Should I be embarrassed to admit that I think some comic books are just as great as literature? Does that revoke my membership from the book club? Will I be excommunicated? DO I FACE THE DEATH PENALTY?!
It’s certainly a debatable point, but not necessarily wrong. Many people call picture books “literature for kids,” so considering that, I think that any good read, whether it utilizes pictures or not, CAN be considered good literature. Because ultimately, that’s what good literature does–to make you feel something and make you want to read more.
Now we do have to be careful not to let any old comic book into the literary book club since so much of the work in expressing the emotion or action are done through the pictures…but then, if the comic book is exceptional, why not?
Therefore, I want to introduce this webtoon that I think is a gold standard for which people should regard comic books as great literature. I give you (drumroll)…Trace!
Trace is an incredibly well-conceived webtoon by Nastycat (author, weird name I know) and I recommend it to all you literary nerds out there. Because at the moment, it’s offensively underrated, yet you will be hard-pressed to find a better work that combines wit, inspiration, drama, and total raw emotion than this humble little work.
Now fair warning, the artwork will not be very appealing upon initial impression, and I’m not even going to try to sell it to you because even I didn’t like it at first. However, thank the holy horses that I stuck with it because the art improves rapidly, the stories became addictive, and it will grip you like none other.
So my advice to you? Take the leap of faith!
Trace explores a world in which violent creatures (called “Troubles”) suddenly appear out of nowhere in human society, causing mass fear and panic. And around the same time, “Traces” also evolved (similar to Mutants from X-men), and admidst this confusion, the government takes disturbingly inhumane measures to diffuse the situation, which compels a group of Traces to fight against that.
This webtoon ultimately aims to explore the complex relationship between humans, Traces, and Troubles.
A breakdown of the seasons:
Trace 1.0 (“Beggar Team”)
This first season is an introduction to the three main protagonists. Their backgrounds are featured in broad arcs at first, but once the ball gets rolling, their lives come together like a puzzle and the “Beggar team” is formed. The plot is surprisingly focused despite the large cast, and it is also dynamic, funny, romantic, mysterious, and soulful. Although the overall tone is dark and sad, the ending is INFINITELY HAPPY…like, Return of the King (Lord of the Rings) sort of happy. It’s so satisfying, I would highly recommend this season.
Trace 1.5 (“Communicator”)
This segue season introduces a new character, Han Sihyun, a kind-hearted Trace who hopes to communicate between the warring Troubles and humans. But he faces constant rejection from the corrupt government in his proposals to reach out to Troubles, so he takes matters into his own hands. Some major plot twists at the end lead to a (surprisingly) bleak cliffhanger. Not that this guy dies or anything, but it’s still very heartbreaking. My absolute favorite season to re-read, it will make you so excited for Season 2.
Trace 2.0 (“Armor Line”)
After a long hiatus, Nastycat has returned with his (probably) last season, so I can’t say much about the plot yet. But all the characters from Trace 1.0 and 1.5 are brought back with the last new character being introduced: Suh Bumkey, a police officer who evolves into a Trace. So far, it’s been GREAT, and it looks like all the characters’ destinies will finally come clashing together in this amazing finale. Yes….just yes.
So CAN comic books be considered great literature, or do the pictures exempt them?
Works such as Batman and X-men are considered classics, but not necessarily “literature–but might they be?
Now the incredible thing about this webtoon is that the quality NEVER SLIPS. Not even once. That’s because the author creates all the season’s chapters in advance prior to publishing, so there’s never a sense of compromise in quality or a sense of unfinished rush, and I truly respect that in any author–it shows that they take pride in their profession. In that, I believe Trace can be considered literature in terms of depth and quality, and so can others! Comic books make me want to read, simple as that.
Therefore, I do recommend this webtoon to the literary community because it will make you cry, laugh, sweat, and just inspire you to no end. You cannot put it down once you’re hooked. In case you’re interested, I will put links down below:)
Korean (RAW): http://webtoon.daum.net/webtoon/view/trace2#1