Raye Knight: Spellbound #1 from Red King Press
Lou Manna (Artist, Colorist, Illustrator) Tori Pagac (Author, Creator), Victor Muyo (Colorist), Donald Thomas (Contributor), Jeremy M. Kahn (Cover artist, Illustrator)
Publisher: Red King Press
If I were to compare Raye Knight: Spellbound #1 to a film, it would be an ambitious student film. It possesses vision but like a student film, has some issues relating to production quality and final polish. Many indie comics feel small – they simply rehash tired superhero conventions and themes. While many of this archetypal themes are present in Raye Knight, the approach is slightly different.
The comic opens with the goddess Airadina mourning the loss of her powers as belief in her wanes. This is a similar theme to that explored by Neil Gaiman in both his Sandman comics and novel American Gods and I was immediately intrigued. Airadina uses what’s left of her powers to presumably take on a new human incarnation.
This is the child Raye, the protagonist of the comic. What follows are fairly standard superhero tropes – Raye is discovered by a loving foster parent, ostracized by small minded villagers for being different, discovers her abilities and despite saving her home town, is cast out. What makes this unique is that it seems to be set in a distant time and ties more closely into traditional mythology then the world of the modern day superhero.
There is little emotional fallout for the events in the comic – we aren’t shown much of Raye’s reactions to what happens to her. Wei, Raye’s foster father, possesses greater depth and we are treated to his journey from former warrior-acolyte to tolerant priest in detail. However, the reader is seldom privy to Raye’s motivations. Whether this is an oversight of the writer or an attempt to preserve the character’s mystery is unclear. There is a danger that the character could de-evolve into a Mary Sue – she’s strong and smart, a superb warrior with magical powers and no real character flaws. Her challenges are solely external. However, the premise of the character (a reincarnation or instrument of a faded goddess) is intriguing enough that I’m willing to give the writer the benefit of the doubt and see how she develops in later issues.
The secondary characters are sketchy at best – we are exposed to their reasoning (they don’t wish to draw bad spirits to the island) for ostracizing and ultimately casting out Raye but not the deeper emotional reasons behind this.
As a former graphic design lecturer, I have mixed feelings about the artwork. There is conviction and energy, and the fundamentals of anatomy, expression and background have been grasped. There are some errors with placement of the characters in the background and sometimes the figures lack weight – they seem to be floating rather then firmly interacting with their surroundings. But there is potential. The credits seem to imply that there was more then one artist was involved – I’m guessing that a veteran artist (namely Lou Manna) may have guided a less experienced artist on this project. This might be the reason for the occasionally uneven art quality.
The artist/s often do away with traditional panel layouts and some pages act as a metapanel. There’s a sense of flow that’s very effective, especially in the climatic fight between the sea serpent and Raye. In fact, the page layouts are one of the comic’s strongest points – they’re dynamic and exciting. Action scenes aren’t simply restrained to sequential panels.
The coloring is somewhat inconsistent, shifting between two tone and softly shaded. I wonder if the artwork wouldn’t have been more effective if it had been left in black and white.
Overall, this book has great potential but some parts read like the work of talented amateurs. I will follow its development and evolution with interest.
Raye Knight: Spellbound #1 is available here http://www.amazon.com/Raye-Knight-Spellbound-part-1/dp/0991348710