The Webcomicker

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Review: Fantasy Realms

(Running attack! From Fantasy Realms)

I'd like to preface this review by saying that Fantasy Realms, more than anything else that has happened so far, made the effect of Hurricane Katrina real to me. Sure, I've heard about the devastation. I've read about it. I've looked at pictures. I've even talked to people who had to flee. But it still all seemed so distant to me.

But if you go to the Fantasy Realms website right now, you'll see that the last newspost made was on August 29th, and contained these rather ominous words: "As you may have heard on the news, hurricane Katrina has grown into a category 4-5 storm. Due to the massive damage and other problems these can cause, Clay has been busy almost the whole week and may not be able to get online for an extended time.
We apologize for the lack of updates, but hope you understand the dilemma. Please hang in there."

Literally NOTHING has gone up on the site since then, and it's almost a month later now. And that made me realize, "Hey, Clay's house may be gone. He may be among the refugees moving from town to town. He may even be DEAD. Fantasy Realms may never update again because of this hurricane." And for some reason, that just made it all a little more real to me.

Now, before you get too worried, let it be known that I checked out the Fantasy Realms forums and found this cheerful post by Clay, dated September 11th: "Just reporting in for duty. I'm well enough and, surprisingly, so is the place I call home. I can't say as much for the rest of the Gulf Coast. It's a dismal and sobering atmosphere." But of course, hurricane Rite is headed his way now, so he'll probably be having to leave town again for another couple of weeks. I wish you good fortune, Clay.

Now, on to the review. Fantasy Realms is actually very similar in visual styling to Inverloch, which I reviewed earlier this week, except it seems to have more richness of color and detail in the backgrounds. In Inverloch, the backgrounds are just that: backgrounds. Backdrops on which the characters play out their scenes. Yes, that background artwork is very well done, but it doesn't permeate the scene. In Fantasy Realms, this is much different. It seems that the backdrop on which each scene is played out is given at least as much attention as the scene itself, resulting in a very visually rich comic to read. Rather than standing out as frames of animation as Inverloch does, each page of Fantasy Realms almost seems like the sort of special artwork that most people would only do for a poster or possibly a desktop background. Niko Geyer definitely has a gift in this regard.

As for the story itself, there's not much to be said about it yet. This comic is actually still in the "introducing the characters" phase of production, so it's a good time to start reading if you're interested. Clay chose to write it by beginning in the middle (or possibly even the end?) and then presenting the beginning in flashback format, which is a good way to hook readers in without them having to go through the long process of introducing all the characters and seeing how they got to know each other. The first chapter is nothing but action and extremely cool effects, which is enough to get anyone saying "this looks AWESOME!" Then the story immediately jumps back to the beginning in chapter two, and begins what is sure to be a nice long buildup back to the cliffhanger in chapter one. It makes me wish I'd taken the same approach with my writing in Gideon D. Ragon, rather than the linear progression which I chose, but you live and learn.

So we have some idea of where the story is going, but we're missing a lot of the pieces right now. We've seen who is presumably the villian in chapter one, but we don't know his name yet or what he's done. We've seen probably all the main characters but we don't know what's drawn them together. I'll be interested to see if the battle depicted in chapter one is the final confrontation, or if it is merely one step along the path. It should be interesting to see how things fall into place.


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