Writer: Jon Tsuei Art: Audrey Mok Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An Asian/Middle-Eastern high fantasy story filled with magic and mysticism.
I got a kind of Final Fantasy vibe from it, but the story carries a lot of the hallmarks of classic epic adventure fiction.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
(Minor Spoilers for past issues)
Princess of Parsa, Sera, has been sent on an epic quest to save the "Royal Stars."
Not knowing what "Royal Stars" are or how to save them, Sera follows the one lead she has and meets a mysterious power, named Aldebaran (pictured here, on the cover).
But before Sera can get the clarity she needs, she and Aldebaran are beset by monstrous creatures. Can the two make short work of their new enemies and devise a plan to save the rest of the Royal Stars?
It'd probably be a very short series if they couldn't!
Audrey Mok's cover for this issue is phenomenal. Not only does it evoke classic fantasy movie posters and book covers, it also rewards perceptive readers with an image of Sera. Don't see her? Look harder...
Aldebaran's opening speech is legendarily badass (sorry for the cuss), but it also serves to tell the reader (and Sera) how old and powerful he is.
Jon Tsuei's characterizations are some of the best in comics. Each character is distinct and likable and intensely endearing in different ways. The one that stuck with me, personally, may have been either Tsuei or artist, Audrey Mok's, choice since it was shown to us in the art and perfect panel pacing rather than through the dialogue. I'm sure you'll know it when you see it.
Audrey Mok also plays a huge role in making the characters endearing. For example, even though Aldebaran has a large, flowing beard (as shown in the images in this review), you can still tell when he's smiling. While Sera and the Royal Stars can be that epic fantasy book with large battles and gorgeous landscapes (and Mok is crazy talented at bringing those to life), it's the little things, like the lines around a characters' eyes to show their jubilance, that make me fall in love with this title even more.
I keep wanting to compare Sera and the Royal Stars to video game RPGs, possibly because that's the bulk of my experience with epic fantasy. This issue reminds me most of the Dragon Age games and their enjoyable interactions between characters. Sera is this force of nature who's not about to put up with any crap from anyone, gods included. Seeing her interact with Aldebaran, this spry, kindly-yet-clever old man character, and later seeing how they interact with Antares and her unique personality captures that same feeling of magic and wonder and even that little mischievous part of you anxious to pair up very different big personalities just to see how their unique banter comes to life.
Jim Campbell's lettering also goes far to make the characters feel unique and distinct from each other. His choices for typefaces for each character all feel very similar to each other, but with slight variations either in the typeface itself or in their associated balloon style. Look in the page below: Aldebaran's looks like a slightly more ornate version of Sera's. Later, we see Antares's balloons are sharp and angular, which is fitting for her personality.
Foreshadowing Antares stokes that feeling of excitement that comes with knowing a character is going to appear later, and we get it in a couple places so that when she appears, it doesn't feel like a deus ex machina.
Sera and the Royal Stars is a colorful book. Angulo uses the entire spectrum but does well at keeping them cohesive. Even in panels where many different colors are used, they don't feel like they're fighting against each other.
The art is almost entirely contained within each panel. But, every now and then, a little piece of the action extends beyond those panel borders. It's a trick not overused, and so when it is used, it really amplifies the action in those moments.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
At first, Sera going back home felt jarring. She embarked on her fantastic journey – you rarely see someone return so soon after something like that. But it does well to serve the story. In a way, it serves to motivate her even more, and also gives Antares a solid entrance.
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
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 #2 drops August 28th.
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