For the most part, web-comics are hit or miss. For every Girl’s with Slingshots, Octopus Pie, Nimona, or Dinosaur Comics there are hundreds of websites with thousands of pages of content that are essentially practice.
However, every once in a while, a web series comes a long that blows everything else around it out of the water. The Less Than Epic Adventures of T.J. and Amal is that comic. It’s part slice of life, a dash of yaoi, and a heaping helping of classic road trip.
Written and drawn by E. K. Weaver T.J. and Amal begin their journey after drunkenly meeting at a bar. T.J.’s… in some trouble and it’s sheer luck that he runs into a drunk Amal. Amal has been straight laced his entire life. Fed up with doing everything that’s expected of him Amal decides to come out to his family. He ends his arranged marriage and goes on an epic bender.
Amal has to head back to Berkley to watch his sister graduate from college. T.J. needs to get out of town. Over the course of nine days they traverse the United States and begin a relationship.
What stands out in this book is the level of skill Weaver exemplifies. Her art leaves one wondering where she’s been hiding. (She hasn’t been hiding. She works in the illustration and design community. You can check her work here.)
Usually with writer/ artist somewhere along the way one craft has to bend to the other. The writing will be phenomenal but the colors will slip or vice versa. Weaver avoids this trap and uses her art to enhance the story in a way most artists could not. See below her mastery of storytelling without using a single word.
When her characters are making love you feel it. When they sit down to eat you can taste it. Her art feels tangible. Falling into the pages and living the story seems a reasonable possibility.
Just check out these landscapes! Weaver’s giant spreads are breathtaking, particularly with the color added. In reading the dense 400+ page text eyes get used to the black and white.
When this starry night explodes across the screen it makes one appreciate the beauty of America. From the deserts, to the cornfields, and into the city America seems like a magical place where anything can happen when weavers behind the pencil.
Her use of classic American music gives an eclectic sound to an otherwise audio-less medium. T.J. is always singing. Music is the thing that bonds the two men. The only other comic that handles music this well is Gillen’s Phonogram.
Perhaps the best part of the art is the faces. See here how she shows what could have been the same panel and breaks it down into eight different shots. Each one gives a new expression, an inside look at what the character is feeling. Their journey becomes that much more palpable.
Weaver writes exactly what her title promises. In comics alien gods and mob shoot outs are common place. Every adventure is supposed to be epic. Weaver gives something comics could use more of: a dose of reality.
Watching T.J. and Amal fall for each other is one of the most satisfactory experiences I’ve ever had a reading a comic. It’s complicated and messy, but also laugh out loud hysterical. You’re rooting for them the entire time, even when you’re wondering if they have any hope at all.
What’s great about this series is it shows two adult men falling in love. There is an endless amount of boys love manga out there, but so often these relationships are angst filled teenagers still struggling with their sexual orientation. T.J. and Amal are both comfortable in their skin. Amal is having trouble with his family, T.J is having trouble with the law, but they understand each other. It’s a rare gem of a story that captures what it’s like to fall in love. It’s certainly a story that’s not to be missed.
The best part….it’s online…for free.
Joelle’s heart belongs to Chicago but she’s living in Los Angeles attempting to make a life as a freelance writer. She’s the co-creator of web comic Harsh Mellow on Tumblr. She’s an avid fan of period dramas over three hours long and full glasses of wine. She can usually be found in between the pages of a comic-book or under a coffee spigot.