March 14, 2012
The successor to Darken is a spot of spiffing good fun.
Widdershins is a pseudo-Victorian-era comic produced from October 24th 2011 onwards and written by Kate Ashwin, who previously created Darken and managed it for its substantial lifetime of eight years. Depending on demand I might wade through that impressive archive to give it a proper review, but for now let’s stick with her younger project that’s not nearly so daunting to the newcomer.
Widdershins is an episodic comic, meaning it delivers a variety of stories in chunks rather than going with a singular storyline, though re-use of characters isn’t entirely off the books and some may turn up later. With the current archive I can’t say for certain whether Kate intends to have familiar faces pop up in future stories, though the first episode (entitled Sleight of Hand) has certainly drawn a fair bit of fan support.
I say pseudo-Victorian because whilst the setting would seem familiar to any Steampunk fan, the current archive doesn’t seem to display much in the manner of Steampunk devices, but at the same time characters aren’t shoe-horned into the same positions Victorian society would allot them. Harriet for example is a rather well to-do relic hunter, and mention (and dramatic display) is made of actual magic collegiate existing in addition to the pretend sort. Future episodes may clarify the setting but at present there isn’t much reason to presume that brass-plated automatons made of cogs and gears will start fuming their way down the streets. Fear not however, the magic side of things certainly seems to entice.
The currently-concluded Sleight of Hand predominantly features Harriet Garber, granddaughter of a legendary relic hunter after whom she follows, retrieving important and/or valuable relics from around the world in means that are, shall we say, slightly questionable (but only slightly!). In the course of the comic, she meets Sidney, whose full name is more than a bit of a mouthful, a magic dropout who is familiar with, though only passably good at, actual magic and far more successful at being hired for children’s parties, and who is unfortunately cursed with a pickpocket aura that nabs items from his surroundings and secretes them about his person, whether he wants it to or not. This aura is what draws them together as he pickpockets the relic Harriet is after, which in turn leads to its former owner seeking him out and them going on a wild chase to remove the relic from Sidney and outwit the king of thieves.
Dramatic as that sounds, the story, being episodic, is rather short and succinct. Specific goals are stated, achieved, and moved beyond. Characters are introduced, play their part, and similar move on. Whilst there is character development, it’s exactly as minor and momentive as it would be expected to be given the situation. The writing manages to successfully capture distinct characters and portray them in a realistic and believable manner, though at times I’d rather cockney accents weren’t portrayed at all…
Artistically, the comic certainly shows Kate’s pedigree. Widdershins certainly benefits from the 8 years of experience she’s had with Darken, and pages are laid out in a clear fashion with the characters mildly-malleable but overall consistent. Considering its age, if you want to see artistic development Widdershins is not the place to find it, but you can see it plenty throughout the vast archive of Darken (for example, compare the first and final pages). On that we can’t really say the art has progressed, but Widdershins has the (increasingly common it seems…) advantage of starting at a high degree.
The new episode of Widdershins is entitled No Rest for the Wicked, and would seem to involve spirits or possibly clairvoyance of a sort, continuing the modified Victorian theme (though precisely where the protagonist acquired a modern cigarette is up to speculation). As said, there’s not much of a backlog at the moment so there isn’t much to comment on, but if this new episode is similar in quality to the previous, you can expect some very fun things to come.
That’s about all there is to say, so go check out Widdershins and look over Sleight of Hand, new pages for No Rest for the Wicked should be following along soon. If you so wish, you can send Kate a message on a variety of places, as always I recommend Twitter. I’ll see you all again tomorrow at the same time for another page of Remember!