SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS, ISSUE #1
Writer: Jon Tsuei Art: Audrey Mok Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An Asian/Middle-Eastern adventure story filled with magic and mysticism.
I got a kind of Final Fantasy VI vibe from it, but the story carries a lot of the hallmarks of classic epic adventure fiction.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Sera is the princess of Parsa, a country at war with Sera's uncle and his forces.
Like her late mother, Sera has mysterious visions where the god, Mitra speaks to her.
Sera is tasked with freeing the stars, or a terrible fate will befall her people and her family. What this means or how she can accomplish it is a mystery. Sera is given a mystical power and sent on a journey with few leads.
But she must do as she is commanded, discovering her next step as she takes it. On her way, there will be danger and deities of immense power, but also a grand adventure. Can Sera succeed where her mother failed? And can her country survive without her guidance as they fight off the enemy forces?
Sera and the Royal Stars features Middle-Eastern characters, and the protagonist is a woman. Not only is it a massive score for spotlighting under-represented people in comics, but the location and in-universe mythos feel novel without being exploitative.
As our main character, Sera is instantly likable. Writer Jon Tsuei pens a character who's strong, and doesn't put up with anyone's nonsense, even if they're a god. Sera in particular has a comical, endearing moment that's just a tiny panel in the middle of the issue that I absolutely loved. She and her sister are the strongest characters in the book so far, which is a delight to see.
Audrey Mok brings so much talent to the page, able to represent lush indoor environments, detailed landscapes like below, a cosmic astral plane, and dreamy, character-driven scenes that feel plucked right out of classic adventure stories.
There are definite manga and anime influences to the art, and these help to convey emotion and urgency in a way that's easily telegraphic to readers.
Raúl Angulo's color work is brilliant and mercurial, ever shifting in a way that will leave you enchanted. Environments have a painted appearance to them (see below for an example) and other scenes looks as if they're filled with magic, moody light and glowing stars.
As you may expect from every Vault title, Tim Daniel's design work is absolutely gorgeous.
Jim Campbell is on letters, so you know it'll be good. His tails attach the the front of the balloons, as you can see below. It gives them an almost 3-dimensional texture. But typical to Campbell's style, his location typefaces show the most personality – it's always a delight seeing how he'll match the book's personality with these.
Tsuei also mentioned that one of the songs he writes to when creating this story is "Terra's Theme" from Final Fantasy VI. Fans of the series will definitely pick up on a tone familiar to the game. (Also, I'm listening to it as I write this.)
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
I want to read all the issues right now, and I can't.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Gods, magic, destiny, and war. A strong and nuanced female protagonist and an epic adventure ahead of her. Fresh characters with fresh stories, told by talented voices.
There's no excuse to not read Sera and the Royal Stars. If you're an epic fantasy fan and it's not on your pull list, you're doing yourself a disservice.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
RunLoveKill, Vol. 1 by Jon Tsuei & Eric Canete
Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
Heathen by Natasha Alterici & Rachel Deering
If you like the art:
Heroine Chic by David Tischman & Audrey Mok
Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Jordie Bellaire & Dan Mora
KNIGHT: The Wandering Stars #0 by The Starlight City Project & Skill3 Studio
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Jon Tsuei – Writer
"His first widely distributed published comic book work was for the Tori Amos-inspired anthology Comic Book Tattoo" (taken from his bio on the Image website)
Dream Team: Seems to work very closely with Audrey Mok on the story and its pacing, and you can definitely see that trust and cooperation in its pages
Audrey Mok – Illustrator
Outlander: She's based in Hong Kong
Often seems to incorporate blank space into her art that almost brings a sense of loneliness or solitude to her characters
Raúl Angulo – Colorist
Also does color work for BOOM! Studios comics
Jim Campbell – Letterer
Outlander: Hails from the United Kingdom
Multitalented: Also enjoys the art side of the creative world
Prolific: Has done lettering for a large number of hit titles
Adrian F. Wassel – Editor
Name Recognition: Is the CCO & Editor In Chief of Vault Comics, and plays the role of editor on most, if not all, of Vault's titles
Also runs Vault with his brother and father
Has personally helped other comics creators, like Eric Palicki, in their endeavors
Tim Daniel – Designer
Multitalented: Also was the writer on Fissure
Inspired by others in the business: Sonia Harris, Sean Phillips, and Fonographics
Dream Team: Co-wrote Curse and Burning Fields with Michael Moreci
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Issue #1 drops July 17th.
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