A wooden sign welcomes visitors to White Ash, an idyllic-looking small community located in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania. To the uninitiated, one would notice the old-time local businesses that line main street as charming, aided by the fact that everyone knows each other, which hearkens to a slower pace of life reminiscent of the 1950s; however, in the opening pages of White Ash, a young man (Aleck) cannot wait to get out of town, and he soon finds that the sleepy mining town is home to some super-duper whopper secrets.
Writer Charlie Stickney, who developed and created Cosmic Quantum Ray and Horrible Histories, is back with his fifth Kickstarter campaign, this time for his 200-page trade paperback of issues one through four of the comic book series, White Ash. Stickney states, “If you are a fan of Supernatural, Twin Peaks, or Lord of the Rings, you’re going to love getting to know our mysterious town,” and I would agree. The fantasy and paranormal elements come together well in this story. The main protagonist, Aleck, is an everyman type of hero who gets thrown a curve ball and, through a series of events, must decide what is important to him, but will also impact his life course. Most readers will probably be able to relate and identify a point in their own lives when they were faced with choosing one path over another. Aleck’s path crosses with Lillian Alden, a young, flirtatious siren, who seems to grasp much more about White Ash than Aleck. They are likeable characters, and Stickney has effectively created chemistry between them that is fresh and exciting. Additionally, Stickney’s creation of a small-town America setting blended with fantastical and paranormal elements results in an entertaining tale that hooks and keeps the reader wanting more. This is aided by the sharp wit that seasons the dialogue throughout.
Joining Stickney are artist Conor Hughes, who has worked with Image Comics, and colorist Fin Cramb (Savant, Planet of the Apes, Peter Pan the graphic novel). Hughes’ approach to White Ash is encompassing; from varying line thicknesses to a myriad of panel layouts, Hughes keeps his layouts fresh but respectful to the story that is being told. He also excels with drawing facial expressions and composing the characters so that their body language conveys emotional depth and adds to Stickney’s character development. Hughes also provided lettering which is clean, balanced, and easy to read and organized in each panel to feel natural to the reader’s eyes. Cramb’s color palette gets a thorough workout. Cramb is adept with interiors, exteriors, low-light, and bright light. The colors are muted where required, but Cramb also uses colors to accentuate the action and energy of story.
As I have mentioned in prior reviews of White Ash, Stickney, Hughes, and Cramb have continued to prove they are a dynamite trio of collaborative creativity resulting in a superior story and phenomenal visuals. Fans of fantasy and the paranormal will enjoy this title. If you missed out on the first three issues, then check out Stickney’s Kickstarter for volume one, a 200-page hardcover collecting the first story arc (issues one through four) plus an additional story highlighting the town’s history. The campaign ends on the morning of Wednesday, April 10, so make haste!
Creative Team: Charlie Stickney (writer); Conor Hughes (artist/letterer); Fin Cramb (colorist); Brenda Arson (editor, issue three); Heather Antos (editor, issue four); Nick Robles (variant cover, issue two); Romina Moranelli (variant cover, issue three); Joe Quinones (variant cover, issue four)
Publisher: Charlie Stickney and Conor Hughes
Click here to check out the Kickstarter campaign.