The indie comic scene has spawned everything from turtles that have mastered the ninja arts to dragons with head fins and police badges, so the tabletop RPG-playing and former covert ops dark elf lead of Danica Shade is not only in good company, but fits like a long lost step sister.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Danica Shade is a one-shot story written by Francis J. Burns and illustrated by Ali Toglukdemir, and the first comic book adventure of the character established in Burns’ paperback novel, Danica Shade: This Party Is Sooo Dead. Danica is a Dark Elf who was a member of an ultra-secret government counter-terrorist unit, but also enjoys video games and tabletop RPGs. In her one-shot comic story called “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” Danica interviews for a security position at a large corporation and crosses an aggressive misogynist who seems to abuse every woman he comes in contact with. Determined to end the villain’s reign, Danica puts her skills and punk rock attitude to good use.
While we don’t learn much about our lead character in Danica Shade, the one-shot operates well as a single standalone adventure for the character that even those unfamiliar with the dark elf heroine will be able to jump in and follow with little confusion. Burns has a knack for snarky dialogue, and Danica’s in-your-face attitude is sure to connect with those who like the outlandish and aggressive comic heroines (and anti-heroines) represented in the comic book world by characters like Tank Girl and some of the more recent versions of Harley Quinn. While Burns can be applauded for tackling the difficult subjects of sexual harassment and gender inequality in the corporate workplace, something that’s very relevant in the post-Weinstein days, the topic is used mostly as a plot point to provide Danica an appropriately despicable baddie to defeat. While Danica Shade‘s plot is pretty tight and compact for a solo issue, there’s some that may wonder if it would have been better to focus more on Danica’s friends and her home life of video games, RPGs, and other geeky endeavors. “Slice of life” might not have the same action-based thrills as Danica’s ass-kicking adventures offer, but hot-looking anime girls kicking ass isn’t anything new to the comic book genre. Now, a dark elf who likes to play Dungeons and Dragons is something fresh, something unique, and something comic book fans might not have seen yet.
No matter what you think of the story, Danica Shade is a sharp-looking indie book. The interior and cover art is at a professional level (not a claim every indie book can make), with Toglukdemir’s interiors definitely demonstrating a manga-influence. The inside cover also features a very cartoony style and offers readers a clever way to catch up with Danica’s slightly zany “modern-day Lord of the Rings” setting. I also need to give a shout-out to Ed Dukeshire and his lettering job for this title. Many indie titles have a tight budget, causing creators to skimp on the lettering job and, unfortunately, it almost always shows. Dukeshire’s lettering for Danica is a skillful job that definitely raises the quality of the book by a notch or two.
Final Verdict: For some readers, Danica Shade is exactly the kind of weird and fun, little find that makes walking the rows of Artist Alley worth it. Others may feel differently, despite the admittedly professional look of the book and skilled artwork inside. The topic which is being tackled, sexual harassment, is examined in a cursory fashion, which might not sit well with certain readers.
Creative Team: Francis J. Burns (writer), Ali Toglukdemir (artist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer), Don Walker (cover artist)
Publisher: Warrior-Poet Stories and Pictures
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