Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Isaac Mogajane
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Release Date: 16th March 2022
The first issue of this African dystopian – or post-apocalyptic future – comic flew under my radar. Given the opportunity to jump on board from the second issue though, I can’t see how I missed it. Luscious artwork throughout and some fresh life breathed into a fairly common genre does a good job of setting this apart.
The quick, but blunt, catch-up summary is that Naledi, an albino, has just lost their mother and the only person in their lives. Accompanied by a ‘pet’ magical plant, they have embarked on a holy quest from their ancestors to the find the eponymous Land of the Living Gods and restore life to the dying world. This is a lovely blend of future and fantasy, tech and magic, set far from the traditional ‘Western’-centric locale.
Introducing themselves as Kaelo, we find out that the stranger who captured Naledi at the end of the last issue is looking to sell them on to Abathakathi, or witches, for a tidy sum; apparently, they’ll pay handsomely for an albino. For all the clean, warm artwork, this story deals with more than its fair share of darkness and it’s very interesting to see these themes embraced in such a manner. Coupled with the introduction of Kaelo, we encounter the town of Serepa and the ruthless gangs and overlord ruling with might and mysticism. The world building is well delivered, combining exposition on the history with a switching perspective that keeps things feeling fresh. There’s perhaps not a huge drive forward in terms of plot, but the groundwork is well laid.
I mentioned the luscious artwork, and whilst I’m not overly familiar with Santtos’ work, I’m enjoying what’s on offer here. The characters are distinct and bursting with flavour, and the switch in styles from detailed backgrounds to minimalism during the early ritual is done without missing a beat. The same is true of the ‘flashback’ or storytelling panels, showing off yet more variation but still in keeping with the tone of the comic.
Mogajane’s writing has a storytelling vibe with some rough edges and oratory embellishments. Whilst the African roots are clearly on display throughout, the core elements of the story, that of the heroic quest, are universal and this is a refreshing blend of new and familiar. That said, as much as I’m a big fan of the world building and effort overall here, I have to say that I found the translation text boxes a bit jarring. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not averse to the use of the varied language and slang terms – indeed they go a long way to cement the setting and give greater depth of understanding to the diversity of the people shown – I’m just not sold on the way the translation is delivered. In most cases the meaning is clear anyway so I wonder if, page limit concerns aside, a glossary of sorts might have disrupted the flow less? Ultimately that’s a personal preference tough, and not a slight on Sharpe’s letters or all the good stuff contained within.
Well worth the price of admission for the world building alone, there’s an engaging story in here that will no doubt have many following along with Naledi on their quest.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster