This post was previously published as part of my old ‘Webcomic Mole Investigates’ column over on IndieReview.co.uk, but as its still relevant, please enjoy!
The comic in question stands as a good example of a small press work which straddles the boundaries of both web and print media, as well as both western and manga influenced art and storytelling.
It’s called ‘Shrouded’ and is written and drawn by Vanessa Wells of Studio Withbits. There are three issues currently available which can be read for free on the comic’s own website, or purchased on Forbidden Planet online. The blurb on back cover (or first webpage) of issue one introduces the story like this:
“Marle, Alee and Ceea are travelling to the Palace. They stop off for the night along the way, but nowhere is safe to stop in this world”
I won’t say too much about the plot as I don’t want to spoil these three issues, but what I can say is the story centres around the three sisters, Marle, Alee and Ceea, who are travelling to a Palace to dance at the King’s birthday celebrations. On the way they are forced to spend the night at an olde-worlde tourist village, where strange things are afoot…
This is a fantasy/horror story set in a mysterious world, somewhat different to our own. If you read the first issue and think it might be a bit clichéd then be sure to read issue two as the story changes direction and becomes much more interesting from then on.
The artwork is finished to a standard that would not look out of place on a shelf with professionally produced comics. It’s a black and white comic that uses strong, dark linework with grey tones to denote colour and shadow. Dynamic character poses and camera angles are used to good effect, but not to excess. The artist does not shy away from her backgrounds either: they include some lovely sweeping scenery shots as well as bird’s eye views of towns and buildings. The character designs and linework style show a definite western comic influence, however the page layouts and story pacing are very manga-like, with more open and freeform page layouts.
In each printed issue there is an artist’s blurb and some extra standalone artwork at the back. If you prefer your extras web-based, on the website there is an ‘About Shrouded’ section and a ‘Character Art’ section, showing some standalone character sketches and paintings by the author, as well as fanart.
Apart from a little stilted dialogue at the beginning of issue one, the only disadvantage of getting into this comic is that there is not enough of it! The creator is a professional artist working in the games industry and so obviously does not have a huge amount of free time to work on comics. Issue one of ‘Shrouded’ was released in 2005 and issue three has only just been released this year, but if you can stand the wait or just want a comic to keep you happily satisfied for a little while, then you should definitely check this little gem out!