Artifaxis by Morag Lewis

This is an older review, however seeing as the comic series in question was complete at the time of writing and it is still on sale (and available for free on the web too) I think its worth re-posting the review here.

artifaxiscover

Artifaxis is a gaslamp fantasy comic series (gaslamp fantasy is like steampunk, but without the steam) written and drawn by the prolific comic creator Morag Lewis.  Morag has created several long-running comic series which are usually available to buy printed and also to read for free online.  She was a winner of Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga and a first prize winner at the International Anime and Manga Festival in 2006.  But today I’ll have to set all her other work aside as the name of the game is Artifaxis and only Artifaxis!

This comic is a series that spans 10 chapters, although the printed version has only 8 issues because issues 6&7 and 8&9 are double-issue releases.  The printed version can be bought from the Sweatdrop Studios shop and (like most small-press comics), issues come in black and white.  However, if you choose to read the comic via the web on Toothycat.net each page is in full colour.

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The story begins with Miriam, an academic who has finally got her own department at the university where she works: The Department of Anomalous Artifacts.  She looks after mysterious objects which there are no known uses for.  It sounds fascinating, however in reality its a very quiet place and no-one seems to take much interest…that is until one day an object is stolen.  Whilst investigating the theft (and what the object really was), Miriam crosses paths with the tall-dark-and-mysterious Rua and the meddlesome Rain, who will become her on-and-off companions as she follows the trail of the missing object.

Similarly to the author’s other complete long-running series ‘ Looking for the Sun’, this story centres around a female protagonist and her companions’ adventures as they travel through many varied places.  The difference with Artifaxis is that the places are all cities in the same world rather than multiple worlds.  Overall there is also more of a science-fiction than magical twist to this tale.

The story starts off simply and becomes much more complex in later issues as further characters and cities are introduced.  At some points it is helpful to be able to refer back to previous issues.  Some may find the story a little confusing, however a lot of readers would probably find it fun to have to work out what’s going on.

Miriam, the main character, doesn’t change fundamentally through the course of the series but her personality and back story are explored well.  Rua is ever the mystery man, but we do see glimpses of his past and who he is throughtout the series.  Rain provides quite a bit of comic relief in the story as well as having a pivotal part in the plot.

Artwork-wise this comic charts the author’s progression through over 2 years of work, from 2005-2007, therefore the art style and accuracy do change and improve over the 10 issues, with the later chapters reflecting the author’s progression to the standard that won her two awards in 2006.

Even though the look of the first couple of issues is not as polished as the later ones, the characters remain distinct so any changes in art style do not affect the reader’s enjoyment of the story itself.  As I mentioned before, the printed issues are predominantly black and white and the web version is in colour – the colours used in earlier issues are quite vivid, but they are toned down to a more realistic level as the series goes on.

Another interesting thing to note with this series is the development of the pacing and structure of the panels on each page as the story continues.  Morag starts out using mostly rectangular panels, but they become much more fluid and manga-influenced in later issues.

So when all the comic pages are finished are there any extras to enjoy?  Well yes!  There is an artists’ blurb and the odd splash image, sketch page or fanart printed in each issue (issue 10 containing an especially long extra section) which is fun.  Online there is a gallery of standalone art and fanart as well as a prologue not seen in the printed issues – so all in all, lots to enjoy here for those who like a bit of fantasy, sci-fi or even gaslamp fantasy!

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2 Responses to “Artifaxis by Morag Lewis”

  1. […] Previous posts about Morag’s work: An Introduction to Reya, Artifaxis review […]

  2. […] apart from that, personally, this one is turning out to be my favourite Morag Lewis work (after Artifaxis), so I recommend taking a look at it.  The rest I will leave to a proper review post, hopefully […]

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