number to encounter in a new strip – not so many that the archives are overwhelming, but just enough to give you a real sense of characters and story. It updates once a week – a bit slow for my tastes – but with full-sized pages, and what seems to be a good ability to move the action along at a steady pace. (Though I won’t really be able to judge that until after I’ve been reading for a while. For good or bad, reading a comic’s archives is a vastly different experience than reading it week to week.)

The art faintly reminds me of the works of Sylvan Migdal – which, rest assured, is a compliment, as I consider Migdal to be one of webcomics’ greats. The first page is amazingly gorgeous, with similarly striking moments ocassionally appearing throughout. Even when it is just portraying characters walking about, or conversing, the art is both clean and expressive – both of which I rate highly in the comics I read.

I have some small complaints about the character design – namely that, especially with some of the recent additions to the cast, some characters can be slightly difficult to tell apart. Similarly, it was almost fifty pages into the story before I realized that Larch, one of three main characters, was male rather than female. Of course, it didn’t actually change my view of the story in any real way, and I won’t deny that I fundamentally like the character designs – but a bit more distinction might not hurt.

As for the story itself, it is currently a solid blend of mischief and mystery, and is just beginning to hint at something more serious. The story begins with our three protagonists (who are, indeed, anthropomorphic rabbits that are also goths, as one might infer from the strip’s title) moving into a new house (warren.) Unfortunately, the house has a garden filled with plant monsters, a predisposition for unnatural weather, and is next door to mages, cemeteries, and all manner of assorted spookiness. Two of the roommates find the situation exciting, the other one is wary but resigned, and adventures, inevitably, ensue.

The characters have very distinct personalities right from the beginning, and the creator, one J. Wojtysiak, does a remarkably good job with the usual hurdle of expositing a character’s background. However, at least thus far, this doesn’t really appear to be their story – like many good adventure tales, the three of them (along with the reader) are plunged into a mystery in progress, and all they really need to do is survive it (and possibly learn what is truly going on along the way.)

Tied into the odd happenings in the neighborhood is Vetiver, a stranger in the woods and owner of a tome of magic, whom they find tied to a tree in the forest. (By plant monsters.) While Vetiver joins forces with them, after a fashion, to help get to safety, it seems clear he knows more than he is telling – and given all the other mysterious figures around who seem to wish him ill, there is clearly a lot more to him than there initially appears to be.

More than that… well, we don’t really know yet. We’re only just starting to stumble into deeper plot, and the story has a lot of directions it could go in from here. I am certainly eager to learn more – I find myself curious even about characters that have shown up only in the last handful of strips, but who already seem to have backstory that promises to be interesting.

And for all the discussion of story and plot above, this is a fundamentally light-hearted strip. Humor is present throughout, with occasional trips into raw silliness. I particularly like the sword-fight with a shovel-wielding bush. The jokes aren’t too over-the-top, and they don’t try to force their way into every scene, but they do set a cheerful tone that infuses the strip’s atmosphere. That is, in my opinion, just the right balance to aim for.

So, all in all? Brisk art, personable characters, engaging mysteries and an enjoyable mood all adds up to a damn good comic – and a good addition to Modern Tales, and a happy discovery for myself.

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