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Gabriel Pope
May 16, 2009

diggle zone




He's a wizard turned undead abomination with an insatiable hunger for flesh. She's the precocious mutant heir to a ruthless bandit king. Together, they fight crime.

Unsounded is a webcomic graphic novel written and illustrated by Ashley Cope. It's a fantasy adventure story about a pair of unlikely antiheroes thrust together into a world of grey morality, featuring a cast of unique and endearing characters and some worldbuilding efforts that are fantastic both in quantity and quality.



It's also awfully pretty. Here is some crappy old art from the first chapter (the really good stuff from later chapters tends to be spoilery.) Despite the lavishly detailed art, the author manages to put out 3+ pages a week with M/W/F updates that occasionally include multiple pages. Admittedly the comic's impressive buffer is maintained by month-long hiatuses between chapters, but that's one month off for 4-5 months of regular updates. After several years of production it's built up a nice little archive without being too much of a slog to get through.

Unsounded is probably not for everybody. It tends to load up heavily on precocious child heroes, and the flipside of the story's excellent worldbuilding is that it has a serious exposition problem. It also goes to some very dark places; the first chapter with its happy-go-lucky antics is really a poor sample of what the comic delivers. I'd almost recommend diving straight into Chapter 2, but be warned that it gets very nasty, very quickly.

The comic doesn't really dwell on grimdarkness, though. The main antagonist is probably the most genuinely sick bastard I've seen in comics and is also a major comic relief character. It's a lovely world, and the characters are just trying to get by shoveling some of it.



If you're interested in seeing more background material, the author has both a wiki and a Formspring densely packed with more than anybody could ever possibly want to know about the background details of Unsounded's world. The supplemental material is not at all required reading, though. The comic does an amazingly good job of working in subtle details for the reader to puzzle out, and when that's not enough, whenever something becomes really relevant it will happily bludgeon your face in with it. Again, exposition is not the comic's strong point.

Ashley Cope's deviantart account also sometimes has relevant Unsounded art among other cool stuff, and I'm pretty sure it's in the 1% of deviantart accounts that doesn't have porn posted on it, so it may be worth checking out.

You can also find convenient wallpaper-sized versions of some of the art in this post as well as other bonus art on the comic's extras page.

Gabriel Pope fucked around with this message at Jan 30, 2013 around 16:46

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Tollymain
Jul 9, 2010

HI SON


Also it's currently totally tripping balls right now come check it out!

Cat Mattress
Jul 14, 2012

1d4-1 cats are currently sleeping in my tea.


Something to say about the website is that the background of the page changes as if it were part of the page itself. It's usually unremarkable, but in some dramatic moments it packs a hefty punch on the overall look of the page. It doesn't go to MSPA-level lengths, but it's also much prettier.

Gabriel Pope
May 16, 2009

diggle zone


Tollymain posted:

Also it's currently totally tripping balls right now come check it out!

Did Sette just... create a miscarriage or something? You shouldn't be going around severing umbilical cords willy-nilly when you're wandering around inside the fabric of reality, Sette, no matter how nicely the fetuses ask.

Clockwork Cupcake
Oct 31, 2010



Gabriel Pope posted:

Did Sette just... create a miscarriage or something? You shouldn't be going around severing umbilical cords willy-nilly when you're wandering around inside the fabric of reality, Sette, no matter how nicely the fetuses ask.

Its head didn't look right, did it? Am I mis-estimating the correct shape for a fetus's head?

Judge Clayjar
Aug 5, 2007



I thought she was wandering around in some inn's magical hallucinatory ride. She pulled that chain and it told her "thanks for choosing the happy octopus" or something, and told her her safe word was abracadabra.

faxmaster
Nov 1, 2004

I can see all of the colors.

scary ghost dog posted:

I thought she was wandering around in some inn's magical hallucinatory ride. She pulled that chain and it told her "thanks for choosing the happy octopus" or something, and told her her safe word was abracadabra.

Nah, see, she fell through her decaying zombie friend(?)'s shadow into the underlying fabric that the real world is built upon.

I... think.

Space-Bird
Dec 10, 2009

pizza sucks


faxmaster posted:

Nah, see, she fell through her decaying zombie friend(?)'s shadow into the underlying fabric that the real world is built upon.

I... think.

So, Unsounded is Dark Souls? Huh.

Judge Clayjar
Aug 5, 2007



faxmaster posted:

Nah, see, she fell through her decaying zombie friend(?)'s shadow into the underlying fabric that the real world is built upon.

I... think.

I guess we'll find out one way or the other.

Gabriel Pope
May 16, 2009

diggle zone


The magic octopus is just some kind of enchanted bondage toy, I'm pretty sure it's actually the shadow. There is some clever foreshadowing on the preceding page, before the octopus is switched on; you can see the ghost eel things diving in, and at the time there's nothing odd about that because you just assume they're incorporeal, but they're actually heading to the same place Sette goes (she actually follows them in.)

PleasingFungus
Oct 10, 2012


bing it on


Funny that two of my favorite comics (MSPA and Unsounded) decided to go... decidedly unhinged around the same time. Maybe there's something in the air?

Roger Explosion
Jan 26, 2006



faxmaster posted:

Nah, see, she fell through her decaying zombie friend(?)'s shadow into the underlying fabric that the real world is built upon.

I... think.
Which just so happens to be the website itself: Sette talking through urls, looking at the reader, interacting with the Index button, etc.

So, based on those very meta events, what I can conclude from the most recent updates is that this is what working an IT job is like.

Roger Explosion
Jan 26, 2006



That bird is creepy as hell and it actually too me a while to notice the bird boobs.

I've been trying to put my finger on why this is so unsettling. I've seen horror imagery like this before, but these updates have been especially creepy. I actually think it's because everything is just so bright and colourful; it's a stark juxtaposition not only between the content and the imagery but between the normal style of the comic/website itself.

Space-Bird
Dec 10, 2009

pizza sucks


Roger Explosion posted:

That bird is creepy as hell and it actually too me a while to notice the bird boobs.

I've been trying to put my finger on why this is so unsettling. I've seen horror imagery like this before, but these updates have been especially creepy. I actually think it's because everything is just so bright and colourful; it's a stark juxtaposition not only between the content and the imagery but between the normal style of the comic/website itself.

There's definitely something about Unsounded that's very grotesque. It's been hinted in earlier chapters, and now she finally has a chance to go whole hog on it....It's extra jarring because the style starts off kinda cutsey, but the technical proficiency improves and suddenly you get all these grotesque zombie gut gross stuff with this very bright color palettes. You're definitely right that it's unsettling. It's hinted in the earlier pages....it's just...maybe the price one pays for living in florida?

Ketzal
Feb 19, 2011

President of Hell


Roger Explosion posted:

That bird is creepy as hell and it actually too me a while to notice the bird boobs.

You can see the same bird in the windows of the Black Tongue hideout scenes. So, I guess it's some sort of god? Either way I love that thing.

She's apparently shipping out the $25 Kickstarter orders next week. I can't wait to see how the crazy layouts translate to book form.

Hallgerd
Dec 10, 2011


What this thing is has been revealed (I think) in the kind of fringe wiki/formspring world details if you want to take a look.

Stabbey_the_Clown
Sep 21, 2002

I have to learn forbidden magic I took an oath to wipe out, stop an invasion of Orcs, rescue the Council of Seven, and on top of all that, I'm stuck with you.


I read a bunch of the first strips, but the little girl's personality was far too grating for me to tolerate.

Fruits of the sea
Dec 1, 2010


Space-Bird posted:

There's definitely something about Unsounded that's very grotesque. It's been hinted in earlier chapters, and now she finally has a chance to go whole hog on it....It's extra jarring because the style starts off kinda cutsey, but the technical proficiency improves and suddenly you get all these grotesque zombie gut gross stuff with this very bright color palettes. You're definitely right that it's unsettling. It's hinted in the earlier pages....it's just...maybe the price one pays for living in florida?

It's not just the gory art either. Slavery, harvesting people for... something, and there's some creepy sexual references at times too. The art is gorgeous though, and the dream realm (khert?) is a nice break from the previous scene. On that note, I am really, really curious as to what Duane's reaction will be to disembowelling some dude and getting molested by a magical octopus sextoy.

Unsounded kinda reminds me of sneaking down to watch late night anime flicks on cable when I was a kid. Sorta standard fantasy fare that's randomly interrupted by graphic ultraviolence. Fun, but a guilty pleasure.

TheFuzzyLumpkin
Sep 15, 2003

But you are a person, and I can't say I'm awfully fond of that.

Ketzal posted:

You can see the same bird in the windows of the Black Tongue hideout scenes. So, I guess it's some sort of god? Either way I love that thing.

She's apparently shipping out the $25 Kickstarter orders next week. I can't wait to see how the crazy layouts translate to book form.

It's the Ilangyang, which is a harpy-esque creature who steals children and tries to nurse them, but her milk is poisonous and the children always die. It's a senet beast deal. The Black Tongues are named after her.

. . . I am personally responsible for about 30% of the anon questions on her formspring and I've read the entire thing. I'm a huge fan of this comic so if it's anything she's talked about on formspring, I'll probably be able to answer the question.

PleasingFungus
Oct 10, 2012


bing it on


Ketzal posted:

You can see the same bird in the windows of the Black Tongue hideout scenes. So, I guess it's some sort of god? Either way I love that thing.

Oh, wow! I hadn't noticed that at all.

TheFuzzyLumpkin posted:

It's the Ilangyang, which is a harpy-esque creature who steals children and tries to nurse them, but her milk is poisonous and the children always die. It's a senet beast deal. The Black Tongues are named after her.

. . . I am personally responsible for about 30% of the anon questions on her formspring and I've read the entire thing. I'm a huge fan of this comic so if it's anything she's talked about on formspring, I'll probably be able to answer the question.

Heh. I had to google 'senet beast', and, well...

idonotlikepeas
May 29, 2010

You cannot grasp the true form of Coyote's trick!


Stabbey_the_Clown posted:

I read a bunch of the first strips, but the little girl's personality was far too grating for me to tolerate.

This stopped me from reading it three or four times in the past, but this week I finally pushed through to the second chapter and things got a lot better.

Azran
Sep 3, 2012

I am the real hero here.


I think it's part of the charm, really - at the very least, I think the author set her up that way for some character growth into a more mature character.

Cat Mattress
Jul 14, 2012

1d4-1 cats are currently sleeping in my tea.


If bratty kids being annoying is something that severely hinders your enjoyment of stories, then you should skip the entirety of the first chapter and start at chapter 2. Sette is easier to tolerate there. Also, nothing of real importance happens in chapter 1 anyway -- it sets the scene a bit, but then the scene changes. Anything that needs to be known will be recapped and repeated (cf. OP, see: exposition issues) so don't worry about missing critical plot elements by doing so.

Judge Clayjar
Aug 5, 2007



The first chapter has a lot of critical characterization and introduces the main characters and the setting of the comic. Do not skip it.

PleasingFungus
Oct 10, 2012


bing it on


Skip every odd-numbered chapter, let us know how confused you are by the end.

Hard mode: skip every odd-numbered page.

Megaspel
Mar 12, 2007

kodie.me
That's me


If you skip every odd word, you discover the real story is about magic bondage octopuses.

idonotlikepeas
May 29, 2010

You cannot grasp the true form of Coyote's trick!


Wait, that isn't what the story is about anyway?


I wouldn't advise skipping the first chapter. Just be aware things pick up a lot afterward.

Cowcaster
Aug 7, 2002

ASK ME ABOUT MY BI-WEEKLY KANJAM CLUB FOR SENIORS


Ryan Pequin major Unsounded fan

Only registered members can see post attachments!

Madrox
Jan 31, 2001

Does whatever
a multiple can.


Discovered this comic thanks to this thread. I'm all caught up now. Thanks for the recommendation, I've really enjoyed it. I went back through this recent trippy sequence looking for details, and one of the things I somehow missed the first time, is that one of the fish/spirit thingies actually hands Sette her knife to cut the umbilical cords. How do you folks pronounce Sette? I've just been reading it as set, which seemed the most obvious option to me.

The Sin of Onan
Oct 11, 2012

And below,
watched by eyes of steel
we dreamt


Madrox posted:

How do you folks pronounce Sette? I've just been reading it as set, which seemed the most obvious option to me.

I think it's "Seh-teh," personally.

Azran
Sep 3, 2012

I am the real hero here.


The Sin of Onan posted:

I think it's "Seh-teh," personally.

Yeah, I pronounce it this way. Set kinda sounds male to me, what with it being the name of an Egyptian god and all.

Megaspel
Mar 12, 2007

kodie.me
That's me


The Sin of Onan posted:

I think it's "Seh-teh," personally.

This is what we say in the North of England instead of "Sofa"

TheFuzzyLumpkin
Sep 15, 2003

But you are a person, and I can't say I'm awfully fond of that.

Author says it's Setty.

http://www.formspring.me/GlassShard/q/1672949229

Judge Clayjar
Aug 5, 2007



There's a restaurant where I live named Sette, pronounced "SEH-tay," so that's how I'm hearing it.

Goatmask
Jun 8, 2012

ARE YOU AN ANGEL, BIRD??


So whats the deal with the eels? Spirits or something? Some smoke eels turned up earlier didn't they?

minimalist
Jun 1, 2000

Dear Sir, We regret to inform you that we have found your CoX unsuitable for publication.

Goatmask posted:

So whats the deal with the eels? Spirits or something? Some smoke eels turned up earlier didn't they?

Here (and the next few pages). From what the girl is saying in her semi-hallucinatory state, they convey souls to the afterlife, possibly? Sette also noted that only "Aldish heathens" burn corpses.

Hallgerd
Dec 10, 2011


Goatmask posted:

So whats the deal with the eels? Spirits or something? Some smoke eels turned up earlier didn't they?

They're ghosts that manage to attain a physical form, some sort of error in the khert. They can only hold on to things like smoke, mist, etc. though.

The author's formspring has a ridiculous amount of extra detail about the comic. I don't know if it's good or bad because it can kind of spoil you on mysteries or interesting bits of the setting, but it's huge. Someone put together a searchable archive of the formspring answers which can be handy for finding stuff out although the search function is kind of lacking. Still, answer to a 'what are smoke eels?' question found through it.

I think they mainly just get used as an atmospheric effect in the comic itself.

Cat Mattress
Jul 14, 2012

1d4-1 cats are currently sleeping in my tea.


Hallgerd posted:

Still, answer to a 'what are smoke eels?' question found through it.

The words she uses to describe the Khert make it sound like a computer program.

quote:

The khert has little glitches in it; little hiccoughs in its structure. One of these hiccoughs is eels. For some reason when the khert finds these conglomerations of pseudo-cells, it reads them as eels, and grants them permission to not only exist, but to multiply over time and form smoke eels and move like eels and affect matter like eels.

Hallgerd
Dec 10, 2011


Yeah, that comparison's been directly called out a few times. It's a code underpinning the reality of the comic. If you use the right language and the right commands you can do stuff like pymary. I mean see:

Formspring posted:

How -do- plod-handlers command and rein their charges? Pymaric alteration of their perceptions and/or thoughts (to whatever degree that they have thoughts)?

Plods run on a core set of directives that fools the khert into thinking they're living organisms, and the khert in turn provides the basest impulses of life. This gets them moving but without a handler's more precise directions, a plod will default to attacking and consuming. What the handler can do, though, is tap into functions isolated for him in the khert, and turn his workforce towards more useful actions than attacking each other.

Handlers really don't have to be all that talented. They're not like studious necromancers with bloodshot eyes who've sounded the depths of the nether and arisen with terrible secrets - they're just licensed wrights casting spells others have written and plugging in variables and accessing functions.

Programming is a clear inspiration.

One of my favourite little details about the khert that I remember is that people can be born with khert glitches too, and one of these glitches is to end up with an invisible limb or two. Or just an invisible chunk of your body.

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Goatmask
Jun 8, 2012

ARE YOU AN ANGEL, BIRD??


Hallgerd posted:

The author's formspring has a ridiculous amount of extra detail about the comic. I don't know if it's good or bad because it can kind of spoil you on mysteries or interesting bits of the setting, but it's huge.


Yeah ok, hadn't realised that existed. Haven't really checked it out yet, but not sure I really want to. What I want to read is a narrative, a story. I'm not really interested in reading an encyclopedia containing an in depth guide to how everything fits together or the author answering questions on what hasn't been answered yet in the text. Not that in this case these answers seem necessary to read the story, and look at me asking you guys about things I don't understand, but I guess I feel the story should be one of discovery and exist on its own, not where everything is laid out for us.

But then again, am I being too "conservative" in what I want in storytelling? With the flexibility offered by publishing on the internet, it is license for authors to try new things. A running blog/Q&A/whatever could certainly be used to enhance the text, and I feel that you could maybe weave story elements or a certain narrative through it that could maybe add another layer to the tale. And it does offer ways for you to interact with your audience.

I dunno, I mean its pretty inoffensive, I just feel it sort of lessens the comic unless its handled well.

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