It would be remiss of me to describe “British manga” specialists mayamada as simply a micropublisher. Besides establishing an inter-related comics universe of their own through successful crowdfunding, their wider activities include podcasts, community projects and work with young people. While this piece is a review of their most recent comic Serious: Through the Fog you can find out more about the greater mayamada mission in this interview with co-founder Nigel Twumasi at Broken Frontier a couple of years back.
Following on from the first Serious volume Through the Fog is a sequel that takes a perhaps unexpected turn as the real world events of the pandemic are mirrored in the characters’ fictional reality. The first story (still available here) is set in a world that is familiar but populated by anthropomorphic animals. It focussed on the young rabbit Blake “Serious” Smithe whose entrepreneurial ambitions saw him move from his small town roots to the metropolis known as The Jungle, building up a team of like-minded friends including the enigmatic Nova around him. It’s a story with a hugely positive vibe about chasing your dreams, collaboration and overcoming obstacles along the way, with plenty of intrigue, car races and action sequences thrown in for good measure.
In the self-contained Through the Fog things are looking good for Blake and company’s streetwear brand SuperNova until a mysterious virus hits the The Jungle via a strange fog that sweeps through its streets. Affecting people’s vision it closes down businesses, forces lockdowns and makes everyone fearful of social interaction. In the midst of this growing pandemic Blake and the SuperNova team must refocus their company ethos, support each other, and learn some vital life lessons from the chaos around them…
Writer Nigel Twumasi’s story brings in elements of the last two years to the world of Serious with a tale that obviously parallels our own struggles with Covid. There are some clever echoes in that regard. The “it’s just a bad cold” pandemic-deniers become the “it’s just a light mist” crew of Through the Fog’s society, and SuperNova’s pivot to digital delivery reflects our own reliance on the online arena, particularly in the first year of the pandemic. Face masks become goggles with Twumasi’s sage decision to ground his story in analogy allowing us to take one step back from Covid and think about the broader social and practical ramifications over the direct symptomatic factors of life post-March 2020. There’s also a subplot with the team’s mysterious mentor and guru Jin that weaves a philosophical life lesson around the main plot.
Pinali’s art ranges from thoughtful character study (her anthropomorphic designs for the cast underline each individual character’s personality to great effect) to the kinetic energy of her action scenes which can last several pages and have a fluid, cinematic feel to them. What most impresses me about her work here though is actually the less ostentatious, subtler tools she employs in terms of page structures, panel compositions and perspectives which allow her to juggle the large line-up of characters and give them all prominence.
As we have mentioned a number of times at BF in the last two and bit years, pandemic comics have come at the subject from a variety of very different angles. Serious: Through the Fog’s USP is that it’s very much a tale about hope, friendship and how we can overcome adversity with the support of those around us. While this is a largely self-contained volume that can entirely be appreciated as a standalone episode it’s well worth picking up its predecessor to fully enjoy this endearing and admirably upbeat narrative about facing up to the challenges life throws at us.
Nigel Twumasi with Alexander Duval (W), Pinali (A), Kerry Ticlo (Concept artist), Lara Lee-Green (E), Inko Ai Takita (Variant cover) • Mayamada, £9.99/£19.99 (standard/deluxe editions)
Review by Andy Oliver