I like writing good reviews more than bad ones. Today, I had to write both.
Keenspot: Keenspot Spotlight 2006 & Comic Genesis: Generations 2006
On the advice of Official Good Buddy Jeff Brady, I am going to truncate my review of these comics. The following webcomics in the Keenspot Spotlight are worth your time: Abby's Agency, The Devil's Panties, El Goonish Shive, Penny & Aggie, Sore Thumbs, Striptease, Todd and Penguin. The remainder of Spotlight, and everything in Comic Genesis, are, in Jeff's words, "not suitable for use as toilet paper. Burn 'em if you got 'em." As these are webcomics, this will require burning large portions of the Internet, but trust me, it's worth it.
Also, God Mode is a shameless and shitty ripoff of both PVP *and* Penny Arcade, and I didn't even think that was possible.
Top Shelf: Owly in "Breakin' The Ice"
Owly was probably my favorite FCBD book from last year, and it's a strong contender this year as well. This adventure of "a kind, yet lonely little owl who knows what it means to be human" is a story of friendship, forgiveness, and how everyone likes corn. Runton's simple yet thoughtful style charmed the pants off of me, and I found myself grinning infectiously enough to amuse passersby. I can't recommend this book highly enough to anyone young in body or soul.
Renaissance Press: Amelia Rules! In "Funny Story"
Well, it's easy to see why this book is a multiple-Eisner nominee. "Amelia" is that rare piece of children's fiction that has just as much to offer adults as it does children. Jimmy Gownley handles every element of the page masterfully as he weaves a multi-layered story about love, dating, and turning a corner that resonates with anyone who's ever been young and confused (i.e., all of us). Plus, copious Princess Bride references. That's never a bad thing.
Claypool: Fear City Flip Book (featuring Soulsearchers & Company and Deadbeats)
This is something of an ironic offering, given that Diamond has effectively canceled all of Claypool's regular titles (including the ones featured here) by refusing to carry them due to low orders. Nonetheless, the Soulsearchers offering is an amusing enough diversion, but it's almost completely negated by the torturously overwritten Deadbeats. Written not so much in English as in Exposition, the overwrought, melodramatic, sledgehammering prose in this story makes Chris Claremont look terse in comparison. What could be an interesting concept (vampires have taken over a small New England town by turning members of the rich and politically influential families) is so bogged down in the "tell-don't-show" style that Soulsearchers would have to be completely silent, and in 3-D, to make up for it. If you can find a way to take only half of this comic, by all means do so, but you couldn't pay me for all of it.
Castle Rain Entertainment: Jack The Lantern 1942
I'm tempted to take back everything I said about Deadbeats after reading this comic, which does the unthinkable by making a pumpkin-headed demon fighting Nazis and evil monks the most boring thing I've read since my college class on modern art theory. The lion's share of the story is a flashback to an adventure of the current Jack the Lantern's predecessor. Apparently worried that this might be too interesting, writer Michael Angelos (I pray to God that's a pseudonym) decided to tell the Entire. Damn. Thing. in narrated captions. So stupendously inept a crime against writing is compounded by the plot's being a pastiche of the generic "Chosen One" cliches that have peppered the landscape in the post-Buffy era. Oh, and someone needs to tell Mr. Angelos that, to qualify as an epigram, a quote has to have something to do with the story being told.