THIS IS NOT BY FICTION by Nicole Mannino
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
THIS IS NOT FICTION is a beautifully illustrated webcomic by Nicole Mannino, who has gone through so much growth in her style as the story progressed. While the plot is sometimes led astray by some of the wackier elements of their missions, the queer romantic comedy establishes very likable and humorous characters.
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Want to read something that will absolutely make you smile ear-to-ear? That will make you alternate between “Oh my god, no” and “Oh my god, yes”? Then look no further than the webcomic THIS IS NOT FICTION by Nicole Mannino. The currently ongoing series, taken over by Mannino in 2010 after an orphaned DeviantArt collaborative webcomic, has garnered much love and attention. With the webcomic’s vibrant character diversity, a queer romance, and whimsical art style, THIS IS NOT FICTION has a lot of heart and wholesome moments. The chapters will leave you waiting eagerly for updates!

The plot of THIS IS NOT FICTION revolves around high schooler Julian Drees and his awkward devotion to Sydney Morgan, his favorite pseudonymous romance novelist. Julian’s best friend, Isaiah Holloway, tries to help him by getting the self-proclaimed “Godfather of High School,” Landon Addison, to track down Sydney. Landon’s hacking “intern,” Selby Montgomery, helps in the investigation. While that might seem fine and dandy, it’s not for Julian! His strained relationship with Landon dates back to their less-than-ideal first meeting as children. Since first mistaking Julian for a girl, Landon, with the reckless grace of a child, played too roughly with Julian, and ever since Julian avoided him. However, if Julian wants to find out who Sydney Morgan is, he has no other choice than to work with Landon. Cue legally dubious hijinks!

This is Not Fiction!
Yup, 100% totally illegal shenanigans. Image courtesy of Mannino.

Julian and his friends go through a lot of complications — mostly because of Landon’s risky ideas! For example, they pose as employees and infiltrate the publishing company Syndey Morgan works under. Not only do they run into security, they invade Morgan’s mailbox to find a return address. Their infiltration of the publishing company wasn’t the first time they almost got caught or the last. Mannino offers a variety of misadventures!

While a lot of the characters have coverage, it would be nice to see Selby having a little bit more involvement in some of the chapters. There is, unfortunately, not much known about Selby these 20 plus chapters in. I’m sure there will be more to learn about her soon, though!

The comics’ pages ceased being in color after the first few chapters. The black-and-white has enhanced the experience, and now the reader won’t feel so distracted by the bright splashes of color that were originally featured. The pages look crisper, providing that clean, comic-like look. You can see Mannino’s style develop, which helps cultivate the wholesome vibes the chapters emanate.

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This is not fiction
Look at all those different frames! Image courtesy of Mannino.

Furthermore, the all-over-the-place page textures have eased down considerably. You can see Mannino’s stronger grasp of her character designs! Their bodies and body proportions have been perfected, showcasing the diversity in their shapes. Julian has become stouter, looking sweet and adorable in his cat-themed outfits. Landon has a new haircut but is still tall, lanky and smug. Isaiah has a more toned build which better fits his athletic background. Selby, a new addition not originally in the comic, is not only the most technologically competent but also a woman of color, which is a joy.

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This is not fiction
When your #squad entertains your nerdy, overexcited side. Image courtesy of Mannino.

Mannino has come a long way with her backgrounds as well, which were often hidden by colors or textures. The settings fit proportionally to the characters or actions within the scene as opposed to the earlier chapters’ unusual frames that made exaggerated gestures more noticeable. Also, the beginning of every new chapter varies, and the setting and placement are always amusing to look over. What could have been a regular illustration is taken a step further when Mannino cuts her illustrations and set them somewhere. “Hotel Trash Party” has been my favorite illustration to date. Julian has never been more relatable, the duckies give me life, and what I assume is an animal print scarf really gives her illustration that pop to match the “wild” theme. It is these small ideas that bring out the webcomic’s design and leave every chapter memorable in its own way.

this is not fiction
Same, Julian, same. Image courtesy of Mannino.

With over 20 chapters, you can expect that Julian and Landon’s relationship won’t get anywhere within the first few chapters. There is great agitation from Julian when he’s dealing with Landon and his over-the-top plans. Landon’s general recklessness and personal disregard for himself means a lot of plans go awry. Despite their initially rocky relationship, instances of subtle affection develop the more time they spend together.

This is not fiction
When you fail to play it cool. Image courtesy of Mannino.

Mannino’s characters evolve. Take Julian: he refused to associate with Landon and accept his help in the first chapter. Julian comes to understand there is more to Landon’s forced egotism and begins to dote on him whenever Landon smokes a cigarette or becomes sick. Julian has gone from wanting nothing to do with Landon to making sure Landon sleeps enough and doesn’t get any worse when ill. Landon often exhibits his adoration through his actions, even though he tries to cover it up with faux suaveness. Landon’s and Julian’s personalities are further explored, and some of their traits can explain why there was so much hesitation from both of them to move forward past friendship.

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However, as with most high school settings, you can’t have a relationship without getting the second-degree from other students. Landon’s notoriety often makes Julian doubt his worth as a love interest. Also, Isaiah is popular as an athlete, making Julian self-conscious as a friend. Occasionally, Julian feels ostracized. Not to mention, Julian feeling a gradual, romantic inclination for someone who flaunts his sexuality like Landon just adds more to the whole mixed bag of unresolved insecurity and feelings. Despite Julian’s uncertainty about being involved with Landon, he slowly lets himself become the center of Landon’s attention and affection.

This is not fiction
Julian “Oh no, here comes the feelings” Drees. Image courtesy of Mannino.

Support THIS IS NOT FICTION

THIS IS NOT FICTION has made me laugh on rough days and brightened my mornings throughout stressful semesters. I absolutely look forward to seeing how the webcomic will end (but hopefully that won’t be coming anytime soon)! My biggest recommendation for interested readers is to hover over some of the images and wait for the hover popup to show up. The messages Mannino leaves for her pages is the best part of the overall experience of getting into the webcomic!

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You’re also in luck! At one point, THIS IS NOT FICTION was available to read online, but in order to catch an update at the time it was posted, you needed to pay a fee. Otherwise, you would have to wait a certain amount of time for the update to be free. However, now all of this webcomic is available for free. Still, webcomic artists need support! Mannino has a Patreon where you earn yourself some perks, like the thumbnails on the next couple of pages for just five bucks a month! It was revealed some time ago that she would create a mini-comic based on Landon’s point of view. So if you find yourself interested in the webcomic, head on over to Mannino’s Patreon!

THIS IS NOT FICTION is an endearing, feel-good webcomic that explores the gradual queer romance between the main characters in a light-hearted tone. While there are instances where the character’s mishaps stray from the overall plot, this webcomic is fun, sometimes heart-wrenching, and easy to read. Don’t miss out on the chance to start!

Check out THIS IS NOT FICTION here. You can expect updates every Tuesday and Friday at 12 am EST. Mannino will otherwise specify if there is a delay or cancellation on her Twitter, which also provides updates, answers, and extras.

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One Comment

  1. NICOLE

    NICOLE

    December 9, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful, in-depth review! It was written with so much care, I appreciate it so much! 💕

    Reply

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