Comics review: I Hate Fairyland

(image courtesy Image Comics)

 

Gertrude is one sick, twisted, murderously-narcissistic individual.

But then the odds are pretty good that you would be too if you’d tumbled into the sugar-drenched delights of Fairyland, where fauns and Giggle Giants and sentient moons and stars romp, at the age of 6 and spent 30 years trying to get the hell back out, with the magic key that could make escape possible proving maddeningly elusive.

Literally maddening.

The demented, green-haired protagonist of Skottie Young’s deliciously-warped excursion into the suspect delights of wonderment and storytelling merrymaking, I Hate Fairyland, Gertrude has been sent loudly and viciously mad (no such thing in her lexicon of daily, spleen-venting fury) by an inability to find the key that will open the door that will take her back to her pink rug-adorned, plush animal scattered bedroom where at the tender age of 6 she wished she could be in Fairyland forever.

Be careful what you wish for huh Gertrude?

For now, Gertrude, ostensibly a “guest” in Fairyland, is a 37 year old trapped in a kid’s body, all violence, aggression and murderous intent who only wants to get home, a prospect complicated now by the fact that she doesn’t even know what home will be like.

Will she revert to being a 6 year old? Will she stay as she is in which watch out parents? Or will she, as seems increasingly likely, never get there at all, rendering all that fevered conjecture moot?

It’s enough to do anyone’s head, and Gertrude’s is well and truly done in and showing no signs of recovery any time soo, if ever, much to the dismay of her jaded Fairyland companion Larry Wentsworth III, who is bound to her until she finds her way home, and Queen Cloudia, the ruler of Fairyland who rightly views Gertrude’s psychopathic murderous rampages as a threat to Fairyland’s general candy-coloured bonhonie and bliss.

 

(image courtesy Image Comics)

 

If this all sounds weirdly bleak and a tad too dark for you, Young manages to make it all hilarious, dementedly, fantastically funny.

So funny in fact that when you come across zombie fauns – yep it’s The Walking Dead meets cute pan-pipe playing half-human, half-goats and it’s brilliantly over the top twisted as you might expect – or cute pink teddy bear-like creatures ripped the hearts of our fearsome dragons, you can’t help but laugh out loud at the imaginative absurdity of it all.

What makes the take of a violent psychopathic 6 year old/not 6 year old so profoundly entertaining is the way Young perfectly balances out-and-out technicolour insanity with some good old fashioned heart and soul.

Not too much mind since this is a grand postmodern fairyale-subverting pic that rightly calls into question many of the sweeter-than-sweet qualities we have ascribed to Fairyland in the post-Disney era, many, if not all of which were not present in Grimm’s dark, all-too-real tales of life in more magical times.

In fact, in playing an epic game of subvert the hell out of fairytale tropes, writer/artist Young, ably assisted by colourist Nate Piekos, gleefully puts many of these squeaky clean “Wish upon a star” (too late – they’re all dead now) to a timely death, injecting some good old fashioned bleakness back into all those happy tales of fairies and lands made of icecream and sherbert and teddy bears gamboling along.

The world of I Hate Fairyland very much looks the part, with trippy, imaginative lands and colourful, garrulous creatures, but as Gertrude continues her blood-soaked path home, and even for a time sits upon the throne (how is best not revealed her but suffice to say it works out badly for our diminutive psychopath as most things do), you realise that beneath all that eye-searing colour and sugar-coated utopian idyll lies a dark, beating heart.

Could it be that it’s not only Gertrude who’s on the far side of reasonable, kind humanity but a whole lot of other, ostensibly lovely denizens of Fairyland? Could the good, luminously bright characters of Fairyland be the ones who corrupted the young girl in the first place?

It’s all a bit chicken and the egg but oh what fun Young has with his incredibly rich premise, taking us from cute to nasty to fluffy to a thousand kinds of cruel, often on the same page and always with winning, crowd-pleasing effect.

It may not be your grandmother’s idea of a fairytale, but there’s a fair bit you’re great-great-great-great grandmother would have totally got with the life is ferociously nasty/salutary lesson/humourous vibe of I Hate Fairyland.

 

(image courtesy Image Comics)

 

The trick with any postmodern subversion of much-loved tropes is making it as entertaining as the original.

There’s no point in being clevely subversive if all you succeed in doing is being unremittingly bleak and negative; once your limited array of sniping jokes is depleted, people quickly turn away, repelled by what is essentially a thoroughly-disagreeable one trick parody pony.

Where I Hate Fairyland succeeds, and succeeds brilliantly, is the way it manages to make this alternate take on the fairytales we know and love, and many we don’t but wish we did, such a gloriously entertaining entity in its own right.

The depth and breadth of the various lands and characters in Fairyland is such that even when Gertude, in another of her murderous fits of pique, lays waste to this group of people or this picturesque village, you’re rapt with wonder and beguiled by the shared transportive colourful fun of it all.

Sure there’s a dark undercurrent, and not just when Gertrude is out and about, but all around is a world so lushly pretty and fairy floss beaitful that you can well understand why other kids like perpetually-upbeat Joy and dragon-garbed Duncan find falling into Fairyland, initially at least, as such a giddy departure from their earthbound realities.

In other words, Fairyland may be dark and flawed and more than a little broken, but it’s also freaking delightful, colourful and blissfully eye-appealing and that makes all the darkly subversive, bleakly twisted moments work like a charm.

It’s clear that Young’s masterful approach has struck a chord with the first issue attracting a 8.6/10 from 21 critics at Comic Book Roundup and subsequent issues selling every bit as strongly, with the third collection of Gertrude’s viciously comical adventure out this last week.

Not everyone will want their fairytales with a side order of bile and a banquet of death and mayhem, but if you’re willing to play with convention, all while gloriously embracing it in a wry and amusing way, you’ll find a great deal to love and laugh about I Hate Fairyland, the tale of one little girl, a place that has more going on than meets the gaudiness-assaulted eye and which is the perfect balance between who we are, who it might be fun to be and that awkward place in the middle where most of us end up, like it or not.

 

(image courtesy Image Comics)

Ruinworld and the trouble that comes with stealing cursed chests

(artwork (c) Derek Laufman)

 

SNAPSHOT
RuinWorld is a fantasy adventure comic about treasure a couple of hunters that find themselves in a heap of trouble after stealing a cursed chest. (official synopsis via Ruinworld/Tapas)

If you’re ever tempted to steal a cursed chest in a land replete with fantasy and adventure, and some damn fine quirky art, then you might to think again.

Then again maybe not, if you’re treasure hunters Pogo and Rex and you want to be as entertaining as Canadian Derek Laufman, a resident of London, Ontario, Canada where he runs an independent game studio called Half-Bot, has made his thoroughly delightful webcomic, Ruinworld.

Pogo and Rex are an absolute delight, fully-formed and possessed of considerable whimsical personality which invests their story, which is 13 episodes old and available as a digital or physical collection, with a huge amount of fun, drama and idiosyncratic flair.

Ruinworld is a cut above your average webcomic, with the narrative, artwork and charactarisation at the top of its game.

It’s an absolute joy to read and it’s justifiably attracting some attention.

So dive on in, get on the road with Pogo and Rex and see where adventure, and Laufman’s gorgeous storytelling style, takes you.

 

(artwork (c) Derek Laufman)

 

(artwork (c) Derek Laufman)

 

Read more at Ruinworld.

Weekend pop art: Tim Burton comes to Game of Thrones

 

There’s a lot going on for the good (and bad) citizens of Westeros right now.

SPOILER ALERT! ONLY READ ON IF YOU’VE FINISHED SEASON 7 OF GAME OF THRONES

As HBO’s über-hit show heads into its final season, there are White Walkers surging through the ancient Wall that has protected Westeros for millenia, Tormund may be dead and all without consummating his love for Brienne of Tarth, Cersei is still plotting sociopathic revenge despite the fact she may not live to enjoy it, and Jon Snow aka Aegon Targaryen is getting a little too close to his aunt Daenerys who is down one dragon, an Iron Throne, and potentially, a kingdom full of living, breathing people.

Yep, it’s not looking good out there as winter comes a-calling with fury and vengeance, and so it’s entirely fitting that L.A.-based artist Andrew Tarusov has brought some dark Tim Burton-ness to the main figures from George R. R. Martin’s epic tale of power, greed and lust.

Lord knows they’re not exactly sipping margaritas at the beach right now so the look and feel of Tarusov’s artwork is absolutely spot on.

You can view more of his work on Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook if you’re so inclined and sponsor him on Patreon if you’re so inclined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comic book review: Giant Days

(cover art courtesy Boom! Studios)

 

Giant Days is one of those comics you fall in love with almost instantly.

To be honest, instantly.

How can you not? The three main characters – Esther de Groot, Susan Ptolemy and Daisy Wooton, all first year students at the University of Sheffield when the series opens – are a diverse delight, as different from each other as it’s possible to be, and yet close, firm friends, who would, and subsequently do, pretty much anything for each other.

The writer of Giant Days, John Allison (Bobbins, Scary Go Round) introduces the three protagonists of this whimsical yet emotional-grounded series with a pithy elegance that sums each of the new uni students up perfectly without pigeonholing them or reduce them to cardboard-thin stereotypes.

Daisy Wooton is easily the sweetest and most naive of the lot – homeschooled by her grandmother, she treats every new thing in her life from music festivals to her first kiss (with a girl no less, her reaction less revulsion that “Is that who I am? Maybe? OK I guess”) with adorable enthusiasm.

The two main artists,  Max Sarin and Lissa Treiman, who give these appealing ladies and many of the equally-compelling supporting characters, such rich, colourful, and yes cute visual life, invest each of Daisy’s thrilling life discoveries with eye-popping vivacity, literal stars appearing to surge right out of her large, owlish glasses.

Naive she might be but she’s not stupid, either scholastically or emotionally, the first one to race to help her close friends, who end up uni soulmates by dint of adjoining rooms in their dormitory.

Esther de Groot by contrast, rich girl soft-goth whose parents are paying her way through higher education, is a little more ditzy, more impetuous, more prone to leap first and work out if there is anyone or anything to catch her later.

She’s the one constantly falling in and out of love, coming perilously close to failing all her classes – at one point she goes to see a minister and joins the campus Christian group, not out of a need for religious awakening but simply to make up for loss studying time in her New Testament studies (she’s a literary major) – and finding the grim realities of life, such as when her parents turn off the financial tap afraid she is too pampered and too divorced from the vagaries of life, all a bit too much to handle at times.

In stark contrast, Susan Ptolemy is Miss Practical, except when she’s ignoring sleep and the principles of basic hygiene to get someone elected to the presidency of the student union, ruthlessly dismissive of other peoples’ feelings when it suits her but as good a friend as you could ask for, racing across Britain during one school holidays to save Esther from her own foolish, quick-witted decision-making.

 

(artwork courtesy Boom! Studios)

 

Not exactly three peas in a pod but then that’s what uni is about – finding people you would never have had the chance to know before that, finding out you do have lots in common and bonding fast, the better to survive the vicissitudes of uni life.

All the usual travails of growing up into early adulthood are on full, glorious comic display with Allison brilliantly exploring how absurd it can all be to commit to a particular line of study, which could come to define your entire early adult life and beyond, when you’re not even sure who you are exactly.

Take Daisy for instance.

Growing up in the sheltered world of home schooling, which was rich in knowledge but not so much in interpersonal life skills, she is surprised to find out she’s head over heels for the lovely, exotic Nadia who doesn’t realise the well-meaning curly-haired girl she’s showering so much attention on doesn’t see it friendship but love.

Or whatever the hell it is leads up to love.

Daisy doesn’t take well to finding out she’s been inadvertently friend-zoned by Nadia and begins to question if she’s gay; it’s all part and parcel of growing up, and the refreshing thing is that Allison doesn’t set limits on his characters, recognising that growing up is messy, full of leaps forwards, steps back, confused zigzags and a mix of a whole lot of stuff and nothing at all.

In other words, the business of being human, especially at the start of adulthood is not exactly a straightforward, linear track, nor is it as black-and-white as more conservative types would have you believe, with Susan assuring Daisy at one point, that she might be gay, she might be straight, she might be both, but she is, above all, Daisy.

 

(artwork courtesy Boom! Studios)

 

It’s this deeply-appealing mix of comic hilarity, which finds expression in fevered flu dreams and setting up home trips to IKEA, strange bus trips and excursions into bad student-level filmmaking, and gritty emotional resonance that make Giant Days such a rewarding pleasure to read.

One minute you’re laughing at the surreal nuttiness of the girls trying to divert a mud river from their tents at a characteristically bohemian music festival, and the next you’re crying with Susan as she splits from her longterm boyfriend or anguishing with Esther about whether uni is really for her.

This beautiful balance of emotional truisms and over the top comic gold is all underpinned by an insightfulness into the human condition that is always sympathetic, understanding and never judgemental.

Sure the three close friends make mistakes, big messy, all over the shop mistakes and pay for them but it’s all chalked up to the business of growing up, an appreciation that try as we might to get it right, we usually end up getting it wrong a lot before we figure out which way is up and which way is down.

Or, at least, come close to doing that that we don’t kill ourselves physically or emotionally getting through the day.

All this thoroughly enjoyable figuring out of adulthood is accompanied by gorgeous artwork that is Disney-level cute without once looking cloying or childish.

The artwork in fact, as noted earlier, goes a long way to drawing out the absurd silliness or searing life lessons of a story such as when a sick Esther thinks she was cured by some weird voodoo ceremony in someone’s room only to find she’d actually crashed a cheese and wine night.

Or the simply but brilliantly-effective slapstick of Susan sliding down a snowy hill which ends, as you might expect, in an inglorious but very funny, heap at the bottom of a hill.

The same artwork captures how sad things can get too, the perfect marriage of narrative and visuals that never wastes a frame, that draws as much from the words as it embellishes and enriches them.

Giant Days is an absolute joy to read – funny, heartfelt, witty, silly, profound and insightful in equal measure, an encouraging reminder that we’ll likely never gets things right, but that as long as we have good friends around us, and a willingness to lick our wounds, learn from our mistakes and be endlessly forgiving of ourselves, that we’ll survive life just fine.

Volumes 1 to 5 of Giant Days is currently available wth vol. 6 due for release on 24 October and vol. 7 on 27 March 2018. A Christmas-themed issue, based on modern festive film classic Love, Actually is due out in November.

 

(artwork courtesy Boom! Studios)

Life is hilariously bleak in O-Town: Rocko’s Modern Life in comics

Main cover (Illustration by Jorge Monlongo via io9 (c) Boom! Studios Kaboom!)

 

Fresh from news that ’90s animation stalwart, Rocko is coming back for a very modern TV special, where he has to contend with all the weirdass blessing and curses of modern life, comes the welcome announcement that the humorously well-intentional but life-inept wallaby from O-Town is being given a series of comics.

Premiering 6 December from Boom! Studios’ Kaboom! imprint, the series will be written “by Ryan Ferrier (Kong on the Planet of the Apes, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) [with] art by Ian McGinty (Adventure Time, Bravest Warrior) and backup stories by illustrators like KC Green (Invader Zim, that wonderful This is Fine dog), David DeGrand (SpongeBob Comics), and Tony Millionaire (Sock Monkey). (source: io9)

Refreshingly Rocko and his friends, Heffer (a steer), Filburt (a turtle) and the Bigheads (a pair of cane toads), won’t have changed all that much from their ’90s incarnations although there will be a modern twist to things and a little more introspection that an animated TV show allows, notes Ferrier and McGinty in a piece in The Los Angeles Times:

“The linchpin of the series is kind of how Rocko hasn’t really advanced much. That [sounds] very grim, but it’s also very funny too.

“In a comic you can kind of unpack characters’ motivations a little bit more than in a cartoon because a cartoon is so fast,” McGinty said. “‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ characters actually had weirdly complex personalities, and that’s what I’m looking forward to exploring a lot more.”

Given that approach it sounds like, sensibly, that the comics will mesh neatly with the 2018 reboot movie, the two working together to bring Rocko back to life in a thoroughly fun, clever, and yes of course, modern way.

 

Cover 2 (Bachan / Boom! Studios)

 

Variant cover (Nick Pitarra / Boom! Studios)

Get going! It’s time for Asterix and the Chariot Race

(artwork (c) Hachette)

 

Growing up, I was exposed, whether by design or accident – I suspect a mix of both – to a wide range of reading material from right across the globe.

The inclination to read this widely came from both my parents but particuarly my dad, borne of a belief that cut across from travel to food and beyond that you should explore fully and widely and take in everything life had to offer.

So it was that I ended up reading Tintin, Agaton Sax, the Moomins and of course, Asterix, along with the usual English-centric books like Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and so on.

My favourite, I think because it was so clever and just plain silly in equal measure was Asterix, originally written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo, which told the story of an rebellious village in Gaul (now France) that refused to bow down and be nice pliable Roman citizens.

Emboldened by a fighting spirit and a potion that gave them superhuman strength, Asterix, best pal Obelix and co. fought their way out and back into their indomitable village more times than I can count, always successfully, always hilariously and with a witty eye on history, geopolitics and a damn good pun.

 

(artwork (c) Hachette)

 

Unlike many other properties which finish when their creators pass away (or retire, Uderzo is still alive at age 90), Asterix has continued on, with its new team since 2013, writer Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrator Didier Conrad, working under the watchful eye of co-creator Uderzo and Gosciny’s daughter Anne, which is how, to my great delight, there is a new title due for release, Asterix and the Chariot Race, due for release on 19 October.

As the synopsis gleefully details, it appears that the heartland of the Roman Empire may have its own recalcitrant citizens, people right up the same alley as our eponymous hero:

“The year is 50 BC. Italy is entirely under Rome’s control, well, not entirely… Though Caesar dreams of a united Italy, the peninsula is made up of various fiercely independent regions.

“Yes – it turns out the inhabitants of Ancient Italy are not all Romans, much to Obelix’s dismay. The Italians want to keep their independence and take a dim view of Julius Caesar and his legions’ plans for total domination – and life isn’t easy for the garrisons of Roman legionaries charged with keeping an eye on them all!”

It’s book #37 in the long-running series – the first book, Asterix the Gaul, was published in 1961 – and the third by the new team and as Bleeding Cool, it’s set to be a smash hit, proof that Asterix is still as popular as ever.

“Welcome to the best-selling comic book of 2017, and it’s not out for months yet. The upcoming new Asterix comic book, Asterix And The Chariot Race, has just set its first print run of five million. That’s two million for the French, two million for the Germans, and one million for everybody else.

“With just its first printing, which sells out fast and goes to a second, lickety split, it is expected to be the biggest selling book of all in France and Germany and the UK in 2017, and certainly the best-selling comic in the world. And is likely to double that, if not more, with subsequent printings.”

Which is good because my inner Asterix-loving child is just as much in love with the mischievious Gaul and his friends as ever and can’t wait to read the new book!

Bring on October and please let there be enough copies left for Australia …

 

(artwork (c) Hachette)

Hamfam: A trippy porcine ride into a comic post-apocalyptic wasteland

Back from the dead! (artwork via Kickstarter (c) Hamfam)

 

SNAPSHOT
Hamfam – a 25 page digital comic set within a dark, dangerous wasteland – following the exploits of a surreal and quirky pig!

The World has ended, but the party has just begun!Hamfam is more than a pig, more than a place – it’s a way of life. ​ Hamfam, a humanoid pig with eyes in his nose – balances his public personna as a general within a dystopian heirachy, with the need to continuously party. He shares this self-imposed mission with best friends Xeno and Dred, with an ever growing following of misfits and deviants.

Happiness is a creator with an off-the-wall imagination, quirky outlook and a willingness to push various artistic envelopes and seeing which way they bend, and how much fun we all have in the process.

Even better when this person/people, say the British team behind comic Hamfam about a partying militaristic pig, get crazy creative with a familiar premise such as a near-dystopian future, and then throw in some hilarious offbeat characters and storylines that dare you to take them seriously.

That’s near-nirvana if you’re looking for something that’s so out of the box it’s likely orbiting Saturn and so you can understand why I think I’m in love with the idiosyncratic, madcap brio of Hamfam.

 

Get ready to rumble! (artwork via Kickstarter (c) Hamfam)

 

While the creators, who currently have a Kickstarter out and about to get some backing for their bold creation, don’t give much away, the better to whet our jaded pop culture appetites for something completely different, they have dropped these snippets:

• Hamfam must walk a fine line between his role of strict authoritarian, within The Don’s New Nation and his messiah-like following as head of resistance. ​

• A powerful artefact, which legend has it is the lost disc to the greatest game never released has been located. However acquiring it will require a series of ever complicating trades within the lawless Skyscraper Metropolis. ​

• The God’s of the Damaged Realm are un-happy with the small village of Hamfam. Its inhabitants must fight to instill moral apathy, so their debaucherous way of life may continue.

Think this is right up your alley of off-the-wallness porcine fun? Then you support Hamfam’s Kickstarter and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

And hope that if dystopia ever descends upon us, that it’s as clever and gloriously silly as Hamfam’s beguilingly strange world.

 

Dark Ark: Noah wasn’t the only one saving the condemned beasts of the earth

(cover art (c) Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe / AfterShock Comics)

 

One of my favourite things in this postmodern pop culture world of ours is when someone of great imagination takes a well-known and well-loved story and inverts and subverts it to an entirely new end.

Apart from the fact that it’s a cleverly creative thing to do, it offers a whole new way of looking at the story from which it is drawn which can be a very good thing when a story has become so much a part of the collective consciousness.

Take Noah’s Ark for one.

Many of us will be familiar with the epic Biblical tale of the earth, wicked and mired in sin so we are told, being subsumed by a worldwide flood which kills off everyone and everything save for God’s own anointed Noah, his family and two of every animal, bird and all manner of living thing.

It’s a grandly romantic tale, with some fairly dark vengeful edges to it which has been retold over and over down the millenia.

 

(artwork (c) Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe / AfterShock Comics)

 

Now writer Cullen Bunn and illustrator Juan Doe have combined to tell the story of Shrae, an ex-sorcerer who takes up the dark arts again when he’s offered salvation by sinister forces if he will create an anti-ark of ghoulish supernatural creatures such as vampires, manticores, goblins, werewolves, giants, dragons, ghouls, naga, and yes, even unicorns, who are none too happy about being on what they consider to be the wrong ark.

No doubt there will be those who see this as some kind of sacrilege, and even Cullen admits he channelled the “‘sick and twisted’ elements of my personality” into writing the story, but it’s an audacious, clever way of putting a whole new slant on a story which many scientists believe was inspired by an ancient catastrophic movement of water between the Mediterranean and Black Seas 9400 years ago, but it looks a very cool well-executed idea, steeped in fantasy and a recognition that the world is far more complex than simple morality tales of old.

Just don’t ask your favourite unicorn what they think because odds are they won’t like it. The rest of us? There’s a very good chance we’ll thoroughly enjoy this dark mirror take on a tale almost as old as time.

You can read an interview with Cullen Bunn at Newsarama.

Stuck for an answer? You should Ask a Cat

(image (c) Charles Brubaker)

 

As a cat person of longstanding, I am firmly of the opinion that cats are the font of all wisdom and sociability. (Contrary to popular opinion, cats, well at least the cats I’ve owned, have been quite happy to spend quality time with their favourite feeders, I mean humans).

Charles Brubaker, who has been drawing the adorable, insightful web comic Ask a Cat since 2015, is clearly of the same mind, his strips beautifully conveying how cats, and yes dogs (he is happy to let them share the pet-oriented limelight at times), enrich our lives in all kinds of ways.

Using a Q & A advice column format, where a curious person writes in and the cat answers in an appealingly humourous way, Ask a Cat covers everything we love about cats – their aloofness, their evening crazies which stop as suddenly as they start, their propensity to lie across the very thing you need to watch/read/use, and most importantly, their willingness to snuggle up to you and make everything seem a whole lot better.

So popular are Ask a Cat‘s gently hilarious musings that it’s now gone from digital to good old analogue print, where it will no doubt continue to delight cat lovers and maybe even convert some dog lovers over to the idea that some purring and paw-kneading are just what the relaxation doctor ordered.

(source: Bleeding Cool)

 

(comic (c) Charles Brubaker / GoComics)

 

(comic (c) Charles Brubaker / GoComics)

 

A beguiling universe: Dive into the mystery and wonder of The Constellation Chronicle

(cover art courtesy Emma Egan)

 

SNAPSHOT
After a research team tasked with mapping the outer system goes missing and a strange artefact is recovered, the star system of La Sillia is plunged into a series of conflicts and struggles as they attempt to forge a new destiny amongst the stars. This sci-fi epic follows key figures from an alliance of planets as they come to terms with what it means to gain what you want and lose everything you love.

The Constellation Chronicle, the impressively ambitious, artistically-rich and narratively-engrossing new webcomic series from the mysteriously-named team Emevsa – reflecting the first names of its creators Emi, SJ and Evie – is everything you could ask for from a sprawling space opera.

Telling stories that cross intergalactic space and dive in and out of multiple dimensions, it’s an intelligent, funny and insightful look at the many ways people grapple with the burden of responsibility as life progresses, and how this struggle brings with it both triumph and misfortune.

It’s the story of life really, and it’s realised with rich, immersive artwork, a narrative that slips between the everyday and the mystical with ease, and some snappy dialogue that brings the interactions between the various characters to engaging life.

As an inveterate consumer of science fiction generally, and space operas such as those by Peter F Hamilton in particular, my standards are pretty high when it comes to sprawling, grandiose sci-fi epics set in a galaxy from our own.

They must be expansively imaginative but also rooted in every day concerns and realities; they don’t have to be human concerns necessarily as long as they have some ring of authenticity about them. I need to care about these people, regardless of whether they are rocketing about space in sleek, silver spaceships or hauling goods across a desert planet to meet a subsistence existence.

In pretty much every respect, The Constellation Chronicle meets these expectations and surpasses them, delivering up a clever, engaging excursion into the deepest reaches of space, the supernatural and the human psyche (with some wry good humour thrown in for good measure).

 

Page 1 (artwork courtesy Emma Egan)

 

The series also meets one of the key requirements for any story, something that big Hollywood blockbusters often forget to their peril, which is memorable, fully-fleshed out characters.

It honestly doesn’t matter how good a narrative is, or how many captivating, thrilling twists and turns it has, if it fails to draw its momentum and life from the characters themselves.

Throw in all the plot points you want but if the characters are inert, featureless tropes, it will begin to look like so many rollercoaster thrills and not much else.

The Constellation Chronicle, pretty much from the get-go, delivers up characters that make sense – their concerns are real, their personalities clearly evident, with the dynamics between them going a long way to power a story that is as much angst-ridden and real, in the best possible way, as it is mysterious and engrossing.

So without further ado, and a fair degree of fanfare (there’s royalty involved, after all), here are some of the people who make this comic series such a compelling piece of storytelling. (Being a grand and epic space opera, these characters are just some of the engaging people you’ll quickly want to spend as much time with as possible.)

George – The Prince of Roses
The heir to the Throne of the Alliance, Prince George Van Hohestaufen is universally beloved about the court. Many have great expectations upon his father’s retirement, hailing that he will lead them to an even brighter future. If only George would allow himself to believe them.

Gabe – The Prince of Thorns
Gabriel was born heir-apparent to Lord and Lady Ven Morganstern during the coldest winter ever recorded on the Planet, Eurybia. Groomed to outwit the game that is court politics, he became both hated and admired, detested and desired, the very embodiment of contradicting ideals. You’ll never know what his true motives are but he’ll be sure to let you think you do.

Johan – The carefree Duke
Having lived amongst the shadows of the court throughout his childhood, Johan had little a care about the goings-on of the Van Hohenstaufen family. It was not until his father was brought back into the fold upon his brother, Marcello Van Hohenstaufen’s coronation as King, was Johan forced to begin taking his responsibility as a nobleman within the higher court more seriously; not that he does.

Amelia – Daughter of the Amos
Princess Amelia Mercurio Ganymedea is an intimidating figure amongst the court on her planet. Surviving a near fatal fall to the bottom of the thundering chasm of the Amos waterfall, Amelia was rebuilt, leaving her detached from those she dearly loved. Despite her stern appearance, she commands fierce loyalty from her supporters, her strong sense of duty having helped guide the planet Ganymede into an age of prosperity.

Meris – The pragmatic Charbydian
With a high level of commitment and success, Meris has risen through the ranks of Charybdis’s military, becoming the Captain of the First Legion. With the fall of the monarchy and the introduction of the military council, Meris’ rise demonstrated that anyone could ascend to greatness through hard work, actively rebuilding her society, instead of simply living in it. Despite her outward patriotism, Meris is pragmatic at heart; ensuring that regardless of the situation she, and those she is loyal to, will always remain ahead.

Ava – The last monarch of Galene
Galene is falling, its population decimated by disease, the ruling class swallowed by the earth, now trapped in ice. In spite of her status as the last monarch, Ava has little left to rule. In spite of this, Ava knows all civilisations fall only to rise again, even brighter than before.

 

Page 2 (artwork courtesy Emma Egan)

 

So what’s the cost for all this creative goodness, these rich characters and this captivating storyline?

Nothing amazingly.

However, you can help fund this amazing labour of love by becoming a Patreon supporter of illustrator and colourist Emi, full-time writer and aspiring fantasy novelist SJ and political scientist-to be and writer of rich, original stories Evie, helping them in the process to bring more adventures alive in The Constellation Chronicles universe.

Patreon is a cool idea, allowing consumers of pop culture such as yours truly, to directly fund the work of people they admire, ensuring that the creators get to keep doing what they do so well and we, eager pop culture consumers, can continue to immerse ourselves in it.

The team behind The Constellation Chronicle are clearly aiming to make the most of it if this statement on their Patreon page is any guide:

“We want to really bring you quality content as we expand the La Sillia universe. The Emevsa team already has a plethora of stories, art and resources planned and we want to share our progress with you, the community, by offering them as extras. We need the support to help us deliver them. This is also the platform on which we want to develop and foster a positive community with you, our patrons – with your support, we can take the time needed for extra artwork, podcasts, speed drawings and more so that we can grow this story and a sense of creativity with as many people as we can!”

So win, win all around … and in another galaxy no less.

And of course, make sure you follow this intrepid team on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr where every step of their star-studded excursion into the intriguing world of La Silla will be on beguiling display for your viewing pleasure.

 

More of the rich, beautifully-rendered artwork that, along with first-class writing and a gripping narrative, make this such a compelling read (artwork courtesy Emma Egan)