The Webcomic Overlook #69: Sam & Lilah

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I wasn’t going to do another review this week, but, what the heck, Valentine’s Day is this weekend. Go on and rail how we’re being pawns of the Greeting Card industry or how it’s totally unfair to single people. The Webcomic Overlook enjoys all the holidays, real or manufactured. Behind the menacing luchadore facade, El Santo is a big old softie who gets calorie busting treats for his lady on the Holy Holiday celebrating a brutally murdered saint.

So, to celebrate, let’s take a trip back to our friends at Act-I-Vate and take a looksee at a cute little comic called Sam & Lilah, written by Jim Dougan and illustrated by Hyeondo Park.

I mean, look at the picture below. Doesn’t that have Valentine’s written all over it? Seriously, these guys should look into doing limited edition Valentine’s Day cards.

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The Sam & Lilah comic began life as a former Zuda contestant. You know, DC Comics’ experiment where their webcomic properties are based on the votes of the fanboy public. It’s regrettable that Sam & Lilah got voted off the island, but I think it’s understandable. The first eight pages, on which Zuda comics are judged by, have nice artwork but little in the way of a plot. The story being set-up seems like a romance better suited for teenage girls who used to be into unicorns but now are way into sparkly vampires. (And yes, emphasis on “teenage.” I don’t know if female readers past the high school age would embrace the intro, either. But then again, those same ladies seem to have embraced Harry Potter and Twilight, so…) Assuming that Zuda’s audience is closely correlated with DC’s audience, i.e. mainly the young male demographic, it’s not very surprising that the comic was beat by the more action-packed Black Cherry Bombshells. Besides, Sam & Lilah doesn’t really pick up until the latter half of Chapter 1, where we’re thrown a twist that makes the romantic comic far more worthwhile.

Our title characters are two attractive twenty-somethings living in the big city. And like pretty much any romantic comedy, we begin the story with a meet cute. Sam’s been checking out Lilah as she orders pastries at a local bakery. He takes the last cupcake. Lilah reprimands him: taking the last cupcake is bad luck. She seems to take this flippant-sounding statement more seriously than it sounds. Sam says that if they meet later, he’ll have one cupcake for him, and one for her. AWWWWW!!! Ain’t that sweet. However, at that fateful meeting over delicious pastries Lilah reveals that her full name is “Delilah.” Sam, laughing, reveals his full name is “Samson.” Also, as luck would have it, Delilah’s a hairdresser, and Samson’s a gym rat.

This cannot end good.

And it’s not just because, if the two get married, they’ll have to put up with the same titters every time they’re introduced at parties. Lilah was given a gypsy curse that causes her to impart powers to a person based on their name. In Samson’s case … well, he hasn’t progressed to the stage of smacking down hooligan’s with an ass’ jawbone yet, be he is able to benchpress cars when his hair gets unruly. She quips that she once dated a lad named Jesus, which we imagine must’ve been pretty enlightening … and horrifying, if the scene of her absent-mindedly fingering her wrists is any indicator. This opens up an interesting realm of possibilities: will the rest of Sam & Lilah deal with her running into other epically named folk? Since we might be sticking to Biblical characters, I’d like to see a Solomon (power of wisdom!), a Moses (power of summoning the ten plagues!), a Gabriel (power of flight and smooth talking to virgins!), or — if we really wanted to get obscure — an Ehud the Left-Handed (power of stabbing fat monarchs with a vicious left jab!)

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The main attraction here is Park’s fanciful artwork. It’s clean and crisp. While it recalls manga artwork, Park also has a unique style. His characters are wiry, fit, and fluid. They look almost like fairies. Which is apt, since the world of Sam & Lilah is not grounded in reality. The surrounding illustrations are likewise whimsical: arrows, icons like battery meters, and other sorts of simple symbols pop up in the background. The bright and washed-out colors give the comic light, magical feel where, at any moment, you expect swirls of cherry blossom petals to appear out of thin air. The only misstep I could think of is with Lilah’s design. Call me chauvinist, if you must, but I think her face looks oddly malleable. She’s quite pretty in some panels, but rather unattractive and rubbery in others.

The story is sweet, if unremarkable and sorta shallow thus far. Sam likes Lilah mainly for her looks (and a bit of curiosity about her powers, I’m guessing). Lilah, on the other hand, likes Sam because he’s a bit of a meathead who’s not too bothered when the gypsy curse manages to give him some super strength. They’re barely more than strangers when they meet. Yet, at around their third encounter, they’re already down to the kissing. It must be true love!

That said, this innocent, fairy-tale method of romance is also rather nice. Maybe heart-breaking conflict is inevitable, but it is rather pleasant to read a webcomic romance that hasn’t yet devolved into the elevated drama levels of a Latin soap opera. Fairy tales are comfort food. Sometimes, a “happily ever after” is all you need. Maybe this is why the wife and I liked Enchanted so much.

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Sam & Lilah also strongly reminds me of Japanese seinen manga, most specifically Kosuke Fujishima’s Ah! My Goddess series. The two have so many similarities: the sweet unhindered pacing; the wispy, dreamlike illustrations; and the repurposing legendary figures as modern day characters. In fact, I’m half-way expecting that Lilah’s two meddlesome sisters will show up in future issues. (Eve and Jezebel, perhaps? Please make it so, Jim & Hyeondo.)

I should let you know that I was never a big a fan of Ah! My Goddess. Too airy for me, if that makes any sense. Similarly, I’m not that hooked on Sam & Lilah either. However, I do recognize that there are strong qualities in both. Ah! My Goddess found its audience. Hopefully Sam & Lilah will do the same. It’s wonderfully innocent … and in this world where the sky is always falling, we need more of that.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

NOTE: Bonus points to Jim & Hyeondo for the title, by the way. I must’ve seen it several times before doing this review, and at no point did I associate Sam & Lilah with the Biblical hair farmer and the Philistine saboteur.

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on February 10, 2009, in 3 Stars, all ages webcomic, romance webcomic, superheroes, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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