Before I begin this webcomic review, perhaps it would help for me to clarify what I believe a review is.
Media reviews should be helpful.
When you read a review of a piece of media - be it a movie, a book, a play, a video game, an album, or a webcomic - the review should give you enough information to determine if what's being reviewed is worth consuming. After all, even if a piece of media is freely available, it still consumes your time and attention and mental energy. Even if you didn't shell out a dime to access it, sitting down to watch a movie or to slog through a webcomic's archives is still an investment. Before you start, you want to make an informed decision about whether or not the next few hours will be well-spent.
There are a lot of Internet Personalities and Youtube Celebrity types that bill themselves as reviewers, but who are actually recappers, or who springboard off of the existing media to forge their own narrative or fantasy. Now, I enjoy that sort of thing, and certainly a review should, itself, be entertaining, but if a review is really a review, that entertainment should be a secondary concern (in much the same way that a McDonald's commercial that doesn't make you want a Big Mac may be a fantastic short film, but still fails as an advertisement).
I also think, however, that a review needs to be more than two sentences and a rating out of five stars. Different people have different tastes and different priorities, and "4.5 out of 5, mature audiences only" doesn't really give me enough information to determine whether or not I'd like something.
One thing that I don't think reviews should need to do is be objective. In media reviewing, as in journalism, one can never truly be free of bias - one can only make one's biases known ahead of time.
So, in the spirit of transparently biased reviewing, my first review in this series is of a comic done by someone who is not only giving me ten dollars a month, but who is also a close personal friend.
This is Angel Food.
Angel Food, by Serena Samborski, is a goofy comedy strip about a pink-haired girl named Meanna who turns into different things when she eats certain foods. It's colourful, dynamic, inoffensive, light on plot, and heavy on hijinks.
Meanna (no last name given) is a quite realistically-written fourteen-year-old who, for entirely unexplained reasons, grows animal bodyparts whenever she consumes food associated with that animal (such as salmon for cat ears, or fish food for a fish tail). For this unique reason, Meanna's mother decides to homeschool her until the start of the strip, which is her first day of high school.
The strip mostly centers around Meanna's relationship with Kacy, her first (and, apparently, only) friend.
If you're expecting this girl who can magically sprout animal bits to use her gorilla arms to thwart bank robbers or to go on some mystical quest for the source of her powers, prepare to be disappointed. To date, plotlines have focused more on discovering how her ability works, completing high school assignments, going on sleepovers, and... teen girl stuff.
Interestingly, it's mostly Kacy who's interested in figuring out what Meanna's magical powers can do. Meanna herself seems to be more interested in finding out what kissing feels like or what boys' thingies look like. (Which makes sense, when you think about it - Meanna's had magical powers her whole life, and has been mostly by conditioned by her mother to think of them as an inconvenient allergy that should be avoided. Puberty, though, is new!)
If this were an artsier strip, I'd try to claim that Meanna's exploration of her bestial nature is a sort of metaphor for puberty, but... it really isn't.
Angel Food is by no means racy or titillating, but there is a certain delight in double entendres and harmless misunderstandings. In fact, I'd say Meanna, at fourteen, fits perfectly within her own strip's reader demographic.
In certain ways, Angel Food feels like a manga. You've probably already noticed by now that the art style shifts from panel to panel - Samborski frequently uses extreme cartoony reaction faces or chibi proportions as the situation demands.
Yes, that's all the same character.
Samborski's art skills are nothing to sneeze at, and she frequently struts her stuff in this strip. Her writing, pacing, and humour are also top notch. The story is simple without being simplistic, Meanna and Kacy's friendship is real without being cloying, and everything is clear and easy to follow.
If you like passionate love triangles, intricate duplicitous schemes, and buckets of blood... give Angel Food a miss. If, on the other hand, you're into harmless comedies about pubescent girls screwing around with unexplained magical powers, I highly recommend it.
Angel Food updates once per week, every Thursday, at angelfoodcomic.com. As of this writing, it's 80 strips old, so you'd probably get through the archives in less than a half hour. I officially recommend it.