Spera is a fantasy comic series published by Archaia. Ascension of the Starless Volume 2 is, in fact, the fifth book in the series. It’s important to know, as it drops readers straight into the action and doesn’t take a lot of time to explain what’s come before. I read the very first Spera volume a few years ago and came into Ascension of the Starless with very little info about what had transpired. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to dive back into the adventures of runaway princesses Pira and Lono. There were a few characters and events that could have been explained better, but, overall, it’s easy to jump right in.
As a series, Spera joyfully plays with fantasy tropes, mixing and matching and combining oddities to create an original setting and characters. Take for example the two leads: princesses of different nations, Lono fits the classic mold of a prim and proper lady of the court while Pira’s title can easily support “warrior” in front of it. Supporting cast such as the grizzled naval captain and loyal soldier Vincent and mysterious magical girl Aya fit fantasy molds, but with their own hooks to make those roles theirs. Other characters such as the book’s big bad and, on the side of good, their traveling companion Chobo the Warrior Tabby (who is in fact a cat) are different enough to make you stop and go, “What?” As strange as some of these characters are, they are so much fun and utterly unforgettable.
Reading this book, you can feel the fun that writer Josh Tierney had scripting it. The interactions between the characters are a delight to read, especially those between Pira, Lono, and evil witch with an agenda of her own Sala. It’s easy for the “token evil teammate” to be unlikable, but Tierney made me fall in love with Sala in just a few short pages. From her cavalier view of murder to her huge crush on Lono, what she lacks in morals and decency she makes up for in humor, charm, pragmatism, and shaking up the dynamic.
Another unique feature of Spera is its rotating cast of artists. I am pleased that the model has shifted to one artist per chapter instead of the one artist every few pages from the first Spera volume. The story is easier to follow in Ascension of the Starless and the world feels more grounded. There was something I liked from all five artists’ styles, but there were also a few flaws that made certain chapters harder to get through than others. These awkward transitions extend to the script, which feels rushed in sections. Several events made me stop and look for a missing panel. The other situation that makes the book difficult to follow is it tries to do too much in too short a story. There are no less than three groups focused on in each chapter. While I adore all of the characters and the situations, by the time I put down Ascension of the Starless Vol. 2, I wished more progress had been made in each of the stories.
Then again, being left wanting more and eager for the next volume is never a bad thing, and I have three more volumes I’m eager to catch up on. Spera: Ascension of the Starless Volume 2 will be in stores July 12th and available on Amazon on July 18th. For more information on the series and to read some free side stories, including the introduction of Chobo the Warrior Tabby, visit www.spera-comic.com.
8 and a ½ Fearsome Warrior Tabbies out of 10