Webcomic Weekly, one webcomic each week – simple. Sometimes a huge, sprawling epic, sometimes a tiny thing. Sometimes something long-established, sometimes brand new. Sometimes a big name, sometimes someone you’ve never heard of before. But every Webcomic Weekly has two important things in common – it’s online and it’s well worth a look.
This week, the fascinating and intriguing anthropomorphic sci-fi of Parallax by Margaret Trauth and Nick Brienza…
You might have seen Egypt Urnash as Margaret Trauth with the webcomic Decrypting Rita, a sci-fi epic of the fastest woman ever built who’s dragged outside of reality by her ex-boyfriend, a thing of parallel worlds and a fight to rescue the planet.
That particular series is complete now and well worth a good look, but Margaret Trauth and Nick Brienza have teamed up to start another webcomic, Parallax, and it’s a strange, strange thing indeed, described by Trauth as ‘a sci-fi comic about two sides of a conflict nobody wanted to happen’ and even better…
Imagine you’re watching funny-animal Star trek… except every other episode is from the point of view of the Borg.
That’s the tagline Trauth and Brienza mention on their site, and that’s pretty much one way to look at Parallax.
That whole two sides thing is VERY important, both to the story they’re telling and the actual delivery of the webcomic, which does something extremely interesting indeed. More on that in a moment.
But first, to give you an idea of the two sides element mentioned, here’s the cast of characters…
You see the twist there?
Four characters, two very different ways of looking at them.
It’s all about which side you’re on. So, which are the good guys? which the bad? Or is it just that the idea of who’s good, who’s bad, who’s right and who’s wrong is simply a matter of perspective?
Two different tales, one cast, all of it taking place on one very big space station…
The anthropomorphic nature of the characters shift and alters depending on the perspective you’re reading, both pairs are seen to be doing just what they’re meant to be doing, whether that’s exploration for Olivia and Baron K or “intense gardening” for Kirt and Noa, but we really don’t get the full picture to the reasons why they’re doing that, not yet.
There’s a lot to really enjoy in Parallax thus far – Trauth’s digital art has a nostalgic old-school appeal whilst simultaneously managing to do some genuinely beautiful things with the design, the colours, the effects on show, not to mention the delightful characterisation of the four cast members. Likewise, the storyline has great potential, the simple idea of taking two sides to the story and telling a parallel narrative is pretty fresh and well done.
And then there’s the construction of Parallax, where it’s doing something I’m not sure has been done before – certainly not something I’ve seen before. When initially published, page by page, from 2018-2020 (it’s on a little bit of a long hiatus right now mostly thanks to the Covid year) it jumped from one side of the story to the other, giving us a tale of alternate views, four very different characters switching perspectives, jumping from exploration to extreme gardening.
But when you see it as a whole, in chapter form, you’ll see that it’s formatted in an innovative way, giving you just one perspective storyline with the other side published upside down at the bottom of a scrolling page. Right in the middle, there’s the switch button that flips the page and lets you read the other half of the story without needing to turn the screen 180 degrees. Now that’s a very well-done and inventive twist on the use of the digital format.
Parallax succeeds in being inventive and interesting, visually attractive, but at least at this stage, some 50+ pages into the strip, it’s more fascinating and intriguing than it is satisfying. The lack of definitive structure or any obvious through-line to the story seems a mistake with so many pages already done.
Yes, I do understand that the structure of webcomics means things can run longer, but even then I think Parallax could easily have nailed down some direction of story by this time whilst still managing to make the gentle pacing work just fine.
But, given that proviso, there’s still plenty to enjoy with Parallax, a webcomic that’s structurally different, full of interesting ideas, and rather attractive to look at, all of which means it’s one to check out.
Parallax – words: Nick Brienza, pictures: Margaret Trauth, story by Brienza and Trauth.
Trauth is also working on The Drowning City, ‘an urban fantasy about a girl slowly turning into a monster while elves invade New Orleans’, and Five Glasses Of Absinthe [NSFW], ‘a prog-rock fantasy about sexy people making very bad decisions.’