‘The Lockpick and the Swordswoman.
Night 1: We meet a struggling family, climb a castle high in the mountains, make daring bluffs and find out what might be hiding in a spoiled prince’s treasure room.’
Written by: Arnar H. Önnuson
Art by: Marta Selusi
Publisher: Arnar Heiðmar
Released: 12 July 2017
The cover for this is pretty enchanting – reminiscent of a children’s book, even. It’s also based on an Arabian Nights tale, and I may have mentioned before how much I love folk tales and myths. So giving this one a look when it was released was pretty expected; I didn’t end up reviewing it at the time but I kept thinking of it and ended up coming back to it.
My comparison to kid’s book illustrations earlier isn’t misplaced – this is so colourful and curly, with coloured circles resembling lights put in wherever the background or empty space might be too boring; this detail seemed weird at first but soon became part of its surreal charm. But it’s the best kind of kid’s book illustration, where what looks messy at first glance is actually consistent and detailed. The mass of curls on the Swordswoman’s hair is practically a person on its own, and the characters are easily recognised (the small cast doesn’t hurt), while the outfits are colourful and rich. Good use of colour is apparent in places to replace masses of detail, like the treasure room, to still make it seem full and bright. The lovely water colour work and whimsical drawing style are a staple of Selusi’s (though she also does pixel art), and make a cool dream-like atmosphere. I absolutely wasn’t fond of it at first for the slightly overwhelming visual information, but it quickly grew on me since it didn’t detract from the story at all. Still keeps me thinking of kids book illustrations, but it’s a kind of hardcore one with people robbing castles and waving swords around, fighting stuff with serious faces.
I can’t find which tale this one is a telling of (there are kind of a lot of them, what with ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ not being much of an exaggeration), since a lot of them are called ‘The So-And-So’s Tale’, and it’s tricky to search by what happens in the story. I suspect this is more of an adaption or ‘inspired by’ telling than a straight-up translated telling of one of the originals; but either way this one is fun, even if it doesn’t involve anyone being turned into anything (a staple of many of the originals). It’s narrated in suitably story-telling style, without standard speech-bubbles or anything; all dialogue is put in the narration as part of the telling. It is suitably adventure-filled, with lovely brief moments of relationship between the characters as well. Like many old fairy tales, the morality of the main characters is pretty debatable – they’re thieves, but framed as protagonists (not heroes, but not bad guys as such), since the main act is theft from a wealthy prince. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I did like it. Outside of the blurb stating ‘Night 1’ the individual story hasn’t been housed in the overarching structure of Scheherazade’s story like the original Arabian Night tales, but acts as just a stand-alone story in its own right. There’s a wealth of stories to draw from for an entire series though, and the unique almost surreal artwork really helps it stand out from the crowd.
All in all, I quite liked it, though I know the same won’t be true for everyone. You’ll have to have a look for yourself (the preview pages available will probably quickly tell you if you like the artwork or not), though as folk tales go I like this one. Future editions will hopefully be as interesting! And likely involve more people turning other people into animals out of revenge and/or meanness.
Thanks to Comixology.com for providing this edition of ‘The Arabian Nights: Through the Sands and Kingdoms’ #1 for review.