Artesia by Mark Smylie

Evening my fine fantasy folk. Are you in the mood for an Epic Fantasy comic? Something maybe featuring a protagonist akin to a pagan Joan of Arc, or a Queen Medb? Witchcraft and war, swords and schemes, boobies and balls?

I hope so, because that’s what I’m here to talk about.

Artesia starts on the eve of a battle up in the Highlands (not the Scottish Highlands, although not unlike) and goes sideways from there. Right in the middle of it is our eponymous heroine; witch, concubine, warrior, general, and all round dominator of all.

… and I’ve kinda said everything there is to be said about the comic, for good and for ill.

This is a fairly simple story that leans hard on style and atmosphere. There’s plenty of plot twists – enough I can’t really talk about it without spoilers – but the twists aren’t of a sort that elevate the story. They make it quick moving and full of conflict, they don’t blow my mind. The characterisation is neither bad nor outstanding when we see it, although a giant cast means some characters simply don’t have the space to be fleshed out. Artesia shows multiple dimensions and elements of vulnerability but I don’t think the story forces her to show more, and there’s no compelling aspect to her which I hate to admit. I enjoy non-pigeon holed characters, sexually open characters, characters with a faith in something bigger than themselves, and Artesia is all of those things, but I still can’t point to a ‘wow’ element.

The worldbuilding is interesting with its broad canvas, its wide array of gods and countries hinted at, but I don’t think any particular bit was put in the spotlight enough to really shine which is a big shame. I don’t think it came together cohesively.

To look at, it’s a spectacle. It gives off a real Game of Thrones vibe with its mix of (mostly) accurate looking heavy armour, brutal weapons, and lots of nudity. Some of the magic rituals and encounters with the supernatural do carry real wow moments. For some readers, maybe I’ve sold this now. Me, myself, I need some story and characters to go along with it.

I got enough to more or less like this. I didn’t get enough to not feel more or less dissatisfied. It falls in an uncanny valley where I’m trying to avoid saying anything too strong, but then avoiding trying to damn it with faint praise, and then trying to avoid being too strong about it. Maybe the next volume will build strongly on this. But maybe I’ll never get to it.

Image credit for the W&W logo to Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

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