ADVANCED REVIEW: Beastlands #1 (On Kickstarter!)

BEASTLANDS #1 / Writer: Curtis Clow / Artist: Jo Mi-Gyeong / Letterer: Toben Racicot / Published: Live Now On Kickstarter

Discovered on Twitter

I went all-in on Beastlands #1 because of Jo Mi-Gyeong’s twitter feed. In it, I discovered a smorgasbord of sumptuous art, including original works and the sort of fanart. Seeing it makes followers like me scream at publishers, “Someone unload a dump truck of money on this brilliant talent already!”

Is that it? Will a trip to her Artstation or commissions page compel you to open your purse strings? Maybe? You want to know what the comic is actually about, huh. Fine.

Kingdom of Griff

Beastlands tells a story about kinship between humans and animals. On one side of the narrative, we have the kingdom of Griff, in which its king swears off all connection to the large, beastly mounts known as keepers. One such keeper is tied to the death of his daughter. So, in a grief-stricken search for blame, he declared keepers must die. While a brief introduction, there’s enough reluctant cruelty in this king character to already stage a conflicted showdown with the protagonists later on.

Mac, Ava, and Ping

The other side of the story, comprising most of this introductory issue, centers around three adventurers, Mac, Ava, and Ping. Mac is looking for a lost treasure his dad was tracking, and his keeper is Renzo, a blue, saber-toothed wolf. Sporting tufts of red hair, a sword, and scratched armor, Mac leaps before he looks, straining Renzo’s loyalty; the wolf refuses to let Mac ride him.

By contrast, Ava has the consideration to back up the spark in her blood—her keeper Luna, a winged, ram-horned panther, lives and fights side by side with her. Though more attentive than Mac, Ava’ll still talk smack in a fight and fire her arrows where the sun doesn’t shine. The soft-spoken Ping rounds out the trio. She provides the herbological knowledge that keeps the team healed between battles (and fed, too?). She doesn’t appear to have a keeper nor weapon specialty, which makes her companions’ combat skills that much more valuable to the team.

Use of Color

They each have a different skin tone, which is neat. In fact, Mi-Gyeong’s use of color throughout the issue is nothing short of excellent, always catching the eye through contrast and lighting. Across each setting—a courtyard in broad daylight, a forest melee, an afternoon campfire and a mountain in a thunderstorm—the palette carefully balances outline and highlight, such as the orange torch glowing in a blue cave or metal armor shining over dark underclothing. Similarly, letterer Toben Racicot’s sound effects are appropriately colored. Red letters underscore a bloody strike. Orange appears over a green panel. The details add up to enhance Curtis Clow’s script at every turn.

Mature Content

One aspect that could make or break the story comes down to the matter-of-fact depictions of maiming and death that take place. Additionally, there are some four-letter words to place the script in adult territory. That is fine, but Mac and Ava straight-up run people through with their weapons. Given their young adult appearance and attitude, that can be arresting. Keepers already take some harsh blows on the page, making this comic anything but a comfort read for pet enthusiasts hoping for giant dogs and cats kicking ass and napping in the sun. Regardless, the characters, conflicts, and world brought to light in this first issue feel like the appetizer to what should end up as a feast. Give this creative team enough money to serve it on a tablecloth made of $20 bills, already.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

Go support this gorgeous fantasy adventure on Kickstarter! The campaign ends April 18, at 6:00 EDT.

Thomas is a teen services librarian who reads way too many comics. He can be found gobbling pancakes at the nearest diner with Jessica Cruz, Forsythe Jones III, Jane Foster, and Hellboy. He reviews media for the public here and graphic novels for librarians at No Flying, No Tights.

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