Slush Pile: Artesia, Erstwhile, Frog Prince, Rostam

I don’t read a whole lot of individual comics any more. There are several reasons for that — I find bigger stories in better bindings a more satisfying purchase and reading experience, plus I get behind so easily that I lose track of a serialized story. But several publishers and creators have been kind enough to send me issues of some of their projects, and these are the ones I had something to say about.

Artesia Besieged #3

Artesia Besieged #3

by Mark Smylie, Archaia, $3.95 US
(Online version provided)

Hey, Artesia‘s back! Issue #2 of this six-issue miniseries came out three years ago, and since then, the publisher has done some restructuring. Now, Smylie’s flagship series looks just the same as it did then, picking up without a hitch. Well, maybe the figures are a little rougher, a little less polished, as he gets back in the groove.

Artesia is on the brink of death from a poisoned weapon during battle. As her body lies nude in front of warriors and healers, her spirit is with her mystical guides, who talk over her possible futures. This is the best example possible of why I “wait for the trade”. Not only do I not know where my first two issues of this series are, I’ve completely forgotten the countries and sides and names of the players involved. But hey, the series has returned! That means the eventual collection is this much closer.

A summary and preview are available at the publisher’s website. This interview with Smylie talks more about the delays and his plans for the series.

Erstwhile: The Farmer’s Clever Daughter


by Gina Biggs, Strawberry Comics, $6 US

Ah, a one-shot, complete story! The artist of Red String takes a different tack by retelling a fairy tale in comic form. I wasn’t previously familiar with this fable, but I loved it for the same reasons the author chose it:

This story introduces some very rare aspects of fairy tales: A clever, self-sufficient female lead, no magical elements at all to help or hinder her, and very little violence.

Velinda, the farmer’s daughter, helps her father cope with the downside of unexpected good luck and winds up marrying a prince. That’s as all good fairy tales end, but that’s only the beginning here. I loved the way she was always true to herself. The colors are vibrant (although I sometimes wondered about the white faces), and the art dynamic with clear, simple figures. It’s a shame that the price has to be so high, but that’s self-printing these days.

The Frog Prince

by Lauren Skinner, Strawberry Comics, $4 US

Also from the same publisher, a translated retelling of the story of the frog prince in which the princess is the prettiest girl in high school and the frog the geek infatuated with her. It was fascinating seeing the story from his perspective, and I also appreciated the way she was given more character than just beauty. The art is sketchy and rough, more like preliminaries than finals, but it’s in keeping with the cast, who are also unformed and figuring out who to be. It’s not unattractive, and it captures emotion well.

Rostam: Tales From the Shahnameh #1

Rostam #1

by Bruce Bahmani and Karl Altstaetter, Hyperwerks, $5.95 US

This comic series, with three issues out so far, adapts ancient Persian myths. Rostam is a traditional epic hero and warrior with problems like someone stealing his impressive horse and facing an unknown son in battle.

The adventure-style art is mediocre, with little sense of movement or flow, and while there are some nice faces, bodies and proportions change from panel to panel. The expressions don’t always match the text, being too exaggerated or otherwise ill-chosen. The writing is flat. With more of a sense of humor, it could be a parody of high adventure, but it’s intended to be taken straight. The story structure is lacking, since the author is stringing together incidents from myths. The result is a series of events instead of a well-paced story.

Those with an interest in the cultural history might find this an interesting alternative exploration of the material, especially if they’re already familiar with it.

One Response to “Slush Pile: Artesia, Erstwhile, Frog Prince, Rostam”

  1. Erstwhile Kickstarter Brings Fairy Tale Comics to Print » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] five lesser-known fairy tales. (One of which, “The Farmer’s Clever Daughter”, I previously reviewed when it was a stand-alone comic.) Another $2,000 in pledges, and two more short stories will be […]




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