In the last few months, a few gently animated webcomics have popped up online, using the magic of animated gifs to add an extra dimension to their visuals. It could be tempting to go overboard with your webcomic animation, but Ru's Saint for Rent is one webcomic where it's done well, using small animated sequences to convey motion and glow.
But while the animation is restrained, the story itself has some mad action. Saint runs an inn for time travelers, but recently, one guest has slipped in who is more than merely displaced in time, and it's up to Saint to keep this monstrous creature from eating the other guests.
When we first meet Saint, there is the sense that he's apologizing for failing to live up to our expectations. "I assure you I'm not first in line for heaven," he says as women's beach volleyball appears on his viewing screen. Becoming an innkeeper for weary time travelers wasn't exactly his life's ambition, either. He inherited the gig—and the inn—from his fathers. And early on, Ru clearly shows us what Saint's inn is not. When he calls on a couple of fellow innkeepers for help, one is 100 years into a technologically advanced future while another sits elegantly in 19th-century Shanghai. Saint's inn is just Saint's inn, a humble hotel where time travelers enter through the magic closet. It's not a spot where guests are going to swap stories about wooing Cleopatra or discovering the secrets of interstellar travel.
The problem with that magic closet is that you never know just who is going to walk in. One night, a young woman sneaks into the inn followed by a skull-faced monster. Now Saint doesn't just need to dust the rooms and change the sheets; he's got a monster to deal with.
Saint for Rent is a curious mix of big action with the understated. Saint is actually not a terrible monster fighter, but his guests mostly hang back with worried amusement and debate hurling the furniture at their interloper. Even its single instance of time travel thus far is executed quietly, but with enough cleverness and humor to fit with the conceit of the comic.
Saint is just getting started, but thus far it's a fun comic, one with an unexpected take on its setting. We'll just have to wait and see what other surprises wander in from the time stream.