With my big-girl job firmly consuming all my time (and the rest of it spent sleeping or attempting to sleep in hopes of adjusting to my nocturnal schedule), I find myself turning to quick online comic chapters in the short times I'm awake during my day.
The platform Webtoon is my go-to, but I've recently expanded to Manta and independently published stories! Here's a quick rundown of how these platforms work:
Webtoon allows authors to share their digital comics on a weekly schedule, using the platform's marketing, etc., to reach an audience! The stories are illustrated and written by one person or a team, and they mostly all update weekly.
Webtoon is free; however, users have to wait up to a month for chapters to unlock. Otherwise, you can purchase coins and unlock chapters early (called Fast Pass)! I'm guilty of doing this ALL THE TIME, because there's no way I can wait that long for my favorite stories to update.
Webtoon also has a comment feature, allowing readers to share thoughts and compliments with the creators at the end of every chapter! This creates a community of sorts on the app, and allows readers to give due thanks to the creators.
Manta is very similar to Webtoon, but with three major differences. The first is that this is a paid app. You subscribe to the app and can read unlimited comics for $3.99 a month. Depending on how many comics you read and whether or not you're willing to wait for those webcomics to unlock, it's a pretty good deal! Manta does allow you to read the first few chapters of comics for free.
The second difference is that the update schedules change from comic to comic. Some authors and illustrators update every week, while others update on the 10th, 20th, and 30th of the month, and I believe some only update monthly. This means you might have longer wait times for your favorite stories.
Lastly, Manta doesn't seem to place as big of a focus on the authors. Their names don't appear unless you look for them, and there's no comment feature, so creators and fans can't interact directly on the app. After using Webtoon for so long and enjoying the interactions between readers and creators, I find myself missing this aspect when I'm on the Manta app. There definitely needs to be a bigger focus on the writers and illustrators.
Midnight Poppy Land by lilydusk
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5)
Midnight Poppy Land is my favorite comic across all the platforms. The story focuses on a young woman named Poppy who, having moved to a big city, is desperate to succeed at the small publishing company where she works!
On a mission to sign a big client, Poppy's path continues to cross with that of a man named Tora as he tries to keep her from getting further involved with his lifestyle and background. Born and raised into the life of a mobster, Tora's the brunt of the operation, following orders and working behind the scenes to keep Poppy safe and get even with the men around him.
The relationship that stems between Poppy and Tora is playful, endearing, and realistic. Despite his background, Tora isn't some over-the-top gangster that continuously puts Poppy in danger. He's street-smart, consistent, emotionally intelligent, and hyper-aware of his own situation (and the situations he's inadvertently bringing into Poppy's life).
Poppy is smart and unafraid without being naive. Despite what Tora tries to hide from her, Poppy is aware of who he is, even without delving deep into his past. Poppy, however, is able to see who Tora is separate from the lifestyle he's in, and their moments together are tender and realistic, both of them so well written and characterized that the story ignites when they're together.
Midnight Poppy Land is the best thing I've read in awhile, and the characterization would have me going back even without the gorgeous artwork. Honestly, my desire to turn this into a book is at an all time high. What lilydusk created with this series is addicting.
I've been begging on Twitter and my pleas are finally being answered. This series returns for season two on the 24th of this month!
Blades of Furry by Deya Muniz and Emily Erdos
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4)
This is another Webtoon comic, and it focuses on the fictional sport of Battle Skating, where figure skating meets martial arts. Emile is our main character. He's a anthropomorphic deer who's desperate to make it in the sport, but uncertain of his own abilities.
In a very inconvenient twist of fate, Emile ends up going head-to-head against the top senior competitor in Skate Battles: Radu. I believe Radu is a dog (or a wolf??) but ultimately he's the hotshot athlete who everyone adores but knows little about.
When Radu and Emile complete against one another, Emile thinks it's the end of his Skate Battle career; however, a twist of fate... and a discovered secret... send him flying to the top of the ranks and plummeting further into Radu's life.
As Radu and Emile grow closer, they face countless challenges! From hiding their relationship from the Battle Skate authorities to keeping Radu's biggest secret hidden from those who want to bring him down. Skaters and poparazzi alike.
This story is super cute and definitely gives off Yuri on Ice vibes! The creators even reference Yuri in the cannon! Drawing all the characters as animals was a bold choice, but I found that after the first chapter or two, the plot was more than enough to get me past the fact that they're not humans.
Unlike Midnight Poppy Land that is the slowest of slow burns, Blades of Furry doesn't pull any punches with the pace of the plot. The characters move quickly. It does make me wonder where the story will go from here, but it keeps me interested and gives me just enough that I don't feel like we're rushing through the build-up.
This is definitely a Fast Pass story for me.
Empyrea by OHKATES
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (3.5)
The creator of Empyrea has done an incredible job creating the world and the background for this story. It takes place in Empyrea, where the world is split into different realms, ruled by different Guardians across the country.
Across these realms, Knights are assigned to protect the people and the Guardian of each. The Knights fight these demon-creatures called Keres, who thirst for the souls of humans and are supposed to be going extinct.
When Kere attacks begin to pick up across the realms, a young inventor named Kira finds herself entangled with a knight who bows to no Guardian or realm.
Caught between magic, dangerous creatures, and court intrigues, Kira and Tristan, known also as "Hawk," must work together to uncover the truth of what is happening in Kira's home: the Moon Realm.
Empyrea mixes sorcery and technology, royal courts and bawdy taverns, turning 8th-century scaffolding into a Steampunk adventure filled with mystery and magic, where robot nannies look after princesses and lonely boys see spirits.
These characters are nuanced, and Tristan is more than the "Knight-errant" he's portrayed to be. There are these soft moments sprinkled throughout the story, and they show Tristan to be more than a renegade knight refusing to pledge allegiance to a Guardian due to his own hubris... he's thoughtful and quietly intelligent, and I'm eager to see what keeps him from choosing a realm.
The art in this is fantastic, and the build up is excruciatingly perfect. The story is careening into part three very soon, and I'm excited to see what comes as Kira and Tristan accept that they need to work together.
Season two just wrapped up. Hopefully season three comes soon. Find this story on Webtoon!
Under the Oak Tree by namu, P, and Kim Suji.
This is one of my newest reads, seeing as I recently ventured onto Manta! The story is another period piece, based on feudal societies circa 8th century. The world-building isn't as strong here, likely because the beginning is a quick rush to get readers caught up on the plot that started before the beginning of the story... but after a few chapters, everything starts to slot into place nicely.
While the narration in Under the Oak Tree begins focused on Maximilian Croyso, the daughter of a wealthy and infamous nobleman, the story really begins with Riftan Calypse. As a young Knight without nobility, he was cajoled into marrying Maximilian, whose father orchestrated the marriage to save himself from being sent to war. Just one day after Maximilian and Riftan are wed, her father sent Riftan off to fight and die in battle.
Three years later, Riftan returns a notorious war hero, a sword-master who defeated the red dragon, and commander of the Remdragon Knights. His reputation is that of a legendary fighter and a stoic man. The king has offered him the hand of his daughter, and Maximilian, who only shared one night with her husband, fears what her father will do to her if Riftan leaves her for the princess.
Maximilian is the typical naive, under-educated daughter of the time period, but she's ostracized due to her stutter and deemed worthless in the eyes of her father, who would've rather she died or have been born a boy. As Maximilian is taken out from under his control upon Riftan's return, she slowly starts to understand her abilities and her place in the world - in Riftan's home.
Still bound to the king as Knight, Riftan is called away from his lands, leaving Maximilian behind just days after they're reunited. In his absence, she struggles to fit herself into place as the lady of his lands and to teach herself all the things her father deemed her too worthless to know.
As she works to make Riftan's stronghold a home, she's helped by the commander's in-house sorcerer, Sir Ruth. It might just be me, but I'm torn between Riftan and Ruth. Riftan is said to be a brute with his men, singularly focused on defeating demons and creatures that stalk the grounds around his home and other kingdoms. With Maximilian, he oscillates between taking what she's not ready to give (or too naive to know she's allowed to want) and promising her the world, as he believes she grew up pampered and loved.
Maximilian is too afraid to shed light on her upbringing and reveal that she's not the proper noblewoman Riftan believes he married. So as he works to give her all the luxuries he thinks she needs, she pushes herself to learn to be the woman he thinks he married.
Seeing under her facade, though, is Ruth. The sarcastic sorcerer who doesn't coddle her or demand anything in return. It's still early in their friendship, but I'm hoping there's more between Ruth and Maximilian... more than what we've seen between her and the commander.
So far I like the nuances in Ruth and Maximilian's relationship more. Guess that makes me #TeamRuth.