As always, keeping up with all the comics that are published every year is nigh impossible. And that’s just the traditional publishers! Webcomics are a rapidly growing and easily available cornucopia of fantastic stories or all stripes. Added bonus, it lets small, independent comic creators get their content out to the wider world! To help with the arduous search for some of the best webcomics, I’ve compiled a short list of some of my favorite ongoing Webtoons this year!
If you want to look around on Webtoon for yourself, here’s the website’s rankings for most popular comics, broken down by genre. You can also check out CBH’s guide to the best Webtoon comics of all time!
First up is an obvious choice for a good time: Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus! A couple months ago I wrote an article on how Smythe utilized Greek mythos in her story and employed myths both well known and obscure in fresh ways. At the core, is a new retelling of the story of the Taking of Persephone, how she became Queen of the Underworld, and the establishment of Greek mythology’s most functional canon couple. However, it’s not just that. Persephone and Hades’ romance may be at the center of the story, but Smythe doesn’t ignore other gods, nymphs, and even a few mortals, and their dynamics and problems. All in all, an exciting and engaging story with no shortage of drama and beautiful character interactions. Smythe addresses some heavy themes including abuse and sexual assault, but she provides very clear warnings when potentially triggering content will be presented. Overall, great fun no matter whether you know anything about Greek mythology.
Lucia is the lady-in-waiting to a lord’s daughter, Kirsi, who is to be married to the king of the land–an engagement that has been in place since her birth and the birth of her betrothed. Having to deal with nobility is hard enough on its own, but Lucia has the extra problem of secretly being a fairy amongst a society that hates them. Matters only become more complicated at the introduction of a magic-born dark knight, who turns out to be more than the brutal killing machine he was made to be.
Oh man. I went into this expecting a touching story about a lady-in-waiting falling in love with a rather unconventional knight, but instead found a story about the horrors of genocide, the pain of suppressing parts of your identity just to survive, and plain old survivor’s guilt. It is a beautiful and heart-wrenching story about discovering and even rediscovering identity despite the pressures and pains of others’ expectations and prejudice, discussing the heavy topics of the nature of humanity, and responsibility the descendants and survivors of these atrocities have towards atoning for the sins of the past. I feel that this story would resonate with a lot of queer people as Lucia is often talked about as “passing” for a human and has to go to great lengths to hide her heritage, including binding her wings. Overall, Purpah’s comic deserves its spot on the list of Webtoons’ most popular fantasy comics.
Said P’s Seed is a near-futuristic world where everything is interconnected and hightech. Even more so than it is in our age! Cars drive themselves, AIs can be trained to monitor security, and everything you could possibly need or want is all within the tap of a phone screen. Emma Hayes is a fairly ordinary girl, if not a bit of a troublemaker according to most adults in her life. Feeling isolated in a world where everything is more connected than ever, she downloads an AI to talk to. Turns out, she gets more than she bargained for when the AI proves to be more advanced–and pervasive–than she thought.
Reading Seed as someone who greatly dislikes “smart technology” on a corporate level really shows the very probable direction technology can take for good or ill. Seed isn’t a cyberpunk dystopia. Not necessarily, anyway. While the main AI in this story may look like Hal 9000 or GLaDOS from Portal, Turry is no more evil than the characters make him. Amoral, sure, but not quite evil. Everything can be done through apps and everything is on a connected network, from the vending machines to the bathroom doors. While it makes things easy to use, it also makes it easy to hack and disrupt, which in our world is becoming more of a reality what with Smart Homes controlled from a single remote. Point is, Seed is a world that can become reality. Whether that’s for better or for ill all depends on who exactly is in control of all that tech and how much we let it permeate our lives. It’s a very good story. I’m probably making it sound more philosophical than it really is, but there are a lot of philosophical elements that are worth highlighting.
I’m not going to lie. This is mostly here for self-indulgent reasons. Not that it isn’t a delightful comic without my own personal bias, but I’ve read it since the start and immediately fell in love. Continuity in the Big 2 comic publishing is always a rat’s nest but StarBite and CRC Payne made a story out of it that’s very easy to follow and takes a look at a side of the Batfamily that we don’t often see in the mainstream publishings: the domestic side. It really plays to things that I’ve seen DC fans yearn for. Serious, dark stories involving Batman, his family, and allies have their place, but the lighter, softer tales do as well. It’s easy to forget sometimes that the world–be it in the DCU or this one–that there are spots of brightness and joy, and that for all the trauma and complications between the members of the Batfamily, that at the end of the day, they are a family and are capable of acting like one.
It’s also incredibly entertaining to watch them interact casually with other people in the DCU, from Bruce using the Watchtower emergency line to ask for help tying a tie, to Tim’s Young Justice team visiting Gotham for a movie night. The season one finale with Superman and Harley Quinn is easily one of my favorites with both of them getting territorial over who has claim to the title of “Batman’s best friend.” Highly recommend this comic and am pumped for season 2, which should be coming out at the end of September!
Separated from her twin by an Empire that destroyed her home, Runa is forced to work with the people that took her and separated her from her twin brother, Rune. However, word of a rebel movement led by a boy that fits her brother’s description sets off a chain of events that will thrust Runa and the friends she’s made into a precarious position, as the two siblings try to reunite despite being on opposite sides. Very captivating!
It’s got some interesting worldbuilding going on right now, but most of the narrative focus is on the characters as well as the consequences of their actions. There does also seem to be a “love triangle” going on focusing on Runa between her long time friend, Miller, and her new partner, Oren. It’s not glaringly obstructive but it is cute to see that Runa has a certain magnetism to her. There’s a magic system that is fairly undefined at the moment, but essentially seems to boil down to “some people have magic and it lets them do one (1) really cool thing.” It’s a bit like quirks in My Hero Academia, for lack of a more relevant comparison. The comic is currently on hiatus as author Parakid is taking a break, but that should give readers plenty of time to read through the nearly 50 episodes already posted!
Oh boy…you’re going to need a bit of a stomach to read this. Warning bells had been ringing off in my head seeing cover art of pastel people in oversized cat-heads in the horror category, but I was not prepared. It’s not the top ranked horror comic on Webtoons for nothing. “Messed up” does not even cover it. It deals with heavy topics surrounding the ethics of ends justifying means as parents fight against a twisted system of a shadowy surveillance government in the hopes of potentially seeing their children again. This story has a very strong resemblance to The Hunger Games meeting the WandaVision show where everyone acts like they’re in a 1950s sitcom but they have to rat on each other to the powers-that-be or in most cases frame each other in order to “progress.”
Alliances are made and broken fast enough to cause whiplash. Furthermore, if they “fail” the game, they will be exiled from society and forced to watch their children die. In the best case scenario, they live in poverty, ignored and scrounging through trash for food that hopefully isn’t poisoned. In the worst, they’re literally hunted for sport. Oh, and the cute looking kitty heads have tracking mechanisms that monitor the wearer’s location and speech, so they have to go to great lengths for privacy and the freedom to be themselves; something that can easily earn them a “fail” if they’re caught or exposed. And as of now, we still have no idea who is the one pulling the strings behind all of this or what their endgame is, but it’s bound to be something gut-wrenchingly twisted, so be warned.
A masterclass in “be careful what you wish for.” Evelyne has been enamored with the supernatural and occult since she had an encounter as a child, spurring on a fascination with everything that could possibly go bump in the night. Paradoxically, Evelyne knows what could easily happen to her and anyone with her, but she still runs head-first towards anything even potentially spooky. She sought out the abyss and for a long time finds nothing but disappointment, but one day, unexpectedly, feels the full force of the abyss looking back at her. And she learns that it was deeper and crueler than she could ever imagine, and now that she’s in, she can never leave.
Fantastic creature design and an interesting magic system that sets up a foreboding yet fantastical world. Of course, it’s not to be outshone by the character dynamics. As the main character of this story, Evelyne finds herself at the center of a tangled web of generational trauma and revenge and is forced to wrestle with the guilt of inadvertently dragging her boyfriend and best friends into deadly and dangerous conflicts.
Another one of my personal favorites, Loving Reaper by Jenny Jinya is a very touching series of comics surrounding the duties of the personification of Death (with cameos from his counterpart, Life) with particular focus on animal rights and environmental problems that plague our world but may go unnoticed. Definitely keep some tissues handy if you try reading a lot of this at once!
Predictably, there is animal death–and occasionally human death–involved in this story and a lot of the circumstances are tragic. Jinya portrays Death as a kind and gentle figure but that doesn’t always make the tragedy of lives lost–often too soon and in traumatic circumstances–any less emotionally taxing. The art is simply gorgeous and the final panel of the comic is always a small conclusion that elaborates on the issue that was discussed. Most of the comic episodes are self-contained though there occasionally are some two-parters and callbacks to previous episodes. I would know this because I first encountered this comic as long posts on social media and while reading through the entire webcomic found some familiar stories.
Momozerii provides readers with a classic fake marriage plan between a gay prince and a lesbian princess. The friendship between August and Sapphia is so sweet and overall is just well written. Primarily it’s a comedy but it also does deal with themes of sexism, homophobia, and toxic relationships, as well as a degree of ableism. This is most notable in Sapphia’s dynamic with her parents and her former suitor, Nicolosi.
Of course there’s been a lot of build-up to the actual fake engagement and we still have a ways to go before the wedding! So there’s plenty of time for things to go wrong. That, and the matter of Sapphia’s love interest is still up in the air and August is the subject of a witch’s unrequited love. Overall, this comic is really fun. The characters banter with each other really well and we get to see the main group interact in pairs, allowing their own dynamics to form outside of a group setting. They all really feel like friends even though they all come from very different walks of life. Furthermore, there’s still a lot of interesting backstory elements that are waiting to be explored, such as Marla’s parents and her hatred for witches, Odettea’s family and how they came under the kingdom’s oversight as well as what’s happened to them in the interim.
In a dystopic world where everyone has a yearly free kill coupon, a man resolves to end the Kill Law no matter what following the murder of his childhood friend. Kreyul is definitely fighting an uphill battle here, though, given that most people are in favor of the Kill Law. This comic goes into the topics of when a killing is justified and the issues of self-defense, retribution, and the inherent value of human life. Author Snailords also incorporates a magic system where some people–including our main character, Kreyul–have a unique ability, called a “Deviation.” This is definitely a heady comic that has a lot of very gruesome images (I mean, the whole central conflict is ending a consequence-free kill law, so there’s going to be a lot of horrific murder), but Kreyul and his crew are all very interesting and varied characters, so while the content can be heavy, the characters themselves balance that by being clever and light-hearted. This story is potentially a tragedy as well since Kreyul has repeatedly hinting at his own demise in the future as an omniscient narrator. It’s too early to tell yet exactly how threatened his life will be by the point in time that he’s narrating from, but we shall see.