In 1832 in Mainz, a boy named Fritz receives a mysterious gift for his birthday; the box is seemingly empty but contains, or rather leads to, another world in which two groups of creatures are doing battle. Fritz disappears into this world, and soon afterwards other such gifts begin appearing on people’s doorsteps. Some months later a young girl named Ingrid is struggling to survive in a city left as a wasteland after that war comes to our world and the Invaders, as one of the groups of creatures has come to be known, have largely depopulated it. She stumbles upon Fritz, who has come back to our world changed, and the two join forces, with aid from one of the creatures who had been fighting the Invaders in the other world.
There’s a dreamlike quality, indeed almost inevitably given the setting, almost reminiscent of a fairy tale, albeit given a more modern edge. There’s a sense of danger and a sense of whimsy at the same time. The art, in the first chapter by Ricq alone and in the second by the author with Sunny Shah and coloring by Andrew Young, fits this perfectly, with an almost cartoon-like looseness to the characters contrasting with more realistic backgrounds. To add to this atmosphere, the dialogue is in German but the narration is in English, and while I could read it despite my German being extremely rusty, it isn’t necessary to understand the language to follow the plot. The storytelling and the art are integrated to a high enough degree that you could follow it even without the narration, which I found gratifying.
Following the story itself, there’s a section of sketches and page layouts from the production process, which is always fascinating, and a gallery of other artists’ work inspired by Once Our Land, which runs the gamut from faithful tributes to radical reimaginings.
I absolutely loved Once Our Land and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.