Pineapple. Bacon. Tomato.
Three words that could have several interactions based on the context supporting them. Now, if I were to say those words in a pizza joint, I’d likely be given a Hawaiian-style pie (unless I was in Hawaii, where I’d get a dirty look for replacing the spam with bacon, but I digress). Stories owe their meaning to context; it’s how we tie potentially disparate elements together to create an experience that leaps from the page and settles in your emotional core. It’s why there are such difficulties in rebooting series and counting on what came before to give your “stylistic changes,” meaning without earning it on your own. And it’s what can make a moment you ordinarily wouldn’t look twice at become a pivotal scene that defines the whole of the tale. For me, Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker wasn’t catching my interest with its art style until I was exposed to the context of the game “being told through the eyes of a child,” and then the design and style fit perfectly. This review is about Oddwell, a comic about a frog warrior that does not bother to bring a larger context for the whole of the issue, but has one that transforms a story that I ordinarily would wave off a chance to be something quite special.
David Clarke drops us in media res, with narrative exposition relegated to small boxes giving us very little information, allowing the action be driven by a somewhat spastic caricature of a hero driving through like a pickup through a cornfield. Throughout the issue, we get bits and pieces of information, but it feels free-floating, never grounding us in substantial world building, but rather almost stacking tropes together to weave a story that feels like any of a hundred you’ve heard before without the delicate interstitial structure that would make it feel unique. And yet, having been privy to a description of the piece that I’ve not seen repeated in the public postings, I have to say that it is fascinatingly and thoughtfully done. If I were reading this review, I’d think that I hadn’t liked it, and I’d be especially frustrated that I’m asking you to trust in me when I say that once the larger context of the story becomes clear, it marks a possibility for a story that could affect you deeply and leave you speechless, but I withhold what information makes me feel that way. I get that, and yet I’ll ask you to trust Clarke and this team. Trust that your time and money are worth seeing where this goes. Trust that this is a picture that fills out from the center, layering a world atop a story that, at first blush, seems simplified and scattered but will earn its strength in the context that will come. This is not a story for just kids; this is a mature, enriching tale that I look forward to enjoying for its run.
The artwork is great, though it sometimes feels simplistic. I will again attribute this to the filling of context and beg indulgence. The character designs are superb, and the action is handled deftly. The panels are laid out wonderfully, and the story flows very well because of it. I like the commitment to the style, as nothing feels out of place or jarring, and the bold colors and well-paced throughline make the story a joy to page through.
This story has the potential to take you sideways from your expectations, to blow your mind and enrich your heart. It may not feel like it at the moment, but the world you’re about to enter is but one facet of a tale that can be appreciated by anyone who’s dared to dream of changing the world they face, to escape to a realm where they have the power they lack in life, and to handle the most incredibly difficult journey that any of us will ever take: the human experience. See that you don’t miss the chance to be a part of something that can open your heart.
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Creative Team: David Clarke (Writer), Walter Bryant III (Atrist), Acacia Rodarte (Colors), Meyers (Letters)
Publisher: SBI Press
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