Get ready for some madcap capers and manic cartoon action—this week’s Webcomics Wednesday has aliens, black holes, a quest to defeat evil, a giant dog, and some pitch-perfect sibling rivalry. Severin Piehl’s Tove opens on the titular middle-schooler and her annoying little brother, Dag, as they discover the ruins of a wrecked spaceship while exploring in the woods with their dump truck–sized canine companion, Cranberry.
At first, the spaceship looks derelict, but after they break into the engine room, they find the emergency lights on and the motor in good shape. For Tove, an over-achiever who dreams of traveling to space, it’s a monumental find. She’s fascinated by the inner workings of the ship and the fact that it’s been so well preserved. Dag, on the other hand is not so impressed.
That is, until he stumbles upon an alien skeleton (!) and a mysterious golden globe, complete with an irresistible button. Ever the consummate little brother, Dag pushes the button and a sparkly cloud emerges. Tove shoves Dag out of the way, but she’s sucked into the portal, which launches her into an alien castle nestled in the event horizon of a black hole.
Once there, some brick-like creatures tell Tove a gloom-and-doom tale about evil entering her world and the threads of fate that brought her to their space palace, where she will take her rightful place as the chosen one to defeat their foe—pretty standard fantasy-adventure fare. Refreshingly skeptical, scientifically minded Tove isn’t having it, but that doesn’t stop her from leaping through one of the many “Gates of Fate,” which will both return her home and imbue her with special powers, depending on which gate she chooses.
The one gate calling Tove’s name, however, is expressly forbidden by the cuboid aliens, and when she obstinately makes a break for the portal, they attack. Even a swarm of extraterrestrial creatures is no match for Tove, however, and soon she’s tumbling through the gate into a candy-colored fantasy world, which looks like something Lisa Frank might have dreamed up. That shimmering wonderland is short-lived, however; Tove is unceremoniously dumped back into her original reality, and she’s confused enough about the preceding events that she chalks it up to a dream. And anyway, Tove and Dag’s dad is calling them back from their forest jaunt, since a meteor crashed into the middle of their town, leaving behind a gigantic crater.
Chapter two turns the narrative attention over to Dag, as he and his friends, entranced by the prospect of a giant hole in the ground, high-powered construction machinery, and the potential of monstrous creatures in a heretofore unexplored system of caverns opened up by the crash, come up with a scheme to see the caves for themselves. In between chatting about video games and eating pizza, Dag spies a familiar golden globe, and elsewhere, Tove is sure she sees one of the aliens from her “dream.” Are the events connected? (You get one guess.)
Piehl’s exaggerated cartoon figures are alive with over-the-top facial expressions and gestures, which is perfectly in keeping with the campy story, and the intriguing mystery of Tove’s potential quest and powers drives the story along at a fast clip. Hints of deeper emotional threads—Tove’s almost-total lack of friends, her far-away mother, Dag’s conflicts with peers—keep the high-flown, cinematic action with one foot firmly on the ground. Middle-graders who liked Drew Weing’s Margo Maloo (now in book form!) will find much to like here. Piehl’s currently in the midst of the second chapter of the story, with updates roughly every week.