Writer: Jon Tsuei Art: Audrey Mok Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An Asiatic/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."
She's had little direction beyond the need to save the Royal Stars, but after the events of the previous issue, she can't return home. And so, she has no choice but to keep moving forward.
Guided by luck or providence, with mysterious antagonists at their heels, Sera, Aldebaran, and Antares journey ever forward, through monsters and mysteries.
Jon Tsuei's characterizations and banter continue to be a joy in this series. Antares steals the show this issue, and I'm not even mad. She's a total badass who pokes fun at the traditional "adventure" beats to the point where I actually laughed out loud in one scene.
That's not to say Sera's not exciting or a badass herself, this issue. Sera is a mortal, with two gods at her side. But when faced with danger, she basically says, "Chill, bros. I got this." While that leap-before-you-look attitude might get her in trouble later, it certainly makes for one loveable character now.
With the exception of a couple of pages of set-up, this issue is front-loaded with action. The transition from the former to the latter is perfect: the final panel of one page essentially says "time's up." Then, the page turn is almost like a switch gets flipped, and it's suddenly an action sequence. It's the equivalent of an upbeat song in a film soundtrack – you know stuff's about to go down. It's a smart use of the medium and a great way to pace the story.
I don't know much about fighting with a spear, but Antares seems to fight with it so well that I'm convinced Audrey Mok has studied spear fighting (and probably many other forms of combat) for this comic.
Mok & Angulo work together so well to create a world filled with magic. This issue has so many fantastical elements of mysticism and the supernatural, and it's a delight to see it lean so hard into the fantasy genre in that way.
The palette this issue is dark, and it gets darker throughout. There's this unconscious, "the only way out is through" vibe, and what starts merely as your standard fantasy adventure danger evolves into something much more. The fact that the palette explains that to the reader as much as the events themselves do is a testament to Angulo's abilities.
Anahita, the lady of the water, has word balloons that make small waves in the text, like gently moving water. You might not even notice it it’s so subtle. With so many gods and other supernatural beings, it's a great title for Jim Campbell to go full WicDiv and give each being their own special balloon and font effects.
We learn a little more about the antagonists this issue, but that information just leads to more questions. It's one of the many hooks in this title!
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
The characters mention a cave before we see in on panel. It may have been shown earlier, but covered up by lettering in a smaller panel where balloon placement choices were limited. Then again, we don't necessarily have to see something and read the characters talking about it at the same time.
There's some non-sexual nudity in this issue, if you're sensitive about that.
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.
I hope this series goes on for a long, long time.
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 #3 drops Wednesday. Click one of these to pre-order it.
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