Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday Revue April 11: LeyLines

Been Getting In Trouble Lately, Boys And Girls?

If You Want Real Trouble, Come Take A Look At Leylines!

You make your choices. You take your chances. And the gods watch. Every once in a while, they even get involved...and when they do, you may lose more than you ever thought you could bear. Such is the fate of some in The Leylines
This lush and intricate tale is the creation of Robin Childs, and can be found here .

Whoever said labyrinthine plot and tense, emotionally complex tale spinning can't happen in a comic hasn't read Leylines. This is a world of individuals, and within every individual a world of struggle.
The tale revolves around three siblings from an emotionally fraught royal household, each coping in their own way with the pressures imposed upon them; Mizha Va Naza hides tries to bear up as the good daughter and consoles herself with fantasies, but her walls of dream are beginning to crack.

Tama Va Naza is the heir apparent rebelling from the pressure to become a leader by retreating behind a mask of immaturity and clownishness. Pranks are his forte, but he's more than he least he would be if he could get room to breathe.

And then there's their adopted little brother. The quintessential runt of the litter,a child of a lesser race, he's constantly faced with the fact that he does not truly belong, that what he wants will never be allowed to him. He takes it all with a smile....on the surface.

And that's only their internal issues; all around them, political intrigue and strife is springing up like noxious weeds. Conspiracy has already cost the life of their mother, and soon these siblings may be engulfed....if they don't find a way to fight the enemies inside AND out.

The Rating

For beautifully intricate storytelling, gorgeous art and a world I feel I could step into, Leylines deserves a round of applause.

The Raves

First and foremost the reader, like the lover, falls in love with their eyes. And there's a lot to love in Leylines. For a creator who says they don't like drawing backgrounds, Childs is astonishingly good at it. 

This kind of  scene- based world creation does more than thirty pages of exposition and world building could ever do to create a sense of place in the reader's mind, allowing us to walk into their story. I often feel as if Childs' pages could be 
walked inside of if only I had the will. These two paintings illustrate the point; you can almost hear the train in the former and smell the hot sand in the latter.

But Childs is no slouch in
the other areas of world creation and characterization either. Next, you fall in love with your mind.
The world building in Leylines is subtle and tastefully done, always drawing you a little deeper but never drowning you in an overload of details and information you don't have context for. It's always in the details; the description of a perfume, the cut of the clothes, the discussion of a holiday, forming a world effortlessly around you. There's definitely some cultural research going on here, and you can spot some inspiration from Feudal Asia, but Leylines beautifully avoids becoming just another Japan-knockoff; the world is very definitively its own place, with its own culture and history. (though admittedly, it's fun to try to spot the influences. Oooh, is that a hint of Aztec? A touch of India?) In fact, Leylines is so much its own that the characters are truly inhuman for once. I have to compliment the creator for the bravery to base a story around truly non-human characters, a fairly rare occurrence; so often non-humans are simply side characters designed to look interesting. It takes real bravery to completely deviate from the norm and tell a story  in a truly new world with a new kind of people, running the risk of alienating readers with features that are harder to relate to. (and yes, the blank blue eyes of some of the main characters will throw you off the first time you look at them, have no doubt. The sheer oddity sends a delicious thrill down the spine. You are seriously not in Kansas anymore when you look at those eyes.)
But some things are universal, and one of them is plotting. I've rarely seen political intrigue written as interestingly as it is in Leylines, blending the best qualities of a whodunit, a political history discussion and an episode of Game Of Thrones (ahem, without the bullshit and big dicks of many varieties). The plotting is quite involved and could lose a reader if it weren't displayed as well as it is, with well chosen and executed scene direction and scene changes orchestrated to keep us as readers intrigued without making us feel puzzled.
Laid over all like a cloak of silk is the rich mythology and religion Childs has created, redolent of gods  and spirits who have a liking for meddling in the affairs of the living. The spiritual aspect weaves through and sneaks into all other elements, subtle at times, creating shocking and disturbing dream sequences and ethical questions at others. Again, an element that could be horribly confusing is made into the strange logic of dreams by great scene choice, page layout and pacing.

Oh, if I haven't said great page layout enough.....just take a look at this page.
Enough said.

But before I more on to the razzes, I'd like to complement one more great trait: the creator's
bravery and drive to improve. Open and in fact eager for ideas to help them improve their craft,  they began to offer the readers a chance to offer feedback and suggestions for improvement at the end of every chapter beginning at chapter 5. There they discuss ideas and areas that need work openly and constructively with their peers and readers. I was floored by the honest, intelligent sensibility of a creator who not only ASKS for feedback, but actually WANTS it and uses it in demonstrable ways in the following chapters to improve their craft. That's serious craftsmanship, and serious dedication.

The Razzes

Aside from a gentle warning that sometimes a plot can get a little too intricate and it's something to keep an eye on, I have only one other suggestion and it's a little awkward. So I'll start with the story. As a complete tale (which I binge-read a little obsessively till I ran out of comic...snicker) Leylines reads as byzantine, well done and well plotted. But I could see it becoming difficult for the readers to keep it straight on a three-times-a-week update schedule and getting frustrated. Judging by the comments I read it hasn't happened, and the creator's got it well in hand through use of author's notes keeping their readers on top of things, but it's something to keep a close eye on.

My one other comment is one that I'm not sure how to put exactly, but at times the heavy line art and the figure drawing gives an impression that the characters are posed mannequins or well done statue carvings rather than breathing people. It's not in any way technically BAD, in terms of technique and anatomy the characters are nicely proportioned and really well drawn. But I'd like to see a little more fluidity and less stiffness in the stance and posing of characters.

The Revue

The kind of tale you can't stop reading. I know I couldn't!

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