So I opened my folder of comics bookmarks, and arbitrarily selected the first one I came to: the Goblins webcomic. Some time ago I'd read the first 20 or so strips but got no farther. I started over again from the beginning. It's a fantasy gamer webcomic in the mold of treating D&D rules as not only the characters' reality but one they are conscious of. It also has both monster groups and traditional PC groups as protagonists, making it more like Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic than Order of the Stick. (Yes, "fantasy gamer" is an actual subgenre.)
The first 50 strips or so have a lot of predictable jokes about D&D rules, conventions, and players, but as with YAFGC and OotS, Goblins soon transcends its gag-strip origins. I think it makes a better graphic novel than webcomic series, because many of the pages do not stand well on their own -- no punchline or other sense of closure to them.
The work as a whole is impressive and makes for a powerful story. It interweaves the adventures of several different groups, primarily focused on three: the original group of goblins, one goblin who was split from them, and a dwarf cleric / human warrior pair. Some times it goes a long time between checking in on protagonist groups: terrycloth commented on a character returning again "after being gone for a year or more"; I checked, and it had actually been nearly three years since that group's storyline had been shown.
The author has a good talent for crafting characters of all sorts -- some good, some evil, and many that are just muddling through. Often, two or more sympathetic characters will be pitted against each other, and it just breaks your heart because you don't want either side to get killed. And the reasons that they're in conflict are usually horrifyingly understandable.
I finished reading it this morning, on my phone, because I couldn't wait until I got home. Now my head is all stuffed full of it, which is a very strange feeling for me. Like I can't work on my own stories because my mind is still absorbed by this other person's.
I definitely recommend this if you like fantasy, even if you're not a gamer. The story doesn't require familiarity with gaming to follow, even if some of the jokes do.
And now I'm going to talk about some of the specifics that are haunting me, for those who've also read it. So here be spoilers! Probably there will also be spoilers in the comments.
Dellyn Goblinslayer's death:
When Thaco left Dellyn alive in the sewers, I was all "dammit! I do NOT want to see more of this villain".
And then Minmax put Dellyn through a plate glass window. And I went "Okay, that was worth seeing Dellyn again." The conversation leading up to that was fascinating: Minmax unable to process the clear implications of what Dellyn was saying, and the ranger's vicious glee in spelling out that yes, he tortures and rapes his prisoner every night, and finally Minmax's response. Just that wonderful "you are SO EVIL that even the powergamer responds to you with moral outrage" in the midst of a revelation that I found horrifying even knowing Dellyn's background.
Minmax grabbing Kin's leash:
This was absolutely heartbreaking. At first I wasn't sure Minmax had grabbed it intentionally, but looking back at the panels, I am pretty sure he did, though he did realize almost immediately what a hideous mistake it was. But that, and the following pages up to Minmax and Forgath's departure from the Maze of Many, are just gutwrenching. Minmax's very real, very sincere regret, and Kin's inability to trust him after that, and their respective pain and grief ... just awful. What really makes it traumatic for me is that I feel like Kin is right not to trust him. As much as I've come to like Minmax over the last several hundred pages, that single act crossed a line and ... I can still like him after that, but if I were in her place I doubt I could trust him either. Does it matter that mind-controlling her into doing what he wanted only seemed like a good idea for half a second? It was still a thought that could cross his mind. I didn't think he was capable of that. It was shattering. </3>That</i> was a wild ride. I think my favorite part was when Thaco release all the monsters from the dungeon, and it at last seems like yeah, there actually is a way this could work.
I could probably go on about this -- so many poignant moments, like Fumbles screaming for them not to leave when they can't get through the grate to him -- but I think I'll call it here. And perhaps try to pull my mind back to my own work. @.@