Opening like any self-respecting fantasy story with a ‘once upon a time’, we meet the frog knight Sir Thornberry XVI, and I can already tell that I’m going to really enjoy this new AfterShock Comics series.
Milos Slavkovic’s art is wonderfully reminiscent of the illustrations in the hard back collections I cherished as a child, capturing a real sense of the wondrous in what could (somewhat unhelpfully) be summed up as a magic lamp-post guarded by a frog. The repetition in the visuals that manage to depict the passing of time manage to deliver so much in just one page. Overlaid, we have an unnamed narrator, one suspects may be Oberon himself, delivering tales of whimsy that ends dripping with malice. Never trust a faerie…
From this corking opening page, we flit from the fantastical to the ‘mundane’ streets of San Francisco and the young, gifted Bonnie; the child for whom Oberon seeks to weaponise in his desire to reclaim his throne. We see her somewhat unconventional upbringing and are given enough back story to elicit the start of an emotional connection with these characters. Home-schooled by pushy-but-protective parents, an uninterested sister, no friends save for a librarian, and an innocence that doesn’t feel forced or contrived. An odd encounter leads to the expected grand introduction of Oberon which, unfortunately, seemed to just miss the mark just a little. For the fallen King of the Faeries, I felt that his overall appearance ended up slightly more demonic than fae or ethereal; perfectly showing his dark nature, however.
Following a bit of tricksy magic we journey again to the fantastic realms, and Slavkovic’s work shines through again with muted colours and cavorting creatures; the unicorns are a particular favourite! The supernatural elements are what really work in this initial issue and whilst there isn’t anything wrong with the comparatively hum drum of modern life, I’m hoping that the team focus more on the magical, really pushing the boat out on the dark creeping threat underlying this fairy-tale. As I say, the characterisations are nice, with Bonnie, crucially, being likeable and Oberon’s silver tongue being almost as I had imagined.
Having enjoyed Parrott’s writing in Volition, and possessing something of a fondness for fairy-tales, I’ve been very keen to see how they’d tackle this twisted fantasy. On the whole, pretty darned well. Reading it over a second time, there’s an impressive amount crammed into these twenty-something pages of story, with the promise of much more to come. I felt there wasn’t the blending of the real and unreal that I expected but that’s a gripe on personal taste that definitely shouldn’t put you off. From a cracking start to a strong finish that has more than piqued my interest for issue #2, if a modern spin on dark fantasy is your thing you won’t go wrong here.
[UNLETTERED PREVIEW ARTWORK]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster