This is one comic I found on Instagram. It was genuinely a comic I bought simply because of the art (there’s a but later, I need to get the art out of my system first!). The art is fantastic in all ways, this being a fantasy comic and all.
First, just a huge shout out for how awesome the cover is. Brilliant and beautiful and simple. Gold ink on a black background. Already setting the mood before you even open the comic.
The art inside is just as beautiful; noodled, line rich, DENSE. Everything looks like it’s been hewn from rocks and cragged masses, whether landscape, creature or person. But most of all, it’s very, VERY British adventure weekly in all the ways I love. Yes, you can point to artists whose style I’m reminded of, characters that remind me of Jim Baikie’s ‘Skizz’ and the whole of Ian Gibson, particularly ‘Halo Jones’. It reminds me of the density of Jesus Blasco certainly and you wouldn’t be wrong thinking about ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ by Kev O’Neill. But most of all what it reminds me of is that idiosyncratic, characterful approach to art they all had. Every artist making that work interesting, approaching it like any subject is worthy of being serious, even if it’s throw away.
This is not some sum of parts though, not some mash of influences, this is a world made from whole cloth. That pattern might feature a colour of Michael Moorcock, a swirl of post apocolyptica, but those are just that, the colours, a bit of patterning. They’re not the whole design, the bigger picture is much bigger. As I say, everything is hewn from the same rock and it’s a mountain I’d say.
What I love about this is how good this is. Its skilful and thought about and integrated to do the one thing you want a story to do, get you interested in what’s going on and who it’s happening to. However much it’s hewn from stone, this comic doesn’t care about being ground breaking, it doesn’t want you to praise the creator’s skill either. It wants you to enjoy the story it’s going to tell you and it puts a whole lot of effort into delivering that.
All this detail filling up pages. Fluid organic lines, straight hatching, spotted blacks. It could be a mess, indistinct and impossible to pick apart. But it’s never like the work loses focus. You know where everyone is, every group feels like a mob or a mass where they need to. The motion feels swift or sedate, you know the pace it’s happening. The character designs are purposeful, revealing, they show you the nature of the person. Not by making bad guys grotesque, and good beautiful, remember they’re all hewn from stone. They’re all grotesque here in a way; lumpen, fluid, warped; but the nature of the person shows through in line, a graceful line showing a graceful nature and stance, body language that can be read and understood. This is good character design, good draughtsmanship, skill and ability turning in a story that can be read as fluidly as it’s drawn.
This is great cartooning in the hands of a thoughtful practitioner. You’ll see melodramatic poses, but they’ll not feel out of place, they’re the tone of the work not the nature of the artist, if that makes sense. Put another way, there’s no artist making great pin-up poses to signify a point where you SHOULD feel a certain way. The artist delivers art that makes you understand, that holds your hand into the emotions of those in the story, even if those emotions are of a grand nature. That grand nature is the character’s.
The story is, again, a beautiful pattern. It’s clever, its genre for sure. It knows its genre and the history behind it. You could call on Elric as a predecessor, and Conan. You might think of Grimjaw if you know of it and all those ‘magic came back to the world when science died’ books – ‘Sword of Shannara’ is what I think of when I think of any of these things, maybe you’ll think of ‘Adventure Time’. But it’s most definitely none of those things. It’s funny and intentionally so. It gross and intentionally so. It’s pompous and intentionally so. Those are its strengths – it’s not trying to make you believe this is like reality. Its hewing its own reality from the crags and rocks filling its world. You’re meant to get in there and enjoy this world, not by the power of how much like reality it is, not by copying tropes and hoping they’ll trigger your learnt behaviours, but by the power of the story telling, the power of the art. The sense of just feeling like this is someone who knows what they’re doing and they’re going to do it with skill and with fun and deliver some fine entertainment along the way.
Let’s be clear here, so far, we are seeing fun entertainment, there’s no depth of commentary on the real world. This is imagination at work creating a new cloth, a new pattern that looks fine and feels fine and is beautiful in how it flows and because of all of that, it makes you feel good, feel like you just want to wrap yourself up in it and stay there all day.