A couple of years ago at Broken Frontier I described Molly Mendoza’s graphic novel Skip as both a “truly magnificent visual spectacle” and “a deeply human story”. That reality-jumping book was one of those stunning debuts that signal the arrival of a remarkable new talent on the scene. So when I spotted Mendoza’s comic The Drake’s Sword as part of the line-up of this month’s Shortbox Comics Fair it was among one of the very first digital titles I snapped up.
The Drake’s Sword is a fantasy short coming in at just under 20 pages that concerns itself with a dragon-hunting quest. In a kingdom where, we are told, there has been very little to celebrate for some time, a group of knights are sent out to destroy a monstrous foe. But unbeknownst to them they are also followed by a member of the king’s court who has very different reasons for accompanying them towards the dragon’s lair. Ones that will become clear in the course of a dramatic final confrontation…
Like many short comics too much discussion of pertinent plot points will only ruin the reader’s sense of discovery as the tale unfolds but Mendoza’s tale of love, passion and defiance can be appreciated both on a genre level and on a more layered, allegorical one. The narration that accompanies the visual narrative also has a hauntingly lyrical quality, giving The Drake’s Sword a feeling of pure graphic poetry too.
There’s little doubt though that what will immediately capture the casual reader’s attention is the sumptuous feast for the eyes that every page of The Drake’s Sword provides. This is not simply a collection of gorgeous compositions but also a triumph of design. The comic has the feel of a manuscript with the lettering choices only serving to re-enforce this aesthetic. Panels placed on top of panels, sometimes slightly obscuring the action beneath them, give a sensation of seeing the same events and sequences from multiple perspectives, while Mendoza’s use of colour, building up into a crescendo of fiery hues as the story’s climax is reached builds atmosphere and ramps up the dramatic tension in those final scenes. Yet another essential comic among so many to pick up from the online Shortbox Comics Fair.
Molly Mendoza (W/A) • Shortbox Comics Fair, £2.60
Review by Andy Oliver