THE FIRST CALENDAR, VOL. #1
Writer: Levi Snyder
Illustrator: Zeno Colangelo
Publisher: November Comics (Self Published)
WHAT IS IT?
A full year of a mythology-driven fantasy webcomic which completes a story divided into monthly, 10-page chapters.
It’s like The Chronicles of Narnia meets Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
In the earth-adjacent realm of Calendaria, the months of the year are actually gods locked in an eternal cycle.
Our narrator, November, follows various gods and mortals as Chaos is released from the temple of February, March goes on the warpath, and a girl from Earth climbs out of December’s sack.
Are any of the characters the hero? No one knows. Not even the narrator, who says, as we begin by following a lone human in search of January, “I do not know what will become of this man. I sincerely hope he survives long enough to entertain us, perhaps even leave a lasting impression.”
Though this is Levi Snyder’s first foray into writing comics, he has a masterful command on both the dialogue and narrative.
Artistically, Zeno Colangelo brings a style reminiscent of artists like Chris Baldie, or Francesca Carità, which appears very warm, rounded and Adventure Time-appropriate, but he handles the darker moments with aplomb.
Across the 120 pages, the depth of worldbuilding is given the time to come through slowly, subtly, and effectively. By the end, you will want to explore every corner of Calendaria to see what other adventures may be found.
Each comic page is accompanied by a footnote by the Narrator, often commenting on the events of the page in real time. These opportunities for breaking the 4th wall and meta-comedy plays well against the traditional fantasy story that plays out on the page.
Though they never appear on the page, the Narrator’s quips and insight makes them perhaps the most enduring character of the experience.
The plot takes a while to pick up. Unfolding slowly and often meandering away to focus on other characters, but as the story progresses and the narratives start to converge, things pick up nicely.
The character Zinnia, who arrived in this world via December’s sack, is the only visible character who we really get to see grow and harness that growth in a meaningful way. Her story arc was executed well enough to bypass any issues raised from its mild predictability.
The comic effectively handles dialogue that ranges from Sandman-esque high dialogue to colloquial discussion.
His depictions of action are excellent, while there are only a few instances of direct conflict, every swing of a weapon feels like it has serious weight behind it.
Character design is especially important in narratives with a large cast, and while some of the humans blend in at times, the months of the year are brilliantly and uniquely realized as Gods.
The colors range massively as the story moves from month-to-month and Colangelo does well to manage the challenges of the pallette in such diverse settings and characters.
Taking up the mantle of letterer as well, Colangelo does nothing groundbreaking, keeping a uniform style for all instances of dialogue throughout, but keeps everything on that front working nicely.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The plot takes a while to really hit its stride and can be meandering in the beginning. It's more tolerable now that it's a completed volume, but still takes some time to really grip the reader.
A few pages neither progress the plot or develop characters which really disrupts the pacing.
There is one red flag in this comic on pages 93-94. Although nothing explicit is shown, there is a strong implication of rape. Such an encounter didn’t add anything to the plot other than to put the main female character in a position of peril, which is gross to say the least.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The idea of Gods as dynamic characters is a well-worn path, so it takes something special to differentiate a pantheon in fantasy literature. Thankfully, Snyder’s almanac of deities offers a refreshing alternative that really enhances the narratives of the mortals that drive the plot.
Anyone who enjoys tales of the Greek or Norse Gods will immediately recognize the vibe of the First Calendar, but there is so much more here to appreciate than a standard collection of myths. The rules of the world are interesting and thanks to Colangelo, the depictions of deified months will stick with you, long after you finish reading.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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