Kung-Fu Nuns, Witch Hunts, and Collaborative Storytelling Collide in “Sister Claire”
Perhaps my favorite aspect of webcomics is that it is within their nature to showcase the growth and improvement of their creators. Often pet projects and experimental in design, webcomics are the chance for young or inexperienced cartoonists to find their voice and practice their craft on their own terms. But it’s a special and beautiful thing when a webcomic brings together multiple talented creators who can take a simple premise and nurture it to blossom into a great story.
Which brings me to Sister Claire, originally conceived by cartoonist Elena Barbarich (online name Yamino) as a school project that has since taken off with great success thanks to time, patience, and the brilliant collaboration between Barbarich and her writer wife, Ash. In its early stages, Sister Claire was a comical farce about an innocent but bumbling nun named Claire who, after receiving a visitation through the toilet by a mysterious blue angel, is immaculately impregnated with the savior of the world. Along the way she must save her mentor Catherine from a terrible curse and learn the art of nun-fu, all while keeping her pregnancy a secret from her fellow nuns–and that’s just the start.
The first chapters of Sister Claire are cute and silly, packed full of visual gags and toilet humor, but lack a lot of emotional depth or a firm plot. Things begin to pick up though around chapter six and it only gets better from there. It’s hard to tell exactly when Ash becomes involved, because the transition from gag comic to serious story is surprisingly subtle, and while the comic follows Claire in her mission to protect both those she loves and the world, the story is much larger than anyone could have guessed. Thanks to their collaboration, Sister Claire‘s world-building has soared, with deeply complex and beautiful side-stories being explored in a prose section of the comic titled Missing Moments. These short stories (accompanied by Barbarich’s illustrations) not only give a glimpse at the deeper, darker history of Claire’s world, but sheds a light on the past and personalities of the comic’s expansive cast, not to mention Claire herself.
While the style and story may not resonate with everyone, I thoroughly recommend Sister Claire. In its moments of lightheartedness it delights, and in its times of gravity it utterly devastates. Best of all, alongside the evolving art and storyline, there is an ever-increasing roster of fantastic and highly diverse characters, including a large amount of LGBTQA representation that many readers are sure to love.