Hardcover, black and white, 112 pages, available at maxbadger.com
If you like fantasy but are tired of the usual tropes, Max Badger's Oak is an off-beat option. Oak follows an unnamed orphan who heads into the forest to go on a date and gets lost along the way. Unbeknownst to the boy, his father once made a deal with Death to make him fearless and tough. This confidence helps the boy convince the companions he picks up along the way to abandon their own self-defeating quests. Badger cleverly evolves his rambling, pleasant story into something tense and exciting, tying together seemingly unconnected plot and character points. This anti-quest comic succeeds because of the way it humorously develops character relationships and because of Badger's deft panel-to-panel transitions, loose character design, and lush, solid backgrounds.
Edited by Isaac Cates
Serial minicomic, black and white, 40 pages per issue, issues 1 through 4 available at cartozia.com
In the serialized anthology Cartozia Tales, editor Isaac Cates builds a fantasy world by exploring the ways a map can function as a narrative tool. In each issue, nine cartoonists are assigned one of nine sectors from the fantasy world's map. The artists rotate sectors each issue, meaning that each group of characters is drawn by a new artist each time. Despite this, the series has been remarkably coherent in style. (Guest artists include famous cartoonists like Dylan Horrocks, while regulars include talented but lesser-known artists like Shawn Cheng and Lucy Bellwood.) The results of this collaboration are fascinating, both as an experiment in form and as high adventure fun.
© 2014 by Rob Clough