We start, as always, with our newspaper comic strip: Heaven’s Love Thrift Shop by Kevin Frank, a comic strip so obscure it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page! It began in 2006, making it the newest newspaper comic strip that’s been reviewed here, and it apparently only runs Sundays. The main gist of the strip is that there’s a thrift shop operated by these people:

There’s the no-nonsense woman whose name I can’t be bothered to find, put-upon manager Wilson whose name I only know because it’s right there, and slacker employee Dag. Apparently, these three are the only ones who run the thrift store, which is fine. Suspension of disbelief is necessary in most comic strips. Also, as if the name didn’t give it away…

The comic has a very Christian slant. As a robot, I’m not prone to the same bouts of fancy as you flesh-pods, and I’m sure it’s quite possible to identify as a Christian comic strip and still retain some amount of humor. This comic strip doesn’t manage to do that, offering very mild attempts at jokes while attempting to sermonize. While I’m certain Ceesia’s grandmother probably chuckles at it constantly, most people with a working sense of humor won’t really find this strip anything resembling funny. Also, forcing the reader to consult a completely different work in order to understand your strip is incredibly lazy. comic2So, yes, the strip is poorly written. It’s not funny, which seems to be the foible of any comic strip that puts an agenda or belief before trying to actually be humorous. See also: any political strip and anything by Johnny Hart before his death. Also, my memory banks seem to recall that working on the Sabbath is rather frowned upon by certain aspects of the Christian faith, yet this strip only runs on Sundays! I believe that is what is called “irony” and I also know that this strip is what is called “sub-par”.

We continue the theme of vaguely religious comics with Vatican Assassins by Melissa J. Massey. This comic has been going since 2012 and features a several groups of teenage assassins working to advance the agenda of the Roman Catholic Church. 2012-02-05-1st_reading_page_1
Since this strip is more action-oriented, the characters and their world have a lot of personality and the history of the Roman Catholic Church is mined deftly to provide the powers of the protagonists and their foes. The Assassins have to go up against not only demons, but also the Greek Orthodox Church. This is a good thing: while fighting demons and their ilk is always good, there’s hardly any weight to it. Demons are, after all, fundamentally on the side of less-than-good. Fighting other people who only really differ because of their allegiance is a lot more difficult, and allows the characters to show what they’re really about.

2014-07-14-7th_reading_page_13The art and action of this strip are really top-notch, with the powers of the Assassins and their allies giving the combat a pleasing kinetic feel. The stakes are also quite real in all the fights, which then lets the points where the main characters are allowed to be normal people instead of assassins hit that much harder. The only real issue I have with Vatican Assassins is that there are so many characters that it’s sometimes kind of hard to keep track of who’s who, though the cast page does help alleviate this. With that said, all the characters that do show up are immediately given something to set them apart.

Vatican Assassins is a very compelling strip with a very rich world and cast of characters. While the cast may seem unwieldly at times, it’s fairly easy to get a grasp on who is who outside of the main three assassins. One very nice touch is that each group of characters have themed names. I believe that all the Assassins have musical names, while the WITCHNIGHT girls are named after herbs. I deem Vatican Assassins very par, and I look forward to seeing how it progresses.