Review/Giveaway – Wander: Olive Hopkins And The Ninth Kingdom

Despite the success of shows like Game of Thrones and films like Lord of the Rings, the fantasy genre, especially in comics, is still a hard sell for some. Unlike TV shows and movies, comics don’t benefit from enhanced production value, A-list actors or excessive boobage to pull in a casual audience. At the end of the day you’re still left with a comic book about elves and orcs casting spells and riding dragons which remains somewhat of a niche market. Its up to the writers and artists to find new characters and stories that bridge the gap between the casual Game of Thrones watcher and avid comic reader. Wander: Olive Hopkins and The Ninth Kingdom, by Kevin Church and Grace Allison, uses humor and wit to create a tone that invests the audience in the story without them realizing they’re being entertained by a story about elven obsessions and magic wands.

Olive Hopkins, former barista, woke up one day to find herself in a fantasy realm populated with all manner of Elder Scrolls fodder. After crossing paths with an elven huntress named Shalwyn Arrowfall and a dwarven metal-smith named Luwhil Stonecrusher, they unsuccessfully quest for a magic wand and issue one begins with them on the run from a cave troll. Upon Luwhil’s recommendation they point their compasses towards the town of Quovash in search of Longfellow The Odd, who may be able to help Olive get back to her realm.

Kevin Church’s sly humor almost borders on parody of the fantasy genre. If it is parody, its an extremely respectful parody that doesn’t insult the genre or its readers. Either way, the comedic beats are pitch perfect for the story and the writing feels authentic for fantasy without crossing over into the ridiculous. Church never hits the jokes too hard and lets his characters throw the lines away with just the right touch of subtlety, which is especially important in writing a self-aware comic like Wander. A perfect example of this is when Olive explains her backstory and Shalwyn comments, “Are you going to regale us with your tale AGA-,” being cut of with the beginning of a flashback. Expository dialogue is almost always for the benefit of the reader and not the characters. The way Shalwyn acknowledges its superfluous nature while keeping within the context of the story was pretty slick. Its not that Olive is explaining what happened for our benefit, its that she’s probably in such disbelief about the situation she feels the need to tell the story over and over again, much to Shalwyn’s chagrin.

Wander starts off with with three pairs of legs running from relative darkness into the daylight (we learn later they’re escaping from a cave) and artist Grace Allison succinctly tells us everything we need to know, just in the footwear of the characters. Two pairs of fur-lined, animal skin boots running along side a pair of old school Converses pretty much clues the reader in to exactly what’s going on in this situation. Either a LARPer forgot to bring her boots, or a human has been transported into a magical realm. Church’s comedic timing definitely carries over into Grace Allison’s art as she uses subtle (and sometimes, not-so-subtle) gestures to serve as the punchline to Church’s setups. When Shalywn claims she’ll have to use her feminine wiles to procure the trio lodging for the night, she primps, preens and shows a bit of cleavage in preparation. Olive and Luwhil observe this and bust out laughing at the thought of this stone cold killer seducing anyone. The scene plays beautifully, but isn’t the only gag worth reading. Another is pictured right as Shalywn responds to Luwhil’s accusations about the true nature of her quest for the magic wand.

Selling you on MonkeyBrain Comics’ Wander: Olive Hopkins And The Ninth Kingdom should be easy because itswhip smart pacing and near-parodic humor appeals to hardcore fantasy fans and casual readers alike. If that’s not enough, Comixology has this cool feature that allows people to “gift” comics to others who have an account with Comixology, so I’ll be gifting a free copy of Wander: Olive Hopkins And The Ninth Kingdom (and more to one lucky winner) to three readers in this week’s contest.

Here be the rules:
1. First you must have a Comixology account. (its free to sign up for one) This comic and all the other Monkeybrain Comics are only available via Comixology.
2. You have to tweet out a link to this review with the hashtag #WanderComic, so for example:
Check me out, I’m trying to win a free #WanderComic from @dethfilm
3. Follow MonkeyBrain Comics @Monkeybrain_inc to stay up on MonkeyBrain news. (I’m @dethfilm by the way, you don’t have to follow me, but just putting that out there).

One first prize winner will get Digital Gifted copies of FOUR MonkeyBrain Comics (Edison Rex, Bandette, The October Girl and Wander: Olive Hopkins And The Ninth Kingdom)
Two second place winners will get ONE digital Gifted copy of Wander: Olive Hopkins And The Ninth Kingdom

Other stuff:
The giveaway will run from 7/19/2012-7/23/2012. On 7/23/2012 winners will be selected at random and announced via Twitter.

*Update…. Winners:
Our winners have been chosen – thanks to everyone for playing!