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The Daily Read: 1/18

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Though it’s only been updating its source material for about three updates, Shadowgirls is holding steady on Top Webcomics – a refreshing change for a webcomic field which seems so wrapped up in turmoil following the holiday hiatus.

The current updates take a plunge into what the creators hail as “Shadowgirls CSI”, and they couldn’t be more right. After the titular Shadowgirls are taken captive by their demonic captors, the webcomic takes a break to examine things from another perspective: the scientific one. The results etch a much-needed sense of reality into the proceedings.

Blood and gore are risky and unpredictable staples of the webcomic genre. Despite some flesh-munching here and there, Last Blood isn’t as bloody as you might think. On the other hand, mostly-friendly manga like Dominic Deegan randomly delves into graphic violence on occasion, the likes of which make Last Blood look like Last Christmas.

Webcomics cater to readers more familiar with video games, horror movies, manga and other forms of mature comics. This leads creators to push the envelope more than most, but if the pushing isn’t done right, the webcomic might just slip on its own blood trail. Characters, concepts, even humor – something must be pushed front and center by the violence, or else it just seems senseless.

A healthy dose of reality is Shadowgirls’ mark. As we expect, the crime lab results look more like a wild animal attack than a murder scene. In particular, I like how the coroner notes “a surgeon in a controlled environment would have had a hard time replicating these wounds.” Such details add an interesting dimension to the supernatural, and really, that’s the core of Shadowgirls.  It looks at done-to-death routines through new filters, ranging from family drama to police procedural.

The only other webcomic I’ve seen so far which really nails this gritty urban styling is Paradigm Shift, a detective manga which finds two Chicagoland cops on the trail of a suspect that blurs the line between man and beast. It’s one of the few webcomics I regret not reading as much as I feel I should. The concept is simple, the dialogue is engaging, and as always, there is an ever-present hook luring readers from page to page.

Fish blood is Shadowgirls’ hook this time around, by the way. If that’s not straight out of H.P. Lovecraft, I don’t what is.

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