Welcome back to White Ash, a small town supported by a local mining company, with friendly people and a charming mountain locale. Don’t let the welcoming, pastel colors fool you! White Ash may be the home of the flapjack and Sif’s Diner, but peel back the veneer and all sorts of supernatural mischief abound from the elves, dwarves, and one nasty, blood-thirsty vampire on the loose.
Issue two opens with two friends who are about to take a dip in the river until one of them wakes a sleeping vampire, which is never going to end well. The woman’s body parts are scattered – one panel shows an ear in the water, reminiscent of a scene from The Glass Bees (an excellent novel written by Ernst Junger by the way!) – that her companion finds and, subsequently, probably becomes the main course. Fast-forward to issue two’s timeframe, where Aleck is coming to terms with learning he is a dwarf and that there are elves and vampires. Adding to Aleck’s already fragile state, he visits his dad in the hospital and learns he might not make it. And Lillian, the hot girl Aleck keeps running into, is an elf with a mission and who may be a little smitten with Aleck.
Charlie Stickney (Sony Pictures: Hulu) writes an entertaining and immersive tale, but it is more than that. The little, mountainous town beckons the reader because of the likeable and quirky characters that inhabit White Ash. It could be Anytown, USA, so readers are likely to identify with the locale either personally or via a fictional town portrayed on film or television. For being elves and dwarves, Aleck, Lillian, and the other characters, they are dealing with everyday life issues: growing up, going off to college, having overbearing parents, surviving in a depressed economy, etc; however, their lives are complicated by their supernatural-ness. For instance, Aleck is experiencing an identity crisis because he (1) did not know he was a dwarf – he just thought he was shorter than the national average – and (2) he learns that he ages more slowly, so he isn’t 20-ish, but 45! Additionally, while elves and dwarves have a disdain for each other – setting up the “forbidden” love scenario between Lillian and Aleck – the two groups have set aside their differences to work together against the brood (vampires). Additionally, she tells Aleck that elves do the hunting and protection, while the dwarves mine for resources to help the community. Hence, Stickney’s story explores class and race themes, as well as gender, since Lillian takes a protector role that is usually designated to the male character.
Additionally, Stickney drops in a few choice humorous moments. For example, Aleck’s remark about finding the huge burrow underneath the tiny home he grew up in. Or, Lillian commenting that elves make superior arrows and that she could have done better against Seth (the vampire) if she had not been relegated to Walmart arrows she had in her quiver. Wonderful flavor to keep White Ash in the “not taking itself too seriously” part of the spectrum.
The visual team for White Ash includes line art by Conor Hughes (Image Comics) and colors by Fin Cramb (Savant, Planet of the Apes, The Johnny Cash Project). Although this comic book is being funded (successfully, I might add) by crowdsourcing, White Ash is an independent title that exudes quality which is largely due to the high caliber art of Hughes and Cramb. As mentioned in the chapter one review, Hughes art style and Cramb’s color palette are pure beauty and gorgeous eye candy. Hughes knows the characters well; he conveys a lot of information through the characters’ body language and the way he composes them in each scene, especially in the scenes between Aleck and Lillian. Cramb’s colors are playful and engaging. Every color choice rings true.
For this reviewer, White Ash is easily one of the best independent crowdfunded comic book series out there today. Given its superior quality, both in story and visuals, White Ash is an A+ and should not be missed. Pick up both chapters via the current Kickstarter campaign which, mentioned above, successfully funded chapters one and two in only three days – quite the testament! Expect chapter three to drop this June.
Creative Team: Charlie Stickney (writer), Conor Hughes (line artist) and Fin Cramb (colorist)
Publisher: White Ash Comic
Click here to purchase (through funding campaign, ending March 14).