By Zack Quaintance — Sera and the Royal Stars #1 is one good-looking comic, so much so that I want to start this review by highlighting artist Audrey Mok and colorist Raul Angulo’s vast contributions to this story. This is a fantasy comic, one beholden to certain visuals (cloaks, swords, arrows, boots, horses, etc.) as fantasy comics often are. Within that, however, Mok and Angulo’s work quickly sets a tone for this world, nodding to certain real world cultural touchstones while taking scenes and settings and extending them into fantastical and creative new aesthetic territory. They pull influences, they add their own touches, they bring us to a world at once familiar and intriguing. The visual world-building here is all very done.
Beyond that, the duo are also asked to take the audience to more ethereal places as the script demands, and they do that well too, almost making it so the characters’ dreams feel a bit like extensions of the waking fantasy world. This, obviously, is no easy task, and they nail it. I think this all adds up to a comic that operates throughout from a place of great strength, with its house entirely in order when it comes to rolling out pleasant things to look at. It all seems kind of obvious to say—duh, good comics look good—but it’s not always the case, especially with fantasy stories (although we as readers have been a bit aesthetically spoiled in the genre as of late….see, Isola). There are some fantasy comics (perhaps the vast majority of them) content to rely on establish imagery, all but adapted from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.
This is all a long-winded saying of artists who take world-building within fantasy comic books seriously create work that really stands out, and Sera and the Royal Stars is certainly that. The flow and pacing of the storytelling here is also exceedingly well done, with everything from revelations about who are central character is, to the threats the kingdom faces, to the motivations of her character doled out at a clip that keeps interest high and pages turning. There’s plenty of action, with just a taste of the world’s mythos and the family’s past (as well as future in one particularly stunning vision page) to drive interest.
I don’t, however, entirely know if I have a grip on exactly what this comic aspires to be about thematically, not after just one issue (and that’s fine, btw). For most of it, I thought this was going to be a story of family relationships, of what happens when some members are lost and others can no longer work things out in the same ways they once did. There were also hints of it being a story about acting in one’s own self interest versus acting in the interest of the whole. If I had to guess, I’d say the comic ultimately ends up exploring the latter. I must also confess that I don’t have a strong grip just yet on the supernatural elements in play here, or the significance of this chapter’s ending, or the visions that plague (right word?) our hero, but this story looks so good, I’m very excited to see what all it has in mind.
Overall: A very good-looking comic that has a lot of strong elements in place. It will be interesting to see what it does with them all moving forward. 8.3/10
Sera and the Royal Stars #1
Writer: Jon Tsuei
Artist: Audrey Mok
Colorist: Raul Angulo
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.