SANTA FAE, ISSUE #1
Writer: L.A. Chavez
Illustrator: Kal Huset
Publisher: Wicked Suit Productions
WHAT IS IT?
A crime-noir-inspired story where humans no longer exist and an elf duo tries to solve a magical murder.
Santa Fae #1 is a Batman-like detective comic set in the fantasy vein of Lord of the Rings.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
During the Great War, magical races took command of the planet and sent humans to find another life amidst the stars in space. Magic-wielding elves stepped up into leadership roles, but four-hundred years has changed the hierarchy. While some elves like Royal Knight member Sherry retained the privilege of magic, half the elf population lost touch with their roots or found their magic and immortality forcefully taken away. Restless and angry, elves without power find strength in possessing old human weapons.
After the Great War, The illustrious Santa Fae was built, home of the most powerful elves. When the head elf of House Thril, Sherry's old home, is murdered, her police chief sends Sherry and her partner Mort to investigate the gruesome crime. Meanwhile, there's a weapons war growing in the underbelly of the seemingly prosperous city of Santa Fae. Sherry must return to her exiled house and deal with a murder – and the trauma of a past death.
Will Sherry and Mort find out the meaning behind the rapid production of new guns left behind by humans? Are these weapons connected to the murder case?
L.A. Chavez builds a sensible fantasy world with a uniquely crafted magic system. The story explores facets of this magical universe, but his plot is rooted in the real repercussions of war, trauma, and privilege.
Kal Huset's art encapsulates the grittiness involved in the underground arms trade with thick linework. Huset forgoes extravagant background detail in his panels, bringing the heightened emotion of the characters to the forefront.
Huset's bleeding red and blue coloring perfectly breathes a crime noir atmosphere into Santa Fae #1. Alternatively, Huset's lively, smooth colors added to the bulk of the city of Santa Fae juxtapose the stark class difference.
For lettering, Huset employs a solid delivery of big, rounded letters that enforces the fantasy structure of the comic.
Chavez strikes a balance between exposition and letting events unfold naturally throughout. Several choice words and Huset's emotive character designs gently foreshadow future plot points, making the eventual explanations genuinely surprising.
The single splash page depicting the enormity of Santa Fae's dragon chief is guaranteed to make readers fall in love with Chavez and Huset's innovation.
For a comic packed with high-brow themes, how people cope with grief, and the consequences of oppression, Chavez inserts lovely comedic moments. When Mort banters with the dragon chief over a mundane matter, you can feel Chavez's humorous personality inserted onto the page.
Framing the narrative mainly from Sherry's point of view eliminates reader dissonance, as readers can peek into the interior thought hidden beneath her badass, hardened exterior.
The magic illustrations in Santa Fae #1 are show-stopping. The galvanizing white glow and gossamer blue ambiance of magic use make the images nearly float off the page.
Huset deserves high accolades for his tonally-adjacent illustrations and remarkable take on the elves, dwarves, and dragons' character designs.
I enjoy the sequence where magical creatures merely live life in Santa Fae. It shows the disconnect between the working class and the rich, but also how the less privileged appear satisfied with their small-scale way of life.
Character relationships are vital in storytelling. Chavez nails the character work with Sherry and Mort, establishing their loyal friendship with affection.
Diversity is clear, even in this fantasy world. Chavez uses eloquent dialogue to convey themes like immigration, cultural identity, and personhood.
Joulie illustrates the bonus story, and her loose-line art style is sweet. This story gives a "history lesson" that constructively supplements the comic.
The world of Santa Fae #1 contains a clear magic system that readers won't have to struggle to understand.
Buff ladies were promised in the teasers for this comic, and the creative team delivered!
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The lettering sizes in speech balloons vary a lot, often without significance, throughout.
Similarly, some of the dialogue is nearly cut off by the speech balloon in several instances.
The sequence with the dragon chief is revelatory, but there's a lot of dialogue squeezed onto only a few pages. Some of the dialogue could have been divided up more congruously in an additional scene with dialogue between just Mort and Sherry.
Although the dark purple that denotes Sherry's voice in the dialogue boxes is evocative of her character, the color tone is so dark that the lettering almost struggles to stand out for readability.
Content Warning: Death and evident violence are depicted, but it's not so graphic that you will lose your lunch.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Even though Santa Fae #1 is inherently a dark and tragic noir-fantasy story, it's incredibly immersive. You feel like you're watching a buddy cop, crime procedural one moment, and then you're suddenly mesmerized as Sherry summons unstoppable magic. Laced with mild humor, the crime drama and fantasy genres are swirled into a thrilling, cohesive blue ball of magical realism in this comic.
Most magic systems in fantasy narratives never truly make sense and can become extremely convoluted. Thankfully, Santa Fae #1 explicitly explains and visually shows how the magic in this human-less world works.
Huset's artwork is as enchanting as Chavez's intricately-crafted world in Santa Fae #1. You'll be instantly lured in by the murder mystery, bone-eating villain, and tear-jerking relationship between Mort and Sherry. Also, there's a buff woman who can summon fire. Read for the buff woman.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Frontier-0 by L.A. Chavez & Diego Llorente
Ruination by Ryan Bis & Giulia Lalli
The O.Z. by David Pepose & Ruben Rojas
If you like the art:
By the Horns by Markisan Naso & Jason Muhr
Engineward by George Mann & Joe Eisma
The First Calendar Vol. 1 by Levi Snyder & Zeno Colangelo
ABOUT THE CREATORS
L.A. Chavez – Writer (@lachwriter)
L.A. Chavez is the founder of Wicked Suit Productions.
New Face: His first comic project was Frontier-O, a self-funded space opera comic with an animated pilot. Santa Fae #1 is his most recently funded Kickstarter comic. Support his upcoming Kickstarter for his new grounded science-fiction story, The Preserve, complete with monster hunting and sports!
When not writing, Chavez enjoys reading, cooking, and talking with his friends online.
Kal Huset – Illustrator, Colorist, & Letterer (@Kalhuset)
Multitalented: An up and coming comic book artist, Kal is proving his talents with his multi-faceted work as the artist, colorist, and letterer of Santa Fae.
He is a fan of all things superhero, sci-fi, and comics. When he's not drawing he's spending time with his children and wife.
New Face: He's producing his own comic book called Sparrow 10 years in the making through his own media company, Husetarts.
Joulie I – Bonus Story Illustrator (@luunabao)
Joulie is the bonus story artist for Santa Fae and aspires to be a comic book artist.
Mostly, she enjoys drawing pretty girls and spends most of her time playing Animal Crossing.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Santa Fae characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright L.A. Chavez or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED