Review: Inverloch

Inverloch is a fantasy tale that has a lot of appeal even for non-fantasy readers like me. The story is easy to follow, and author Sarah Ellerton creates a universe that is different enough to be interesting but close enough to real life that it's not confusing. With over 660 pages up on the site right now, and new pages roughly twice a week, the story is nearing its climax and many of the initial questions have been answered, making this a good time to jump in and start reading.

Three types of creatures inhabit the vaguely medieval world of Inverloch: humans, elves, and da'kor. Elves are very like humans but have long ears and supernatural powers. Da'kor look like wolves, but they stand upright and have human-like powers of intelligence and speech. Humans, elves and da'kor don't get along, and as Ellerton assembles the characters they have to overcome their suspicion of the others. On the other hand, inter-species dating seems to be an option.

The story, which centers on a quest for a lost elf, gets off to a slow start, but Ellerton adds new characters and complications as the story goes along, so the later chapters are faster moving and more engrossing than the first. The characters are an ensemble of misfits, and a strong theme of prejudice and misunderstanding runs through the whole comic.

The hero, Acheron, is a da'kor. He's a gentle soul, but strangers often fear him because the da'kor have a reputation for fierceness. His first ally is an elf named Lei'ella, who is shunned by other elves because she is one of a group of elves who lack magic powers. Yet Lei'ella is smart and independent and has a magical ability to sense the presence of other elves.

The party is soon joined by Varden, a thief with an agenda of his own, and Neirenn, a young girl who is part elf and has magic powers. Varden is the most interesting member of the group, as he masks his personality and only reveals himself a little at a time. Together the four characters make a nice ensemble, and they get more interesting when the inevitable budding romance between Varden and Lei'ella starts to cause tension. Each of the characters has a very distinct look and personality; I was particularly taken by Neirenn's very Celtic look.

Ellerton draws Inverloch in a fairly realistic style with little exaggeration, using a linear style with little modeling for the figures and a lusher, more painterly style for the backgrounds. The result is clean and easy to read, almost like stills from an animated film. She varies her panels quite a bit, using diagonals and odd shapes to emphasize the action, which adds more interest to the page. The palette is dark and earthy, but when the characters are in a city Ellerton breaks out the bright colors. Her choice of black for the borders helps bring out the colors, although the dark brown background of the web page is a bit too muddy.

The presentation is in book format, one vertical page at a time, and it's easy to click to the next page or find a previous page. This webcomic is clearly intended to be a book, as Ellerton has not only already broken it into volumes and chapters but has drawn the title pages. It looks good but I have to scroll down to read each page, which is tiresome.

Seven Seas published volume 1 of Inverloch last summer, and volume 2 is due out this week. Ellerton redrew the first five pages for the print edition.

Despite its slow beginning, Inverloch is an engrossing tale with sympathetic characters and beautiful art. With most of the story up, and new pages twice a week, it's a comic well worth bookmarking.

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