Writer/Artist: Sarah Millman
For our first instalment of ‘Comichaus Corner’ – a brand new weekly feature where we review some of the most interesting self-published books available via the Comichaus App – we’ve decided to take a look at Sarah Millman’s NPC Tea.
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The series is based around ‘Y Draig’, a failing tea shop in modern day Cardiff. However, while all the trappings of modern day life are present here, this is a world where Orcs, Elves and Humans live together in (relative) harmony. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, the fusing of fantasy and modern genres isn’t exactly a revolutionary concept, but rarely have I seen it executed with such an infectious charm as it is here.
Millman, who is perhaps previously best known for her ‘Heart of Time’ webcomic (which is ace, by the way), spends the first few pages of the issue introducing us to the status quo of the world she has created. We learn about the different races and the war which united them, as well as the history of the “summoners” and the elemental spirits – the Adeia – that they used as weapons to fight on their behalf. It’s perhaps a bit of an unwieldy exposition dump right off the bat, but doing it in the form of a school lesson works relatively well, while also serving to introduce us to young Hannah Nayar, our chief protagonist.
Hannah’s an instantly likeable lead, and the way she innocently undermines her increasingly frustrated and out-of-her-depth school teacher is bound to raise a smile. Hannah isn’t the only interesting character we meet along the though, with Millman also introducing us to the staff of the aforementioned tea shop, Oz and Byrn, the latter of whom seems to be solely responsible for the shop being the least successful in Cardiff (don’t order a “breakfast tea” if you know what’s good for you).
Millman does a great job of making each of the three main characters stand out, introducing us to their innate quirks in an incredibly efficient manner. The artwork and character designs and are also top-notch, with soft lines and expressive faces aplenty. The visual side of the book is also buoyed immensely by Millman’s colour work, with different colours being used to separate the two threads of the story – pale pink for Hannah and pale blue for the tea shop.
While it’s predominately concerned with establishing the world and the lead characters, this first issue still manages to do enough for the reader to become drawn into the story, with an intriguing mystery being introduced in the latter pages (Bryn, it seems, has a bit of a secret), and an exciting cliff-hanger to round things out. It’s all handled with a gentle, easy-going charm, with the story beats being delivered in a relaxed, threat-free manner. Quite whether that will continue in the issues to come remains to be seen, but as an enjoyable scene-setter, this first issue most certainly delivers.
Ultimately then, while it’s definitely exposition-heavy, the charm of the artwork and the likeability of the leads makes this a truly enjoyable read. And with the first three issues of the series available right now on the Comichaus app, there’s more than enough content to make it a worthwhile investment of time. So grab yourself a cuppa (just not breakfast tea, yeah?), make yourself comfortable and give this one a try. You won’t regret it.