Umbral #1 Review

by @octii_pies on Nov 14, 2013

“Rascal” is such a strange name, isn’t it? I suppose it is always the troublemakers who make the stuff of legends.

The Good

Umbral begins during a magnificent event in a magnificent castle in a magnificently old kingdom. “The day dawned twice” is the most romantic description I have ever read or heard of an eclipse. Realizing that in itself made me like the writing style. Another quirky bit I enjoyed was the uncanny spelling of completely orthodox names- Petor, Hanry, Arthir (of course there’s a Prince Arthir). The art style is interesting because the lines are not smooth as many millennial comic readers may be used to, especially with the earlier rise of popularity in manga. They are instead scratchy, maybe even wobbly. This is brilliant because it creates the illusion in movement in every panel. The skirt rustles more when Rascal runs and hair flowing in movement for both Rascal and Arthir shows us the dramatic quickening of pace in the story. The unsteady lines are especially effective in conveying the mysterious creatures that show up. Then there is the choice of color pallets throughout the issue. Rather than just layering everything in a greyness, a set of cool colors- from blues and purples to greys and blacks- is chosen to depict darkness and dim light.

The writing is most distinct when looking at Rascal conversate with Arthir. From such different backgrounds, one could expect different dialects and slang. Indeed, I can tell from phrases and choice words alone that Rascal is definitely from the streets while Arthir… Well, you get the picture. These two sound just like the age they’re shown rather than sounding the same as the other adult characters introduced to us. Even those characters have realistic conversations, with snark and sarcasm embedded according to class and duty.

The Not So Good

Remember those lines I was talking about? They don’t make for very good facial expressions. Sometimes, even more so in serious, intense moments, the faces “derp”. Either the eyes are too far set from each other or the face is scrunched up in a strange way. This really detracts from the intended atmosphere and emotion for the readers. Up close panels of faces tend to work out fine, though.

The Bottom Line

While the illustrations can be tweaked a little, the environment and colors make up for it a bit. The writing is spot on to show the backgrounds and personalities of each character, minor or not. I want to continue to follow the plot- something about mysterious magical things plus unintended female protagonists make me latch on. I’d definitely suggest you pick up this book if, at least, you like the fantasy genre in any media.

4.5 / 5
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Umbral #1
Released November 13, 2013
Writer Antony Johnston
Artist Christopher Mitten
Cover Artist Christopher Mitten

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