Monday, January 4, 2010

Sometimes you have to toss a kitten

I keep a close eye on the comic book market. Every week I check the Diamond shipping list to verify which comics are coming out so that I plan in advance for unusual items. And yet, somehow I missed that Oni's North World: Other Sagas had come out.

The beauty of North World is that it takes familiar tropes from the fantasy genre and merges them with the mundane world. People in North World carry swords and encounter magic on a daily basis, but otherwise they wear mostly-contemporary fashions, speak contemporary jargon and dwell in contemporary homes. One of the tales in Other Sagas is titled "In the Mall of the Mountain King," which probably sums up the North World experience.

This is essentially the third North World volume although it isn't numbered as such; the first two comprised "the Epic of Conrad," but with that story completed it's time to move on. Creator Lars Brown has stressed that although Conrad was the lead of the first two volumes but the real star is North World itself. Other Sagas is an anthology, featuring a variety of characters.

Conrad returns in Other Sagas for two tales, one set prior to his Epic, the other post-Epic. A few supporting characters from the Epic appear in stories of their own and there are various vignettes (some of them work of Lars' which predate North World but are being published by Oni for the first time). Highlights include Conrad hiring a bard to promote his adventures, a quest for a diamond that forces two adventurers to hurl kittens to save their lives (see above), and a cursed forest with rolling snakes, among other dangers.

Conrad was an excellent protagonist for the first two volumes as an everyman character who grounded the transpirings (which were something like Grosse Point Break meets Final Fantasy). It's a treat to see North World opening up to the rest of its environment and the thousand and one stories which can be told in this setting. If chance prevails, I may yet to live to see each of those tales. I only hope that next time I don't miss the week of release.

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