There is magic in this book. There always has been. The way the story even began showed Kate Kristopher living in a world full of colour, beautiful locations and talking animals. What is more is that Joe Keatinge has kept the story deliberately slow with subtle reveals that took plot arcs to unveil. This meant that Leila Del Duca could devote her pages to the worlds in her minds, and create some of the most beautiful people and environments. Every issue was an artistic delight, a revelation of a new aesthetic whether it was a new villain, tourist location or even a new Kristopher. In fact this issue is probably the most unexplored of them all as we spend most of the time in a very regular home.
The study featured numerous characters completely distinct from one another with a gargoyle, an old man, a woman wearing a rainbow coloured halter dress and a monkey carrying a skull. It may seem a little ridiculous but from the previous seventeen issues this scene is firmly rooted in this comic’s reality. The chairs are similarly defined with one ornately decorated and another with regular trapezoid dotted print. Leila has a particular skill in being able to draw with diversity. Her characters are very distinct and not just because of their hairstyle or garb, they are anatomically drawn differently. Kate has always had thin jaw line with a pointed chin, similarly to her nose. Her hair flowed and moved effortlessly and her brown complexion complemented her emerald green eyes. Though it saddens me to say, her appearance is not commonplace amongst the world of comics. Del Duca’s line is very thin in the definition of her characters except for their eyes. This aspect is always the striking feature as she draws them large and emotes through them with fervour.
As fantastic as the art is a significant amount of praise must be lauded upon Owen Gieni’s colouring because without it, the world would be a duller place. Kate’s brown skin tones are not just of a single shade, in fact they vary depending on the light. This issue depicts this particularly well when she gives a powerpoint presentation (yes Sandy the dog specifically alludes to that program!) and the lights are down. The graduation of skin colour blends specifically to a light source every time and provides such depth and texture to the character’s faces, even when they are yellow. It is not just that where Gieni excels but there is such richness in every scene that we read, even the younger brother’s bedroom is bathed in shades of sky blue. For the preceding issues where Kate essentially tours the underbelly of the world’s major cities, the colouring has provided a definitive feel to each locale. Each comic is beautifully rendered and provides ample reason for spending the money to purchase it. Joe, Leila and Owen have produced a book without boundaries or prejudice and the fact that Kate’s father is Caucasian and all her siblings are distinct in appearance passes us without a second thought. This is the way the world should be and I admire their dedication in showing how people from all walks of life can have a common bond, even if it is an evil father.
And that would be where my review would have ended.
As I mentioned above Keatinge keeps the book moving slowly which I found frustrating, but not to read only to review. I always enjoyed the book for the reasons above but there was something missing before it became a truly outstanding book. #18 represents a change in direction. It is the first comic after a break and provides a summary of the previous stories, a compilation of the plot threads in the form of a slide presentation from our central protagonist to her family. Kate is inviting them to join her in taking down a secret organisation that has choreographed the history of the world. Not only is this clever in providing the reader an update but it also allows us to meet the rest of the cast. The very first issue began with Kate missing her father, and the fantastical adventures they had together. As the issues came and went, her journey into mystery truly began as she found out her father was alive and had further children. Coupled with an evil faction hunting her down, this all pointed to some major misdeeds of the father. Through much pain and suffering Kate’s has now realised her goal in life and her true purpose.
No longer a naïve child she is ready to lead the Kristopher’s into battle. The information overload of this issue may be difficult to consume in one sitting but every piece of information is delectable and entertaining. That enough would have made it palatable but Keatinge is intuitive enough to know that something extra is needed on the side. And that is a romance story that enters Kate’s mind whilst delivering her sermon, as she sees an old friend enter the room. Leila and Owen are put to work in producing a sub-plot interspersing a mass story exposition. Their strategy is to produce single panel memories of great importance representing the relationship of days gone by. They completely change tact in their art with flat colours, often only reds blues and yellows, and the removal of emotive words. It is very impressive in its delivery because it doesn’t detract from the intention of the comic, and the brushing over of emotions is a metaphor of how Kate has overcome the loss of love. Even the initial memory of how Huckleberry and Kate met at a party is slightly blurred in it’s inking and even more exaggerative in its colouring. Even our protagonist is coloured darker than everyone else at the gathering to highlight her isolation and misery, prior to meeting her new girlfriend.
Issue eighteen has so much to relish and is the one issue I have been waiting for so that I could devote time to writing about it. What is most interesting is how much background exposition there has actually been. We have been treated to different kingdoms and species all intermingled in one way or another. This level of creation in a comic is quite rare, and it is admirable that the comic has managed to maintain enthusiasm when the main plot took a long time to progress. That is testament to the incredible art and dialogue that has maintained our thirst for more. As this comic moves on there is so many directions that it can take with a story as compelling as the main one, characters as individually defined as they are and so many places in which to set a story in. This is a comic that has laid a solid foundation that can be build upon with vigour, and one that the readers will surely want to see. Final proof of this is that despite all that we have read in #18, there is a final page twist that was not only unexpected but almost not needed because of the quality of what came before. It is a page that would have fit in nicely at the end of the very first story arc, but Joe, Leila and Owen made us wait because they knew they could make us care about so much more.