Sister Claire successfully turns many nun tropes on their heads

Sister Claire: Libro One

image-232195-fullAuthor: Elena “Yamino” Barbarich
Release Date: October 2013
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, Comedy, Drama

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low
Sister Claire Website

Nuns are such a strange thing in fiction. If it’s not The Sound of Music or Sister Act, nuns are often subjects of exploitation or the butt of jokes. Maybe it’s a fascination with women who give themselves to God, but there are rarely stories that show the human in the habit.

Sister Claire is set to change that.

Starting in 2008, Sister Claire is a weekly webcomic created by Elena “Yamino” Barbarich. It follows the titular character of Sister Claire, who after praying to God to find her purposes is visited by a blue woman named Gabrielle who tells Claire she’s pregnant with the next savior. This all happens in the bathroom of the convent after Claire has a violent bout of diarrhea after being punished for bringing a cat.

It gets less gross after that. The first couple of chapters have a strange tone of being shocking on purpose that don’t really match the rest of the comic, but after Claire finds her mentor Catherine performing a ritual that merges her with an evil cat spirit named Grimm, it sets a much darker tone for the rest of the series. From there on, Sister Claire isn’t about shock humor with a pregnant nun. It becomes a story about the shaking of personal foundations and learning to change your previous line of thought.

Claire faces a sudden amount of change in her world. Between her pregnancy and her mentor seemingly aligning herself with the witches who were defeated before Claire was born, she can no longer afford herself ignorance of the world outside the convent. It’s dark, scary, and she’s going to have to fight for herself and her child to survive.

Claire and her mysterious blue angel Gabrielle. [kickstarter.com]

Claire and her mysterious blue angel Gabrielle. [kickstarter.com]

However, it’s also gorgeous and maybe a little misunderstood too. Claire learns quickly as she gets to know her fellow nuns better that maybe they aren’t that different from the witches that they fear. Well, try convincing that to the twins Rosalie and Marie, who fear for what would happen if it was known to the elder nuns that they had magical powers.

Despite the serious themes in the comic, it does actually continue to be a comedy at its core. It moves away from the shock humor and ends up being somewhere between slapstick and cute humor that reminds me a lot of a lot of shojo manga I read when I was younger. Which I guess is appropriate, since that was a lot of Yamino’s influence when creating the comic. It’s still obviously there with how much Sisters Rosalie and Marie sparkle when they walk into a room.

Besides the humor and the story, the art is gorgeous. Yamino updated a lot of the pages for publishing, and it ended up making the comic pop with more color than it did in the past. Her style is influenced by a lot of pop culture art icons from Junko Mizuno to Craig McCracken, but it still ends up being all her own and gives the characters their own lives and personality without reading a word of dialogue. Sadly, as of this posting, not all of the pages that were updated in the published comic are on the website.

Final Thoughts:

Sister Claire definitely had a lot of bumps in the early years, which is definitely included in Libro One. However, you definitely do get to see the story become it’s own starting in the middle of the book and towards the end. Re-reading the first part of the story with the redone artwork makes me excited for Sister Claire’s future, especially now that Yamino has begun to work with her wife Ash as a co-writer. If nothing else, at least check out the comic and see how many pop culture references Yamino sneaks into the background. You’ll be surprised, and will probably giggle as much as I did.

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