One Punch Reviews #10: Wayfarer’s Moon
Once upon a time, a university professor with a major jones for linguistics wrote a story about a town of vertically challenged people, a piece of magical jewelry so utterly fabulous that everybody was dying to get their hands on it, fey woodland people who may or may not have pointy ears, and an old guy with a long white beard and the world’s most awesome parlor. The story went on to inspire countless other people until one day, your local Borders had twelve to fifteen bookshelves devoted to an entire literary subgenre spawned from that man’s little hobby. That university professor was an Englishman by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Today’s comic is yet another work that owes a great deal to the Lord of the Rings … though, to be honest with you, it feels more like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. So gird yourself with you Reading Glasses of +2 Perspicacity, because I’m going to take a look at Jason Janicki and Leigh Kellogg’s fantasy webcomic, Wayfarer’s Moon.
The comic follows two women trying to make it in Lachryn, a dream world of magic. Iri, the vaguely Asian one with a stylish short haircut, is a level 30 half-elf assassin dual-classed as a mage. Lily, the large moon-faced farm girl, is a level 1 warrior with a critical hit bonus in Axe Combat. While Iri is on a super-secret mission, she bumps into Lily and saves her from some scruffy NPC types. Lily is enamored by the feminist ideal embodied by Iri, and soon she’s mooning around, begging Iri to train her in the warrior ways. She’s too ungainly to be an assassin, but with her size and her axe-wielding skills I imagine she would make a good tank.
The Wayfarer’s Moon FAQ claims that Lachryn is “not a typical fantasy world. While there are elves, humans, and many other ‘standard’ races, we are striving to make Lachryn a ‘real’ place, where people have faults, make mistakes, and where good and evil are really just shades of grey.” That last sentence seems to promise a morally ambiguous world in the style of Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, or Kate Elliott. Thus far, though, the whole “shades of grey” thing is just not happening. Perhaps this is because the baddies have been seen as either brutal thugs or violent sorcerers. Perhaps it’s because villains say things in cheesy dialogue that Stan Lee would’ve penned, like “You are expendable. I suffer your existence only because it suits me to do so.” Then again, I might be jumping the gun on my judgment. At this point, after all, we hardly know anything about the bearded summoner guy. It could turn out that he’s passing a rather painful kidney stone that day, and on good days he’s hugging children, enjoying rainbows, and giving away baskets of adorable puppies. Maybe it turns out that the armed men are the good guys and heroes Iri and Lily are psychotic villains, going on a violent town-to-town rampage … but something tells me you shouldn’t hold your breath.
The art is decent, despite some stilted action sequences. Kellogg draws in a style that would look right at home in the 1990’s house styles of the defunct Malibu and Valiant comic imprints. For a story set in a world before working showers, the characters at times seem too clean an well-groomed. Kellogg, however, does a fine job illustrating the intricate detail of medieval armor and period clothing. Lily, for example, is drawn with a pair of highly visible and eminently sensible trousers that accentuate her podunk background. I’m also partial to Kellogg’s creature designs. The baboonish orc-things are unique fantasy creations, and their expressions can either seem fearsome or merely gruff. I especially like the grassy beastie that pops up in more recent pages, a monster that is both fluid and mysterious.
What I can’t forgive, though, is the utter frigidity of the characters’ faces. This applies to all the Wayfarer’s Moon characters, but it’s most apparent with Lily. Her face seems to be frozen in a permanent expression: wide eyes, pursed lips. I suppose you can say this is her all-purpose face. It can be used to convey surprise or joy. Draw a little tear rolling down her cheek, and — voila! — Lily is sad. I hate to slander Lily’s good name since she seems like a nice girl and all, but it sorta makes her look like a cow.
Unfortunately, Lily’s the more interesting of the duo. Iri, unfortunately, is saddled with the personality of “mysterious action chick.” Because, you know, the way people were flocking to the theaters to see Elektra, Ultravoilet, Catwoman, and Aeon Flux, it’s apparent that what everyone wants to see is a superhuman woman with zero personality, save for a very artificial kindness awkwardly shoehorned in the story to gain the character some modicum of sympathy. (Like, say, taking a big naive lummox under her wing. I’m just saying.)
Fortunately, Wayfarer’s Moon does pick up a little toward the end, and Kellogg’s art has improved a tad. What can I say? It’s all about that nifty grass beastie.
Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)