First off, I'd like to say that I apologize for disappearing for over a month with nary a sentence as to my absence. In the future, I will try to be better both at posting on time and informing you of any absences that might arise as a result of my life out in the big and scary real world.
Now, I've been hearing about Hark! A Vagrant pretty much since my first foray into the webcomics world, but I've never really gotten around to actually reading it until very recently. As you may have also noticed, based on the comics that I have already reviewed/recommended, I tend to stick with the story driven comics, not the one shot strips. If you've never heard of Hark! A Vagrant, then you can probably guess that all of this means that it is a strip comic. And it is quite possibly THE BEST THING EVER.
I don't think that I'm prone to exaggeration when talking about webcomics. There are a lot of great comics out there, but they all have some flaw or another, so when I say something in all caps, I usually mean it.
Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton, mostly consists of comic strips based on historical anecdotes. Sure, they can be exaggerated for comedic effect, but it is, after all, a comic. Beaton majored in history in college and has worked at several museums, so she knows her history! Her comics range from famous episodes to obscure stories and most of the time she includes a tidbit about the history behind the comic in her comments, which is always helpful.
Some of the comics can be a little inside joke-y if you don't know to which moment in history Beaton is referring to (and if her comments aren't any more revealing), but in most cases the comics are funny anyway, even without previous knowledge of events. This happens a lot for me with her Canada centered comics (she is Canadian) because I live in the States, so my historical knowledge tends to center on the US and mostly Europe (with only a dash of Asia). Beaton is aware that this might be the case for many people, hence the previously mentioned comments. No matter the subject though, the comics never fail to amuse and entertain.
History is not the only thing that Beaton comics about. She has many strips that include her in the present interacting with her younger self, hourly comics about her life, a three part comic about a sailor and the mermaid that loved him, and one of my absolute favorite series, “Mystery Solving Teens,” a more realistic take on the Scooby gang.
I am a big fan of comedy (who isn't?) and sure, I've read a lot of funny comics before, many that have even made me smile, instead of just making me think “oh, that's clever!,” but Hark! A Vagrant has actually made me laugh out loud, which can be a problem sometimes, like in lecture, when I should be paying attention to my professor.
Now on to the visuals! The style of the comic is rather simplified, and therein lies the genius! By making the art style minimalistic and line-focused, there are no bright colors that distract from the expressions and body language that add such a punch, or, rather, make the humor of any particular strip. The simple style also suits the strip format of the comic well.
The hand written dialogue also adds lots of charm to the comics, though there are a few places where it's difficult to read what the characters are saying, but these problematic spots are few and far between.
Another praise-worthy thing about this comic is the design of the site, which is based on the style of the comic strips themselves.
I've come to really appreciate the comic strip as a medium. I read a lot of comics and other stuff on the internet (not to mention doing my actual course work), so it can be hard sometimes to keep up with some comics that require me to remember what happened earlier in the story. But with comic strips, there's really no need to follow it weekly, I can just pick up at any point without feeling like I always need to catch up, which is very helpful for people with busy schedules.
I can not recommend Hark! A Vagrant highly enough. If you like history, pop culture, and laughing your ass off (often in public and embarrassing ways), then this is the comic for you!
Images copyright of Kate Beaton.