Webcomic / Lighter Than Heir

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A webcomic by Melissa Albino, aka Nalem, Lighter Than Heir is the story of Zeppelin von Schultheiss, a volant (flying human) girl who's tired of living in the shadow of her famous father. Growing up as the only daughter of deceased war hero left Zeppelin with high expectations and a massive chip on her shoulder, so she signed up for the military as soon as she could, determined to become an even bigger war hero than he was. With an ego as big as hers, she'll be in for a surprise, because the army is not known for catering to the whims of 19 year old girls, even if they are the only daughter of the late, great Major Hemmel Von Schultheiss.

Updates every Wednesday and Friday.


Lighter Than Heir contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: A lot of chilling things in this story can happen in real life.
    • Being strangled to death.
    • Being tortured to death in a human experiment.
    • Soldiers killing civilians.
    • Soldiers killing children. note 
    • Your home country being invaded by an enemy that does not value civilian lives.
    • Being imprisoned by your country's government because of your ancestry.
  • Asshole Victim: The Zamoran farmer who the squad robs and who Zeppelin knocks out. While he was indeed defending his farm from robbers, when he cornered three of them he was going to murder them in cold blood instead of simply holding them until the police arrive.
  • Amusing Injuries: One of Roth's fingers gets shot off in a training accident, and it is treated as humorous. Averted with most of the other injuries shown, which are treated seriously.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The comic does not shy away from showing the horrific effects of military weaponry, resulting in...
  • Artificial Limbs: The Steiners use their mecha technology to replace the limbs that have been blown (or sliced, or burned) off of their soldiers.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Zamoran Government. The similarities include being forbidden from holding a military after losing a war with a neighbor country, being resentful with said neighbor, building up a formidable military in secrecy, performing grisly human experiments on unwilling victims in secret laboratories, being obsessed with genetic "superiority", launching surprize attacks without warning, and massacring entire cities. Even their banner looks similar to the one used by Nazi Germany..
  • Artificial Limbs: Seemingly a speciality of Steinbech's technology, not counting their weapons tech. And they don't just do replacements. Vogel gets a "cast" over his broken arm which is basically a gauntlet, and he's shown being able to move it almost like normal while it's healing.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Neither Steinbech nor Zamora are really upstanding countries, but the former is shown to be less brutal than the latter. Steinbech holds racist attitudes towards Zamorans, used firebombs on Zamorian Cities during the last war, and during the current war handed power from a freely elected parliament to a military dictatorship. However the Zamorians perform grisly human experiments in an effort to produce super soldiers, assassinated the Steinbech Prime Minister, and attacked Steinbech cities.
  • Blood Knight: Zeppelin, shading into The Berserker after she escapes Doctor Villalobos. Face her in combat and she will kill you, even if she has to sacrifice parts of her own body to do so. Already Hot-Blooded with a hair-trigger Berserk Button and a well-founded hatred for the Zamorans, Zeppelin is teetering on the brink of becoming something much worse. Hertz recognizes the signs even if nobody else does.
  • Break the Haughty: Austerlitz admits that a big part of his Drill Sergeant Nasty training was supposed to do this for Zeppelin. Despite it failing, he grudgingly lets her graduate from training with the rest. Time will tell if this actually happens.
    • Her disastrous tour of Zamora and finding her father's butchered corpse have done a much better job of being this trope.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Even in its more violent and dramatic bits, the strip stays relatively lighthearted - until Zeppelin is vivisected, then finds her father's corpse, at which point all the plotlines start to get very dark, very fast.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The Zamorans still resent Steinbech's actions during the war against Boyarov, to the point of infiltrating their bases and sabotaging their weapons. This, understandably, annoys the Steiners, and around and around it goes. Roth is nearly killed by a scout who beats him bloody because she blames Steiners for her family's death when she was eight—never mind that he was twelve at the time, and thus clearly not in any way responsible.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: See Head-in-the-Sand Management below.
  • Disappeared Dad: Zeppelin is still angry at her father for failing to return. Finding out just what happened to him, that he was tortured to death and vivisected by Zamoran Scientists, is even worse.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant Austerlitz, who is actually a decorated veteran. In an interesting twist, it doesn't fully work in instilling discipline in the squad of the protagonists (see Mildly Military). Then again, this is possibly due to the saboteur and spy who had infiltrated their squad.
  • Edible Bludgeon: At one point Zeppelin knocks a farmer out by dropping a pig on him.
  • Everyone Is Related: Sergeant Austerlitz (the sergeant who trained Zeppelin), Major Hohenhut (the person Zeppelin's squad answers to, and General Eckstein (the current head of the government) were all squadmates and possibly friends with Zeppelin's father Hemmel. Likewise Hurtz was experimented on as a child by the same scientist who tortured Hemmel to death. And who tried to vivisect Zeppelin.
  • Evil Luddite: Zamorans hate Steiner war machines and seem to dislike technology in general. Their government doesn't seem to mind using technology to breed or create super soldiers though...
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: The squad members all have their hair shaved off after entering training camp. They later grow it back out.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Going by the names and general behavior, the Steiners are obviously German in heritage, with some of them (including Zeppelin) spouting off a few phrases in German from time to time.
    • The Zamorans are harder to pin down in terms of culture, but the origin of the name, as well as place names and characters' names, points to them being from a counterpart of Spain. (Zamora is a province in Spain, as well as the name of the capital city of said province.)
    • From what little we've seen of it so far, Boyarov appears to be Russian.
  • Fantastic Racism: Both Steinbech and Zamora hold racist attitudes against each other.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The different members of the squad become less hostile towards each other as the circumstances they endure become progressively worse. Especially when the war begins.
  • Flight: A rare few humans, such as Zeppelin and her father before her, are "volants", capable of unaided flight. It's not very well known how they've come about, how common they are, or just what makes a volant, but it does seem to be naturally occurring, and they are a known quantity in the world; Hemmel was sought out to join the Steinbech military specifically so he could be groomed as a war hero and icon. At some point before the events of the comic started, Zamora started experimenting on humans to try and "induce" volant traits in humans, and are eventually capable of mass-producing them for wartime. Of note, despite the rough technology level of the setting, Volants are the only current source of human flight, making them all the more valuable.
  • Full-Boar Action: At one point the squad needs to capture some wild boars.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: The Steinbech Chancellor tried to use diplomacy to prevent another war even after the Zamoran Military attacked an extraction convoy and tortured three of his own soldiers. He ends up being assassinated by a Zamoran Assassin and control of the government is given over to the Steinbech military.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.:
    • Ria, after sniping someone to save Austerlitz.
    • Zeppelin, after killing four Zamorian Volants and after finding her father's mutilated corpse.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Page 351 is basically Roth and Hurtz making puns. Even one of the captive Zamoran Guards begs them to stop.
  • Hypocrite:
    • For a country that hates all machines, the Zamorans sure have a lot of guns.
    • The scientist in charge of the Zamoran volant project claims that human enhancement is totally different than the technology the Zamorans hate. However, she seems to be a bit sarcastic and just seems to be paying lip service to the idea. She doesn't seem to be Zamoran at all, and even experimented on Steiners in the past.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: When Austerlitz tells his recruits that they're finally ready for some weapons training, he takes a crate of loaded guns and throws it at them. Several of them misfire in midair on the way, hitting several students and taking Roth's index finger clean off.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha:
  • Jerkass: Roth and Austerlitz, Hertz to an extent, but Zeppelin is the main offender.
  • Lensman Arms Race: Looks it's heading this way with Zamoran volant super soldiers versus Steiner mechas.
  • Mildly Military: Played with. The majority of the military does run on fairly tight discipline. The squad of the protagonists...not so much. The military brass doesn't seem overly concerned, though. This is because they are more focused on the possibility of the war re-starting.
  • The Mole: It becomes very clear early on that there is one on the training grounds. It turns out to be Kurt Grunwald, who not only feigned being broken by the training, but is also secretly a volant like Zepplin.
  • Mood Whiplash: After getting treated to seeing whatever's left of her dad, we cut immediately to a flashback of an adorable Zeppelin celebrating her fifth birthday.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Fritz Roth is on the receiving end of one after he gets captured by a Zamorian Guard.
  • Oh, Crap!: How the squad reacts When the government announces the war against Zamora.
  • Police Brutality:
    • When Hurtz is in jail and falsely accused of treason and attempted murder, the soldier guarding him tries to murder him in cold blood because he keeps talking. The gun explodes immediately, killing said soldier.
    • One page shows Zeppelin causing a Zamoran to fall off a high wall after catching him trying to sneak over it.
    • A few pages later we see an unnamed Steinbech Border Guard punching a Zamoran Tourist in the nose.
  • Police State: When Steinebech enters a state of war, the civilian government steps down and the military takes full control of the country. When Steinebech went to war against Zamora, the first thing General Eckstein did was have any Zamoran or anyone of Zamoran descent arrested on suspicion of espionage.
  • Poor Communication Kills: There's a long list.
    • Vogel intentionally got the team lost instead of just telling them that he didn't want to show up home with some Steiner medical tech on his arm. This led to them wandering a bombed-out ruin that had become a secret research facility.
    • The volants guarding said research facility refused to believe that the team was escorting a Zamoran home, and immediately attacked.
    • For that matter, a lot of trouble could have been avoided if the Steiner military had informed Zamora that they were escorting Vogel home (or just asked for a pickup at the border) instead of trying to sneak through with an armed convoy, but they were trying to avoid the political embarrassment of admitting that a Zamoran tourist had gotten injured on Steinbech's watch to begin with.
    • When they finally got Vogel home, Hertz and Roth went to use the old Steiner radio tower without asking any questions. Vogel would have been able to tell them that it had been repurposed into a military outpost, and was off limits.
    • When one of the scouts saw Hertz and Roth approaching, she nearly killed them, assuming they were spies, and refused to listen to anything to the contrary. She later lied to her superiors, claiming Roth fell off the tower instead of admitting she beat him up herself.
    • When they're in prison, the prime minister doesn't believe them either—partly because of the scout lying to her, and partly because the Zamoran they claim to be escorting is nowhere to be found. But at least she started by asking why they were in the country.
      Hertz: WHY ARE YOU THE FIRST PERSON TO ASK THAT!?
    • Hertz managed to get a message back to Steiner before they were arrested, so Austerlitz rolls in like he owns the place, having not even bothered to call ahead and let the Zamorans know he's coming to peacefully extract his men.
    • And someone (possibly the Zamoran prime minister, possibly someone else entirely) is organizing Zamoran youths to infiltrate Steiner and cripple their infrastructure, which is a large part of what started the war.
  • The Power of Legacy: After Zeppelin finds her father's tortured and mutilated corpse, she states that she won't tell anyone what happened to him and proceeds to burn down the entire facility.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The main cast at one point steals produce and livestock from a Zamoran farmer, with Zeppelin even maiming him in the process.
  • Steampunk: Some influences are there, such as the machines they pilot and the metallic arm cast.
  • Scars Are Forever: Hertz has a strange set of scars on his back. They're from a failed procedure to turn him into a volant. Zeppelin later finds herself injured in the same manner by a similar machine, in an effort to vivisect her and learn more about volants.
  • Silent Snarker: One of the people standing in line in page 10.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Zeppelin starts suffering from PTSD after she kills Zamoran Soldiers, and after she finds her father's bloody corpse.
    • Klein has become far more withdrawn after she is kills a Zamoran.
    • Hurtz is an inversion because his PTSD resulted from being experimented on as a child, long before he was ever in the military.
  • Shur Fine Guns: The rifles used by the Steinbech military are incredibly sensitive and tend to misfire with the slightest jolt, as noted in I Just Shot Marvin in the Face above. There is also the matter of their rifles blowing up in their faces when fired, but at least that one was a result of enemy sabotage.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Zeppelin wakes up (after having being shot down) cocooned inside a steampunk-ish version of this.
  • Super Soldier: It turns out that the Zamorans have been trying to create artificial volants for years. Hertz is an early victim of a failed procedure to do so.
  • The Unfettered:
    • Doctor Villalobos gleefully experiments on unwilling human subjects, torturing and killing them in the process.
    • General Alexandrov, before being killed with a grenade by Hemmel, was willing to murder children in cold blood.
  • Tomato Surprise: The audience is led to believe that the comic begins in the aftermath of a war between Steinbech and Zamora; in fact, they were on the same side.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Though already capable of flight well before the events of the comic started, Zeppelin learned a few new tricks in desperation to escape her capture and torture in Zamora, gaining the power to Blow You Away.
  • Walk on Water: Anyone who's a volant is capable of this due to being buoyant enough not to sink. [[spoiler: Zeppelin uses this to CRUSH an enemy volant's head with her bare hands by forcing him down.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl: Zepplin suffers from this bad in regards to her father. What makes it brutal is that he died a war hero when she was a little girl.
  • Wham Line: Page 378. "...Dad?"
  • Would Hurt a Child:
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