This week I’m reviewing two comics from the same author. Riceboy, his debut work, is relatively short so I’m combining with his second comic Order of Tales.
I’ve categorised these as fantasy but they’re really worlds apart from the traditional offerings in that genre. The characters in these stories are not remotely human and live on a world both similar but quite different to our own. Really they could be inhabitants of some distant planet, stealth sci-fi as it were, but the stories are certainly more the stuff of fantasy.
These comics were not crafted to have universal appeal, they’re pretty quirky and a bit off the beaten track from what most of us are used to. For me finding odd little gems like these are what reading webcomics is all about.
The characters and comic concept
Both are stories set in the land of Overside, a world inhabited by bizarre creatures and divided into many territories and kingdoms.
Riceboy is a tale of prophecy, a great journey and sacrifice. The titular character, a small, plain colourless creature who lives alone by the banks of a river, is approached by T.O.E, The One Electronic, with the offer of a strange job. One that will lead him across many strange lands to a destiny he feels inadequate to fulfil.
Order of Tales is the story of Koark, a Teller in the Order of Tales, who has been quested with locating a story - The Ascent of the Bone Ziggurat. This quest will take him straight into the path of an invasion, ancient mysteries and perhaps something greater than the story he seeks.
Characters, both main and secondary, are well developed and full of personality.
As mentioned above Riceboy’s story begins with a job offer. One he turns down, yet then feels compelled to complete anyway. This is often the case in the surreal and dreamlike narrative of Riceboy - decisions and events are sometimes inexplicable and not necessarily explained. This was a highlight for me, I love the weirder, trippier comics, but others may not find it to their taste or frustrated at the lack of explanation.
The story is quite linear, a journey through lands often inhospitable to an inevitable end. It’s not dissimilar, in structure at least, to A Redtail’s Dream which I enjoyed but ultimately felt a little disconnected from. Riceboy is the opposite; the characters drew me in and compelled me to keep reading and caring about what would happen next.
The Order of Tales is a little more traditionally structured than Riceboy, quite a bit longer and with a more involved storyline. It still contains many of the same creatures but is a little less surreal and has more the feel of a traditional epic fantasy.
The stand out for me in Order of Tales is the story concept. It takes a few chapters before you fully see the direction the plot is heading but once established it hints and whispers potential outcomes. You don’t know if what you think might happen will happen, or even if the implication is correct, but I certainly spent my time reading the story hoping for a particular ending but fearing another. It’s a powerful bit of storytelling the like of which I’ve rarely come across.
Pacing is excellent in both comics. There’s no fat here, no filler pages, just relentlessly advancing plot. The tone is serious, though not burdensomely so and there are lighter moments but certainly not playing for laughs.
The art is very much in its own style, quite simple in appearance but with a strength of impact. Characters are sometimes somewhat twisted and awkward, particularly in action sequences, but this is possibly a deliberate style choice and it does seem to fit in with the overall experience.
The art of Riceboy, as does it’s story, ventures heavily into the surreal.
Order of Tales a little less so but just enough to give it a pleasantly unsettling edge.
Author, publishing and timeline
Riceboy and Order of Tales are created by Evan Dahm who lives in Brooklyn, New York and is a graduate of the Appalachian State University of North Carolina where he studied Spanish and Studio Art.
He works full time creating comic books both online and in print and has been published in the The Sleep Of Reason horror anthology.
His self-published efforts are available via an online store accessible from the comic site or here.
No timeline included as both of these comics are complete!