Writer/Creator: Francesca Dare
Artist: Francesca Dare
Publisher: Sloth Comics
‘Before we begin, there is just one point I want to make absolutely clear. There was no ‘coincidence’. There were no accidents…It was all that bloody parrot’s fault’
Have you ever wanted to have your own magical adventure? Complete with monsters and magic? I certainly did. As a kid, I grew up reading books and watching films that showcased mythical lands, great battles, and heroic quests. It was something I always wanted for myself. Alas, my own adventures were always strictly limited to fiction (Not for my lack of trying). So, imagine my surprise when I came across this little indie gem, Penny Blackfeather.
So as a fantasy fan, how did this first volume hold up for me? Did it have an adventure seeking heroine? Check. Magic and danger? Check. Magical portals to another world? Check. An actual adventurer? Check. A super creepy woman masquerading as an even creepier tentacle monster? Also check. To put it simply, I seriously adored Penny Blackfeather.
Written and illustrated by Francesca Dare, this ‘regencypunk’ adventure is set in a small fictional town in the early 19th century. This small little town seems rather normal, much to our titular character’s bereft, until a series of not so coincidental events showcases a much more magical aspect.
The story begins with our titular character, Penny Blake, rejecting and opposing pretty much everything. As title characters go, Penny is incredibly interesting and fun. She is a free-spirited soul that longs for an adventure of her own. But, she’ll have to settle for escaping fancy dance balls, the advances of Mr Poggleswede, and the ‘ladylike’ constraints that her mother and society keep placing on her, before she can get her real adventure started. Oh, did I forget to mention that she can speak with the ghost of her long dead grandfather, the notorious pirate Nathaniel Blackfeather? He spends half the time being the sarcastic wit of the story, and his interactions with the other characters bring some added humour to the plot.
What I loved about the main character, is that for me, she is easy to relate to. I mean, who doesn’t want to get rid of constraints of society and run off on their own adventure? Together, Penny, the ghost of Nathaniel Blake and a mysterious adventurer and his parrot, stumble into an adventure that quite literally takes them into another world.
What I adore about this comic, is that Penny is never a damsel in distress. She is a little unprepared and haphazard at times, but hey, she is a first-time adventurer after all! Over the course of her own adventure, Penny finds herself having to come to the rescue of her real-life adventurer, who turns out to be a little more magical than he would like to believe.
On top of the great story, the artwork and illustrations of Penny Blackfeather is a visual treat. Its watercolor tones are very reminiscent of the Gothic era, and the color scheme that Dare has used is incredibly interesting. Most of this story is set in black and white, with dashes of color every so often. Now, I won’t spoil it for you, but the little dashes of color are done purposely to give the story a little more depth. There is a major turning point in the story that switches from gray-scale to full color action comic, and it is beautifully done.
This first volume is about 140 pages, and although that may seem like a lot, Penny Blackfeather is a genuinely good and easy read. The story is something that you can easily find yourself immersed in, and the dialogue is very light hearted, despite some of the darker themes that are built into the narrative. The interactions between the main characters is particularly funny, and there were some moments were I genuinely wanted to laugh out loud.
It’s during these character interactions that Dare utilizes some good tricks to her text boxes. The ebb and flow of the text is very easy to follow, but there are certain times where the writer has ‘bent’ a few rules shall we say, and allowed you to see when two or more characters are speaking, but the attention is usually placed on the primary character. It’s another very interesting little quirk to this comic that makes it even more inventive.
Truth be told, I could go on for days about how much I have adored reading Penny Blackfeather. It was witty, charming and had a whole lot of adventure for this fantasy fan to enjoy. Not to mention, it is downright beautiful to look at, as the visuals are stunning. If like me, all you wanted to do was be off on your own adventure, then I can’t recommend Penny Blackfeather enough. It is an absolute gem of a comic that deserves to be read.