Writer: Jeff Rider
Illustrator: Davide Puppo
Publisher: Cloudwrangler Comics
WHAT IS IT?
This story is quirky, fun, and action-packed. A.C.E. definitely falls into the fantasy genre of comic books as we get to explore magical realms that seem to be connected in parallel to our own.
When looking to compare The Arcane Cocktail Enthusiast to other popular works in our culture, I would set it akin to something like Tomb Raider meets The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with a touch of Harry Potter.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
This story revolves around the sorceress bar owner, Lark Leraar. Her bar, which is called The Arcanist, boasts some original cocktails that have earned the establishment “4 and a half stars on Yelp.” How does Lark concoct such great drinks? By obtaining ingredients from fantastical creatures in those realms parallel to our own. This opens up limitless possibilities and settings for Lark to adventure into, and we get a taste of just that in the first two issues.
The first realm we get to visit is the realm of bird-like creatures known as the Harlanai. Lark is shown to have a great relationship with the race of bird people as they gladly help her collect ingredients for her drinks! We also get introduced to our first antagonist, Mace Dantzari. He has a nasty reputation known for slaughtering the magical creatures and turning them into tasty treats.
The second issue of A.C.E. picks up right after the first, as one of the Arcanist’s own, New Guy Bill, has been infected by wrath venom that spreads to everything he touches. Lark springs into action to save one of her own as we get a deeper look into the magical world that is A.C.E. Of course, we also get to see some more about what drives our big bad wizard Mace as he hunts for the guitarist that rocks The Arcanist. He, of course, causes trouble as the teams look for a cure to combat the wrath venom.
The originality of the world and story that is A.C.E. I’d love to be able to pick Rider’s brain and ask how he came up with this idea. It’s such a cool concept and they pull it off beautifully.
THE ART! Oh man, I absolutely love Puppo’s fantastical style. Fantasy is my favorite genre so I have a soft spot for all things magical. The colors and art style in this comic truly bring the characters to life and transport you to new worlds.
Staying with the art, Puppo brings great originality to each character and makes them all feel truly genuine. They all sport unique designs and characteristics. Each feather on his Harlanai race are nearly immaculate which assists with the immersion in their world.
Puppo does a great job of storytelling with his art, and it’s clear how the story unfolds through image. I also really enjoy his use of panels as he’s not afraid to use various angles to bring his pages to life.
Also, Anthony Lee and Jennifer Kelley do a masterful job with their use of vibrant colors which make each page truly “Pop”! Everything is so beautiful and awe-inspiring and I found myself gawking and every page trying to pick out all the details.
No great story or comic is great without a talented writer at the helm and Rider is just that. His pacing is fantastic throughout both issues and keeps the reader hooked throughout with a unique story and a plotline that keeps the story unfolding. I never felt that there was a lull in the narration.
The dialogue is also fun and never takes itself too seriously. There are many pop culture references, and I had to laugh at Lark’s declaration of being a vegan.
I mentioned how Puppo made each character feel unique and Rider does the same. They all have their differing personalities and it shines through their dialogue.
Cardinal Rae letters both issues of A.C.E. and does a great job in her role to help bring the story to life. Rae uses differing tones to separate Larks inner monologue which makes the readability much easier.
Rae also uses different fonts for the magical creatures which helps the world-building and shows that our language is not native for them.
The last thing I’ll note here, is how much I love the musical references. In the first two issues we get mentions of ABBA and Metallica.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I’d have to nitpick to list anything here, I loved the first two issues of A.C.E. and that’s all that needs to be said.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
I have to say, The Arcane Cocktail Enthusiast (or A.C.E.) is one fun and original comic!
The fantastic art of Davide Puppo pulled me in immediately but as I started reading I came to the quick realization that this is what indie comics are supposed to be.
You should read this if you’re fan of fantasy and good, old-fashioned fun. Honestly, if you’re capable of reading this, you should. It was that fantastic of a read and I can’t wait for more.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Major Holmes and Captain Watson by Jeff Rider and Canales
Blaze of Glory by Jeff Rider and Sinnott
Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
If you like the art:
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Skullkickers by Jim Zub, Chris Stevens and Edwin Huang
Fells Five by John Rogers and Andrea De Vito
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Jeff Rider – Writer
Founder of CloudWrangler Comics
Has three titles out under his Cloudwrangler, The Arcane Cocktail Enthusiast, Gravity Matters, and Major Homes and Captain Watson
A.C.E. won best Original Concept at the 2019 Indie Comics Awards
Davide Puppo – Illustrator
Outlander: Originally from Italy
Anthony Lee and Jennifer Kelley – Colorists
Honestly, we can't find much about them on the ol' Internet
Cardinal Rae – Letterer
Has lettered for Image, Marvel and Dynamite Comics
Cardinal enjoys teaching other letterers the art
HOW DO I READ IT?
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