Often the most interesting comics are the ones that take you by surprise. Webcomics have an easier time doing this simply because viewers do not know what to expect, though that is not to say that it is easy to make a webcomic. Stampede: Jessica’s Story, by Chantelle, is the kind of comic that takes people by surprise.
The story follows two college students, Ryam and Jessica, as their lives start to intertwine. In order to take care of his depressed mother he avoided going to school for over a month; then, Ryam’s mother and his friend Jake convince him to go back to school. He then ignores many of his friends because he is too worried about his home life. He has an abusive father, who no longer visits, and his sister is in juvie. He meets Jessica, another troubled student. She is a fighter, he finds out. She participates in illegal fights (think Fight Club, but different) but has never won. Then he is paired with her for a college project in order to prevent the two of them from failing, thus making them tied to one another.
The artwork works well at creating the atmosphere of the story, and seems to be based on manga. The characters are deeply troubled, which is mirrored by the shading in the images. Nothing is clean. Many lines are scribbled within the objects or space to create a somewhat chaotic feel. The series is also in black and white, which works well with the style by externalizing the character’s mindsets. They are troubled, so there is no colour in their world at the moment. They feel a bit empty, so images are not filled in.
So far 153 pages have been published online. I read the last hundred of those pages faster than the first fifty. After I got to know the characters the story pulled me in; I became invested in it. I am glad to be able to say that I do not know where the series is going from here. Many seemingly minor plot points have been brought up so far, like how the character Charlotte gets upset because Ryam won’t go out with her, or the absence of Ryam’s abusive father, and I am interested in seeing how these issues are brought up again. Though, I am not sure if the latter will be revisited.
The home page for the site has some information about Jessica that is never mentioned in the series, though I think this information is crucial to the story as well as her character. It states that she is in a government program that provides her with housing and some money in exchange for her to stay out of trouble and attend some college classes. The government created this program in order to combat the rise of youth crime. I did not get any of that from reading the comic, which made it feel very strange when her professor and the school board were so worried about her not doing her work. Hopefully this will be mentioned later on.
Overall I would say the series is worth reading. It is short, so far, so it shouldn’t take too long to read. So you can take the time that you would normally spend looking up videos of cute cats and use it to read Stampede.
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