From long-running soap operas to comedy-drama slices of life to daily gag strips, the digital comics scene has exploded over the last decade and readers have never had more options. Feeling overwhelmed? Jen Overstreet and Joe Stando are here to take you on an expedition through the webcomics wilderness and show you the best specimens in our monthly Deadshirt Webcomics Field Guide.
By nature, the majority of webcomics are solo projects. There are fewer barriers to entry when posting comics online, so often a creator will write and draw the story they want to tell alone. Other times, fledgling writers and artists will work together to create a series. But BACK, by KC Green and Anthony Clark, is a little different. It’s a collaboration between two veteran webcomic creators, coming together to make something unlike their previous work.
BACK follows Abigail, a newly-resurrected gunslinger in a strange and dangerous world. She’s missing her memories but filled with purpose: the witches who found her have tasked her with ending the world. To that end, she begins to travel across the kingdom, becoming drawn into various towns’ disputes and problems. She’s accompanied by her erstwhile sidekick Daniel, a villager who attempts to act as a sort of a conscience for her.
Green and Clark have both been subjects of the column before, and their mastery of comedic timing and visual gags is on display. In terms of genre, though, BACK is a little harder to categorize. It’s generally a fantasy, but with strong Western motifs scattered liberally throughout. Or maybe it’s a Western, with some fantasy tropes and set dressing. It’s often very funny, but also tense and occasionally spooky or ominous. What it really is, at the end of the day, is an exploration of a lot of different things.
A comparison that keeps popping into my head is Samurai Jack. Like that series, BACK is the product of a team that has had a lot of comedic success, now applying what they’ve learned to some more straight action beats. Clark’s Nedroid comics have an impeccable sense of timing and expressiveness. More than once I’ve cracked up at Reginald’s surprised face upon hearing some normal thing, or at a well-placed beat panel. In BACK, this sense of time, emotion, and action translates into some powerful emotional beats, and what is honestly one of the strongest, most kinetic fight scenes I’ve read in a comic, period. Abigail’s battle against a couple of blackhats named the Tummy Boys is right up there with the best fight choreography in One Piece or Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. It’s a master at work.
Green’s writing, too, has a level of focus and specificity that rivals the best stories of Gunshow. There are some stylistic similarities to his “Graveyard Quest” story, but while that arc was largely driven by a clear conflict, BACK takes its time, relishing in mystery and atmosphere. We get a sense of the scale of the rough world where the story takes place, and larger bits of info and exposition are doled out tantalizingly slowly. While the character designs are fun and cartoony, the first chapter has a dark, ominous vibe, and there are real stakes to the fight scenes. That’s not to say this isn’t still a funny comic: a bit about Abigail staring at Daniel all night because she doesn’t know what sleeping is had me laughing out loud for an entire day.
BACK is a comparatively slow-paced comic, but its update schedule has been steady and it’s well worth the time. Green and Clark have a phenomenal range, and this is a story crafted with the full spectrum of their abilities in mind. I’m excited to see what the bigger picture for the series is, but I’m more than happy to watch Abigail and Daniel’s journey slowly and deliberately unfold.
BACK updates every Wednesday with two pages per week. It can be found at backcomic.com.