Neither of these two options make particularly compelling reading. The first is tedious and the second more than a little insulting. I can appreciate eye candy as much as the next reader but not if it sacrifices good characterization and plot.
Khaos Komix, written and illustrated by Tab Kimpton, is a webcomic that manages to avoid both of these traps. It’s a sprawling tale that manages to tell the interlocking stories of several LGBT characters. Each character is well-realized and we’re given insight into their thoughts and experiences.
Generally, each chapter of the comic focuses on a different character and their personal journey from childhood to their present day selves. It’s a tried and tested technique that allows the reader to experience each character’s growing pains, challenges and triumphs.
The pacing of the tale is very slow with a heavy emphasis on character development. Not only do we witness each character’s developmental arc, we also experience it with them.
A large part of the story is conveyed through each character’s internal monologue.
Kimpton handles this deftly – it never feels as if the writer is condescending to the reader nor over-explaining. This is partly because the writing is so unaffected and naturalistic. The characters’ thoughts could be that little voice in the back of your head, your own whispering doubts and desires.
There is a love story at the center of most chapters. But Kimpton avoids the cliches of the genre because the true theme is self-love. Like a gallant knight, most of the characters must face and overcome their own demons before they can be with their love interest.
Another interesting theme is that of family. It’s refreshing to see a comic that represents many different kinds of families, from single parents to supportive family units to emotionally abusive mothers. A family is a starting point and the characters, all of whom are young, either use families as a launch-pad for their new lives and identities or else see them as a weight they need to escape.
The dialogue and pacing is one of the comic’s strongest points. Kimpton knows when to use subtle pauses to eloquently express what words can’t. Best of all, the dialogue flows. You can hear the characters’ voices as they speak.
In many instances, the story itself is grim. It doesn’t skirt issues like homophobia, bigotry or abuse. Yet there’s a self-deprecating humor that balances out the darker moments.
The art is a functional, with panel lay-out being one of the comic’s strengths. I view webcomics as more organic than their ancestors, print comics. One of the pleasures of reading Khaos Komix was seeing the art evolution from loose thumb-nails to better realized figures with shading and weight. I look forward to following the creator’s newer webcomics and seeing their art continue to improve
The genre is slice-of-life meets coming-of-age. The tales of self-discovery and love are instantly relatable, even if the reader doesn’t fall into the LGBT spectrum. What makes the comic work is the believable characterization, the deep themes and the sheer humanity of this body of work.
Khaos Komix encourages one to slip into another person’s skin. It’s not always a comfortable fit but at no point did I wish to escape. Through these stories, I lived, breathed and bled with the characters. And like them, I emerged changed at the end of the journey.