Today’s review is on Chasing The Sunset by Mithander and Alien. First of all, Chasing the Sunset has reached 500 strips. That’s a pretty sizable amount of work to accomplish and congratulations are in order. (Also, it’s a great name for a comic and great url. Good, evocative names are hard to come by.)
Now I’m really going to go off on a tangent so bear with me. There is something I really appreciated which shows how Chasing the Sunset serves as an example of what a good fantasy comic does.
One thing a fantasy work almost has to do is have different races with deep histories. Exciting myths, legends and books by writers like Tolkien who built on the myths are usually what draw artists to create a fantasy comic in the first place. The obvious question is how much do you borrow from these sources to create your comic? If you differ too much, the world-setting will be unrecognizable and so you’ll have no familiar fantasy elements for your reader to draw on. Differ too little and you’ll be accused of just producing more of the same. Where does this comic fall?
Let’s get an overview of Chasing the Sunset. The World That Is is shown to us on this interactive flash map. There are many other extras to see once you begin exploring the site, so don’t be afraid to click around.
Something you are sure to discover in your explorations is that there are dragons in Chasing the Sunset. Dragons can be a touchy subject for fantasy fans, so let’s take a look at how they’ve been handled. I found it surprising that adult dragons can’t be killed by too much. Mainly, they can only be overcome by other dragons or maybe an entire nation’s army. They do breath fire, but it’s a side effect from their large lungs which are able to superheat the air. The main purpose of this is to help them become more air-boyant and able to fly much easier. Other kinds of dragons use this to “fly” underwater and some even cause volcanic eruptions. Interestingly, it says here that “dragons are related to cats.” As you’ll see, there are a few twists on things in Chasing the Sunset.
Dragons are normally the big evil that everyone else has to fight in a fantasy setting. Instead, one of the main characters is Myhrad the drageling (young dragon.) He accompanies Leaf the blond elven boy on his mission to find his lost father. Tagging along with them is the elven Ayne who is now an Amazon warrior and Feiht the pixie.
Wait a minute. Elves are another subject of great interest to fantasy lovers. These elves are typically fair and graceful, long lived and closely linked to nature. As a slight twist on the typical aloof elves concept, they accomplish things by “common sense and silent agreement.” It works fine for elves but other races cause more trouble than they are worth and so they normally shun outsiders. Don’t get too comfortable with these elves – they actually like dwarves because dwarves work with nature.
“Ah,” you begin to object “Elves are usually the sort that are not just long lived but rather that they simply don’t die unless killed.” In Chasing the Sunset’s creation myth, a being called the Ur-pixie opened the door to the Void, one of the nine elements of creation. The Void causes entropy and change, so it disrupts things as it contacts them. It’s progress into the world could not be stopped entirely.
In this way, death came to be in the World That Is – even to the Elves. It also has other consequences. Some kinds of creatures do not have any Void and therefore cannot die. Some can resist the Void and so just age very slowly. Others, like men, live very short lives but due to the presence of Void make quicker changes and progress than those longer-lived. There are other consequences and even persons created and set in motion by all this.
Do you see what I’m driving at by talking about all this? While Chasing the Sunset has many of the typical (some say required) fantasy elements, they are woven into the larger setting elegantly. That’s the way to do it.
So when am I going to start talking about the comic and what actually goes on it? Fair enough. Being new to the comic, I picked up reading in chapter 11. It gives some summarized backstory of the drageling and is a nice place to enter Chasing The Sunset. If you start there, you’ll actually understand what’s going on when you hit strip number 500.
Leaf continues to search for his father with his companions. Each character has their own way they can help him and each has their own way they make trouble. Much of that is caused by Feight the pixie. She has amazing powers but lacks the concentration to use it for anything besides her own momentary whims. Ayne has a temper which both helps and hinders. Myhrad, being a dragon, lends a certain oomph to their efforts merely by his presence. No one wants to cross even the littlest dragon. However, no one wants to help them very much either. Even Leaf sometimes gets in his own way. The dialog is done well and each character has a very clear voice and personality. I found them all very relatable and amusing.
While the larger world and the places within it are well done and the storyline has triumphs and reversals, the pacing is just a touch on the slower side. Part of that is due to explaining things to the reader in a way that seems natural to the setting of the comic. I didn’t see any character break the fourth wall and no long boxes of text narrating the events of the story. It did not take me very long to read the comic and I didn’t ever get the urge to skip ahead. For those who are nervous about reading all those strips, there’s a handy Story So Far page to catch you up.
I was specifically asked for commentary on the art, so I’m approaching the rest of the review like an art critique. Overall, my opinion is very positive.
The art has good, constant attention to detail, particularly with the costumes with their sashes and belts and such. The characters themselves are well designed with varying looks (and personalities.) You can always tell where the characters are, whether that’s a forest, inn or castle.
Somewhere around here, the font, word balloons, gutters and the comic got bigger. It now flows much better when you read it and it reduced some of the empty space in the panels. I am pretty sure that some of that is caused by leaving too much room for dialog and the panel format.
I hope readers won’t be too critical about this, though. According to the creator’s recent interview, Alien (the artist) is Norwegian and Mithander (scripter and photoshopper) is from Belgium. That means that English is probably not their most natural language to use, yet despite this obstacle the comic is fairly well done.
And here is about where the line work gains more clarity. Up to this point, the color slightly overwhelms the line. It’s a subtle difference but looks much better.
The figures can sometimes be a little stiff looking but not always; this one was okay. Some of it is to be expected; royalty, soldiers and characters in robes really should be upright with proper posture. It’s especially noticeable because there are many more medium panel shots instead of closeups which would show more of the expressive character details. You might more clearly see things like a character tilt their head to the side or shrug which would help lessen the stiffness. Keep in mind, this being a serious comic, the characters also can’t be in exaggerated poses like Mickey Mouse cartoons. That would work against the comic.
If you like long form fantasy, I’m sure you’ll like Chasing the Sunset. Alien and Mithander should be proud of their work. The World That Is is creatively unique and filled with personality.
What Did I Learn?
Names are so important, whether it’s the name of the comic or the character names. Be creative with names. What does each represent? Does it give a clear visual? Does it represent the kind of story you are telling? Each comic has a genre it belongs to; does my comic meet or exceed what is expected of it? How can I take advantage of those expectations to deliver the story I have to tell? What is the personality of my comic and what do I need to do to play to it? Let’s follow along as Leaf continues Chasing the Sunset.