By way of glorious contrast to my previous post, this too has new art. But this I love. I think it might even be better than volumes 1 and 2, which is saying something because I loved them.
I actually don’t like the new art itself very much. It’s not as stylised or unusual as the previous, and doesn’t have quite the same energy or charm to it. I think particularly the character design has left them all a bit… anonymous. There’s just not the same personality, especially in Dee and Hannah, and since a lot of this volume is Hannah’s story, it does feel like a loss.
And yet, I still love this volume possibly more than the other two.
I’m honestly not fully certain why that is. Part of it must just be that they have all the characters set up now and can just really run with the plot – and they do – but it’s more than that. There was more of a sense of mystery in this one, which was sort of lacking in the first particularly. Not that it was predictable, but if you’re going to play with tropes, you have to roll those tropes out and use them to some extent, even if it’s just to turn them on their heads. Whereas by volume 3, we’re more wandering into the story they want to tell, not the setup of how they want to tell it.
Another part that appeals to the possibly slightly shallow reader in me is the quantity of brilliant lines in the dialogue. Most of these, I’ll admit, are cusses and insults, but they’re just so darn good. Wiebe really has a way with words anyway, and when you put the inventive, graphic and off-the-wall cussing in the mouth of a magical elf… something just really really works about the whole thing. He also has a knack for conveying a lot of emotion and explanation in a very few words, which is obviously great for keeping the pace of the story going without dragging it down.
Also shallow me likes the humorous dragon called Daniel. Because he’s a humorous dragon called Daniel.
More seriously, we also get to explore more of the world we’ve only had vaguely mentioned so far, specifically the Mage University (spoilers: there’s turmoil! Oh noes!). And the backstory we’re delving into is Hannah’s (compared to Dee’s and Violet’s previously). Hannah might, in fact, be my favourite character… which may also explain why I love this one the best. Dee is wonderful, she’s bookish and awkward and lovely, but Hannah is just so compelling to read, in the way of all characters angry at the world, themselves and the nearest inanimate object. Her anger and disdain power her through, and it’s really exciting finally getting to see some of where both of them come from, as well as some more depth to her as a person beneath them. What I find quite astounding, not just here but more generally, is how much character development can be crammed into so few pages of graphic novels. It’s what… 100 pages (there aren’t page numbers so have my wild guesstimation) but it feels as much as you’d get from a small novel. Please someone explain this witchcraft to me… But yes. I love Hannah, and so having a volume closely focussed on her, her backstory and her development is obviously going to work well for me. They also managed to make it not quite what you’d expect, and have that knack of giving you just enough to get you sucked in, while still leaving so much more unanswered.
Overall, it’s doing what volumes one and two did – telling a great story while slowly letting us in on the backstory of the characters – but it’s doing it steadily better and better, and I cannot help but love it.
The series is now on hiatus. I don’t happen to know why or for how long, and it has been specified as a hiatus, not an end, but it makes me sad because I really want to know where this is going. I got to the end of the first volume and was completely sold… surely they cannot abandon me now?
(Apologies for the short post on this one; I’ll try to get back my usual lengthy-chatting self for the next).