(Lei'ella and Varden test each other's limits in one of the more dramatic scenes from Inverloch)
This is the first of two reviews I'm going to be doing over the next few days about recent wecomics I've added to my checklist. In the interests of only providing useful content on this site, I'm not going to be posting any comprehensive start to finish reviews on any comics that I would consider to be "well-known", because all I'd really be doing at that point is adding one more flake of snow to the veritable blizzard of reviews that already exist for such comics. For those comics I'll post developments as they occur, but for comics that I feel I've "stumbled upon", which are probably lesser known, I'll post a more comprehensive review, so people can get an idea of if they'd be interested in checking it out or not.
That being said, I honestly can't remember how I found Inverloch. I'm assuming one of the other comics I read must have linked to it one day, or perhaps Sarah Ellerton took out an ad at a site I frequent, but I merely clicked onto the page one day and after skimming a couple of pages decided to add it to my "To Be Read" list. After awhile it came up in the -highly volatile- queue, and I read through the whole archive. Now it's on the checklist.
The thing that first struck me about Inverloch was the incredibly stunning visuals. When I look at each page, it looks to me like one of those Disney comic books where they translated one of their movies into book form by taking all the key animation frames from the movie and adding text bubbles on top of them. When I really got into a reading groove, sometimes I could almost see the characters moving from frame to frame, as if there were in-betweeners in my head furiously inking frames as I read. I swear, when Ms. Ellerton finishes her work, she could take all the pages from the book as is, fly up to Korea, plunk down 50,000 dollars or so, and come back with a movie. And I'd buy it. I'd even buy the normal AND the widescreen.
But enough gushing over the artwork. Inverloch is basically the tale of a young Da'kor (kind of a cross between a wolf and a cow) named Acheron, who is on a journey to find a missing elf named Kayn'dar. He's looking for Kayn'dar as a favor to an elven female that he loves, but who sadly does not return his love, named Shiara. Along his travels he's joined by a thief-catching elf named Lei'ella, a thief named Varden, and a young mage named Neirenn. Yes, as I'm sure you've all already guessed, the comic takes place in a fantasy setting. The plot is a bit formulaic: "A young, pure-hearted hero goes on a quest and through a series of seemingly random encounters builds a ragtag group of adventurers who accompany him and help him on his way." I'm sure we've all played plenty of old Squaresoft RPG games that followed basically that exact same structure, OVER and OVER again. But hey, I enjoyed all those games, didn't you? If it ain't broke...
The important thing for a comic with a fairly predictable plotline (I'm sure there will be some unexpected twists and turns near the end, but then, we're EXPECTING unexpected twists and turns, so are they really unexpected?) is to have a very strong cast of characters to keep things interesting as we watch them go through the motions. And I think Inverloch definitely has the potential for this. At the moment the team has only just been assembled, with Neirenn joining the group in the last chapter, so we'll have to see how the different personalities play off each other, if Sarah Ellerton is able to organically grow the relationship dynamics between the different characters without making it seem to forced.
We've already seen some interesting back and forth play between the thief and the thief catcher (as evidenced by the page I chose to highlight in this review) as they test each others limits both in morals and in skills. I'm sure that relationship will grow into something much more interesting before the story is through, and I'll be curious to see if it feels natural, or if Ms. Ellerton has to resort to deus ex machina, which would be the death of the strip.
Acheron is the classic young hero: innocent, naive, hopelessly optimistic, and cute beyond all reason. He will undergo a "coming of age" experience I'm sure, and won't return to his home the same as when he left. Will it be a realistic transition of his character from a boy to a man, or will it be just a stubborn assertion of his idealism?
We don't know much about Neirenn yet, so at the moment she's just a cardboard cutout of the "super-talented, overconfident person out to prove their mettle". Will she grow out of the mold into a well-rounded character, or will she remain a two dimensional plot device?
So many questions to be answered. But you know what? That's why I keep reading a comic. I want to know how it's going to turn out, for better or worse. I want to see how the questions in my mind are answered, where I feel the artist really did an amazing job and where I feel she copped out. Inverloch is a comic with an incredible amount of potential, and it's right at the turning point where the cast has been assembled and it's time to really flesh out all their characters and the relationships between them. And I'm excited to see what's coming next.
And I've got to say, it's a lot easier to get excited about what's coming up when you know that whatever it is, it will be illustrated in such a beautiful fashion. You've got me hooked, Sarah Ellerton. Let's see if you can reel me in.