Over the past couple of years there’s been a boom of variety and attempts toward more inclusion in comics, of course moving at a much faster pace in independents. One recent strip I’ve been following is Noella Whitney’s webcomic Broadside, a fantasy themed pirate comic with heavy queer themes. It has a clear, declared intent to provide more diverse images of LGBTQ romance in fiction.
However, that’s not its entire focus, and it certainly doesn’t come at the expense of his quality. What is gradually unfolding is a genuinely fascinating supernatural journey across the high seas, with two interesting leads that are proving to be more complex than they initially look .
Nora had no intention originally of escaping from an intitally unmentioned situation aboard a pirate ship, but thanks to a miscalculation on her part she accidentally stows herself away aboard one. Fortunately, Frei might be a tough minded and businesslike captain, but she’s still sympathetic and merciful enough to not feed the confused and frightened redhead to hungry sharks, and puts her to work as one of the crew.
The young runaway is at first uncomfortable bunking and living amongst a gang of thieves, but one gets the impression it’s better than an unknown alternative. That’s not to say she doesn’t form connections along the way- Frei remains her usual stoic self for the most part, but crew members Lydia and Georgie are more than happy to show Nora the ways and secrets of piracy. When they aren’t flirting with each other, that is. Her self confidence does gradually rise as she learns more about her crewmates, and ideas of love and affection between two women she had never considered.
Frei does manage to recognize Nora’s sewing skills and assigns her to create a battle flag for an upcoming raid, where the runaway summons all the courage she has as she battles rival pirates for the first time. This leads to her discovering a mysterious talisman that contains a supernatural being, which will undoubtedly be at the center of Broadside’s future storylines.
Whitney’s art direction is always decidedly cartoony, but eventually early on she uses a good deal of detail, and her expressions and overall rendering improves as Broadside advances. Her character models are diverse, appealing and believable despite how stylized they are, and her use of color gives the strip a bright and appealing aura throughout. The fight scenes also have good fluity to them that keeps everything exciting.
Nora’s vulnerability is balanced out by her willpower and empathy, and so far she’s a pretty appealing protagonist. Her growth is totally believable, and her dynamic with the stern Frei is interesting to see develop. Judging by some of Whitney’s work outside of the strip, I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually became a couple. Could that be considered a spoiler? To be fair, Broadside is selling itself on its romantic aspects to begin with, and the mystery behind Frei and her connection to Guabancex will more than likely provide some fun twists along with Nora’s past.
As it stands, I think Broadside is an entertaining pirate adventure comic with some sharp art, unique ideas and a relatable cast. Recommended, and you can check it out here!