There are two universal truths in today’s rapidly changing comics industry. The first is that Dog Man is the defining comic of our era. The second is that more people are reading manga and Webtoons (aka vertical scroll comics) than ever before. Therefore we at The Comics Beat have chosen to embark on a new venture: Beat’s Bizarre Adventure. Every week we’ll have three writers recommend some of their favorite books and series from Japan, Korea and elsewhere. This week we have next-level cyberpunk, the perfect introduction to boys’ love comics, and, of course, vampires.

solid state man with sword woman in wedding dress and guy with knife

Solid State

Story and Art: Scott Higginbotham, L.G Veldenmire
Art Assistant: Bre Manning
Editor: Aria Villafranca
Platform: WEBTOON

In the second half of 2023, many were introduced or reintroduced to the cyberpunk genre by Studio Trigger’s acclaimed anime Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. Its success brought its source material Cyberpunk 2077, which had just received many quality of life fixes and additions, back into the mainstream. If you’re finished with these and still need a cyberpunk fix, check out the Webtoon original Solid State.

Created by Scott Hinningbotham and L.G Veldenmire, it is set in its own cyberpunk world in the year 2121. The city of Concordia is divided into upper and lower cities. Megacorporations fight for control while shady cyber cults gain a foothold in cyberspace and social media. The story is centered on Eijiro, who grew up from the lower city but is now caught in the aftermath of a political power struggle. This conflict ripples through the rest of the city and into the lives of the rest of the cast. Their different perspectives further establish the lore in a natural way that circles back to the main story events. I have not seen this done in other Webtoons before.

Art is the major standout however. From the very first episode, Scott and L.G demonstrate mastery of not just comics but the scrolling medium. Scrolling between panels feels seamless and natural. There are panels where scrolling down acts as a camera tilting from a lower angle to a higher angle, seamlessly transitioning into another panel without you even realizing it. The imagery of the world, while familiar and grounded within the cyberpunk genre, also feels unique due to Scott and L.G’s mechanical and character designs.

Solid State has been on hiatus since the Mid-Season Finale. But I would recommend people read it, if not for the love of cyberpunk, than for the art and execution of the story. It is an example of what can be achieved with scrolling comics as a medium. A work of art in of itself that I read time and time again to learn from, pick apart, and draw inspiration for my own stories. Whether you’re a Webtoon reader, cyberpunk fan or art aficionado, go read Solid State, chooms! — Justin Guerrero

here u are two boys in jackets

Here U Are

Writer/Artist: D Jun
Platform: WEBTOON

If you want to read boys’ love (BL) stories but don’t know where to start, try Here U Are. Written and illustrated by D Jun, it’s an often hilarious slice-of-life slow burn. The story isn’t special in and of itself: Yu Yang, a cheerful and openly gay second year in college, meets the reticent freshman Li Huan during orientation. The two initially butt heads but grow closer as Li Huan lowers his guard.

The progression of their relationship, from two people who can’t stand being in the same room with each other, to friends, to eventually lovers is satisfying to watch. Even more satisfying is Yu Yang and Li Huan’s growth as individuals. Their struggles, their traumas, and the ways they confront their past are all grounded in reality.

Another highlight is how unabashedly Here U Are addresses many of the misconceptions that the LGBTQ community suffers from. Despite how comfortable Yu Yang is with his sexuality, being in a same-sex relationship in an intensely homophobic society is a different story altogether.

Here U Are’s artwork is gorgeous to look at. The character designs are memorable and convey each character’s personality through their hair styles, fashion choices, and even the way they lounge about. The simplistic and cool-toned color palette lends itself well to the story.

Here U Are was originally published on the Chinese manhua platform Dongmanmanhua, where the protagonists were named Yu Yang and Li Huan. When WEBTOON serialized it on its English platform, it oddly decided to localize everything into Korean, changing the names to Hyeonu and Jaehwan respectively.

Here U Are is an amazing series and should be on every new and old BL fans’ must-read list! — Hilary Leung

Beat's Bizarre Adventures black cat & the vampire blonde boy bites black haired boy The Black Cat & the Vampire

Writer/Artist: Nikke Taino
Translator: Christine Dashiell
Editor: Lena Atanassova
Copy Editor, vol. 1: M. Cara Carper
Copy Editor, vol. 2: Becca Grace
Cover Designer: Aracelli Ejarque Villegas
Publisher: Tokyopop

The Black Cat & the Vampire has two of my favorite things in the world: black cats and vampires. The cover doesn’t give it away at first but we have hot boys in an elite all-boys boarding school reminiscent of Hogwarts. This boys’ love manga has two volumes released by Tokyopop; it is written and beautifully drawn by Nikke Taino, and translated by the amazing Christine Dashiell.

Yuki is a first-year scholarship student at Blanc College. He’s a top-performing student who is modest and nice. He’s also distant, keeping everybody at arm’s length. But Jean, the irresistible Head Boy, is immune to everyone’s attitude including Yuki.

They pass their school days with afternoon tea. Everything is pleasantly boring until one day, a student is attacked. You guessed it, he has a scar on his neck that resembles a vampire bite. This may seem Twilight-y at this point but I promise it gets better.

The first volume is about the tension between Yuki and Jean. Jean wants to be near Yuki all the time but he doesn’t want to actually drink his blood. Yuki is resistant to new ideas, situations and feelings. Why is Jean kind to him? Why is he interested in him? Because he didn’t do anything to deserve his affection, in fact the opposite. Boys can’t love each other, can they? Vampires aren’t real, are they? Yuki tries to run from these things; but of course he can’t. The author takes the time to delve into his struggle.

The second volume introduces us to a mysterious case to be solved, as well as new relationship dynamics. Yuki opens up to alternative ideas and starts to interact with the people around him. The second volume also further develops the fate of the vampires. The school is in turmoil, vampire students are on tenterhooks, but Jean is more concerned about attacking Yuki than being targeted as a vampire by the other students.

If you love vampires, mystery and BL, or are open to exploring these topics, I absolutely recommend these books. It’s a fascinating, spooky series with a lot of complexity. — Ilgın Side Soysal