THE LIFE OF NILL
Writer: Jamie Boyle
Illustrator: Helen Boyle Publisher: Blue Bolt Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A journey into darkness that fits firmly into the "hopepunk" genre.
It's like if Beauty and the Beast were a stageplay with no human characters and some JRPG elements. Or a strange lovechild between Miyazaki and a tragic, apocalyptic film, like The Road or Children of Men.
As of right now, it's at 80 pages, if you include the interim page.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Two candles, Nill and Lueb, are messengers used to traveling between their city and others, journeying through the darkness.
Tired of the city life and its trappings, and wondering what’s beyond her home's light, Lueb wants more. She tells her tall friend, Nill, that while the darkness may be scary, it also hides all sorts of interesting things.
A natural rule-follower, Nill isn't swayed. He's comfortable and safe inside the light of the city. It doesn't help that when you leave your city to travel in the darkness when you're not supposed to, you have to burn your own wick to light your way. And there's no replacement wick. Many other candles have lost their way, never to be seen again.
But the call to adventure may be too strong for these candles. What will they find in the darkness? Will they discover a new land? Or is there only danger hidden in the shadows?
Not knowing what to expect from Jamie Boyle's writing or the story in general, I was surprised, even bewildered, by how much the story effected me
Because Jamie & Helen are siblings, they work really well together
The fact that it's just the two of them doing everything also brings a sense of cohesion, like everything is working in sync
For a great example of this, check out the image below: Helen's art shows the conversation, makes room for a lot of dialogue, and slowly, cinematically pushes in on Lueb's face while Jamie's lettering uses the background and Helen's panel layout to find solutions for tricky angles
Related to the previous bullet, Helen's visual storytelling abilities are on par with those of seasoned illustrators
The way she uses panel layout and design and perspective is highly effective and creates a tone for the story
It's cool seeing how different types of candles, from large ones in glass jars, to little tea lights, are anthropomorphized
Also fun to see with any comic where people have been working on it for years, usually as their first comic, is watching them define their skills, or style, or voice – something we definitely get to see in here
Because it's a webcomic, it's free!
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Don't think this is some lighthearted adventure!
Folks just wanting a nice bedtime story for their kids may be surprised by The Life of Nill's depth of emotion
The story can take a few pages to really get the ball rolling, but trust me, it's worth it
It seems like it's still early on in the story, and I can't really tell where it's going, which I'd say is a plus, since it's not predictable
I may have missed it, but I don't think we learn Lueb is female until page 27
That being said, it doesn't have much bearing on the story – it's just surprising if your starting position for non-human characters is "male"
An extra space here or there could be cleaned up, but the rest of the story is clean from misspellings or grammatical errors
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The Life of Nill is a novel take on the hero's journey from the point of view of a reluctant candle. The world-building and depth of emotion alone are reason enough to check it out. But, if you want my personal opinion? The Life of Nill is absolutely a must-read webcomic.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Mouse Guard by David Petersen & Becky Cloonan
WE3 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
Isola by Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher
If you like the art:
Fearscape by Ryan O'Sullivan & Andrea Mutti
Finality by Warren Ellis & Colleen Doran
Maus by Art Spiegelman
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Jamie Boyle – Writer, Letterer
Dream Team: Worked on this comic together with his sister, Helen
New Face: This is his and Helen's first comic!
Helen Boyle – Illustrator, Colorist
She and Jamie have been working on this comic for nearly 4 years while also holding down full-time jobs
Outlander: They both live in Scotland
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Click one of these:
Read it for free here.
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