Smithers&Wing is a LGBT+ mystery fantasy story surrounding the disappearance of Catriona, a high school student whose absence is brought to our main protagonists Flora Smithers and August Wing by Cat’s teacher. What unfolds is a detective tale with a basis in magic which brings to light the past of the two P.I.s, conflict arising between the numerous characters in the cast, and their relationship to the case, as well as concerns surrounding magic.
The atmospheric lighting in Smithers&Wing results in making every panel gorgeous; also bringing out the story’s emotional beats. The colours add to the sense of mystery and help to give every scene its intended effect. For example, each night-time sequence has low light or artificial light making the colour palette fit with the overall mood of that particular story moment. The line art also changes colour to suit the lighting, giving every section a different overall feel.
Every aspect of the story is shrouded in mystery. The one surrounding Catriona is the plot’s main focus but there are also the mysteries surrounding each character’s past – particularly August and Flora – as well as the seemingly elitist group known as ‘the Order’. We also learn about August’s past job and her injury, as well as the pair’s relationship with using magic. Discovering the impact that magic has had on this world, as well as what it consists of here is also something which develops as the story continues.
That use of magic within the story is refreshing – it’s nice to see the idea of it in conjunction with the detective genre. Magic becomes an ingrained part of the story’s universe as opposed to simply being related to the case itself.
The lettering in Smithers&Wing has an overall soft calligraphic quality, although becomes more cartoony and bold with louder sounds like shouting. Speech bubbles become harsher to match the similarly harsher letters. Sometimes the lettering changes colour within a speech bubble to emphasise a character’s tone and all magic takes on a translucent quality giving it an otherworldly feel in comparison.
There are also some small references which made my classics student heart jump for joy, incorporating historical references within the world grounds the somewhat fantastical theme within a reality the reader can relate to.
In summary, Smithers&Wing is compelling in both art and story. It creates intrigue and mystery by slowly revealing more information about the world and its characters to the reader, and it’s unafraid to allude to things and introduce them slowly, as opposed to constantly stating them outright. Smithers&Wing is a fascinating read full of mysteries and secrets that give the detective genre a magical touch.
Heather Palmer (Writer), Kirsty Hunter (Artist), Jaye Stacey (Additional Colouring), Holley McKend (Flatter) • Independent Publishing Network, £12.00
Review by Holly Raidl