Hot on the heels of its launch at Thought Bubble this past weekend, Cicadian Rhythms is a brand new 13-page one-shot from Madius Comics and tells the story of Gytha, a sword-wielding ass-kicker tasked with dealing with the regular (well, every few thousand years or so) “Emergence” of swarms of Dragons.
Actually, despite being the central figure of the story, we don’t actually find out much about Gytha at all, aside from the aforementioned ass-kicking and Dragon-slaying. For my money though, this approach actually helps the delivery of the story, particularly given the relative constraints of the limited page count. Sure the back-story is there, but it’s delivered as a running commentary alongside an eye-popping double-paged action spread, making it fairly obvious which of these two aspects is being favoured more.
The writing partnership of Mike Sambrook and Robin Jones have cooked up an intriguing premise (Dragons as insect-like swarms that ‘hatch’ periodically to lay waste to humanity) and managed to deliver it without drowning it in unnecessary nonsense and unwanted backstory. Gytha shows up every “Emergence”, kicks ass, takes names, then disappears until the next time. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, and the bulk of the storyline enjoyment here actually comes from the bewildered tavern-dwellers who end up fighting alongside her in order to save their skins.
One thing that isn’t simple however is the artwork, provided here by one of my new favourites, Gustaffo Vargas. Vargas snatched my attention with his wildly creative work on his self-published one-shot L1MA (which also launched at Thought Bubble), and I’m happy to report that his artwork is every bit as vibrant, energetic and downright crazy here. Yes, some of the detail gets a little lost in the black and white style, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a full-colour version somewhere down the line, but in terms of in-your-face, eye-catching fantasy insanity, Vargas is clearly in his element here.
My one minor niggle is that some of the humour, frequently the hallmark of Madius Comics, feels a little jarring alongside what is a fairly serious fantasy story. This is more Papercuts and Inkstains than the King’s Leap or Ake’s Trial, and while the occasional gag along the way is always good for business, I felt it kind of diminished the Gytha’s powerful aura to have her delivering cheap gags. That’s probably more of a personal preference thing though, and for a book which feels like a classic ‘80s heavy metal album turned all the way up to eleven, a little irreverence is probably par for the course.
Sambrones deliver a nice little sting in the final pages, hopefully setting things up for a longer series down the line (a series I’d pretty much automatically buy, for the record), and ending their latest enthusiastic foray into the fantasy genre with a smile. At thirteen pages it’s definitely going to leave you wanting more, and whether or not you consider that a good or bad thing, there’s definitely a lot to like here if you’re a fan of ass-kicking women with swords and wild, energetic artwork.