Posted - October 22, 2015
Legends from Darkwood
I approached Legends from Darkwood with one word in my mind "Fables". I wouldn't have minded if Darkwood took its inspiration from that successful series throwing in a little of its own creativity here and there, but this is not a Fables wanna-be. Legends from Darkwood goes its own way. It isn't as cohesively put together as Fables but it uses this quality as a strength. Legends from Darkwood is written in an unabashedly tongue-in-cheek style and it is this quality that makes it an entertaining read. It's as if the comic is saying "I'm quirky as hell, so come in and have some fun!". An honest invite that I accept . . .
At the core of the story is the classic myth of the unicorn.
If you look closely, you'll see the the unicorn horn is rendered differently than what we're familiar with. Here's a closeup.
This unicorn, and all the others like it, will be in the center of a struggle between two opposing forces. The first is Raynd.
Raynd is a unicorn hunter. She's not a I-have-a-bow-and-arrow-so-I'm-going-into-the-woods-and-hunt-unicorn hunter. She's an officially sanctioned government unicorn hunter. Yup.
Next up is Rose.
The counterbalance to Raynd, Rose is every single member of the World Wildlife Fund rolled into one person. She wouldn't be so effective against Raynd if not for the fact that she happens to be the daughter of Moore, the head of government.
As we 'set the pieces on the chessboard' so to speak, let's pick up that unicorn piece again and note one more important fact: unicorns will flee from everybody except from young female virgins.
I won't have to say anything about Rose - if that's not American Pie's definitive "goody-goody two-shoes choir girl priss" I don't know what is, but Raynd is a virgin and has to remain so if she is to be an effective unicorn hunter.
One last thing before we move into this tale: It sort of inclined me to believe that it's a strict fantasy setting. You know, Dungeons & Dragons type of thing? But then it suddenly throws up panels like this.
Yup, that's a staple gun.
It's all part of the honesty of the tale folks. Don't be lulled into classic fantasy-mode when reading this one. It promises to be quirky and it is - with lots of surprises in odd corners.
The story starts with Rose being a witness to one of Raynd's unicorn hunts. I like the panel prior to the takedown mainly because of Raynd's magnificent gun.
It's as long as the rifles I last saw in the movie Last of the Mohicans, but the gun puts me in mind of a blunderbuss or one of those elephant guns.
The whole bloody affair causes Rose to complain to her father. Since her father is the head of government, this is a complaint that could actually get results. What Rose gets is this.
Insert "fossil fuels" for unicorn, or "diamond mines", or "coal", or "lumber", there are so many examples of economies that are based on doing something detrimental to the environment. Not individual companies but entire economies: jobs, people, lives. It gets much worse for Rose.
Yup, she's been secretly groomed to be the next unicorn hunter. I'm thinking member of Greenpeace with a wildcatting Dad who made it big in the oil fields and now our young environmentalist is told that he has to be ready to inherit the company - something like that. I don't know what the Greenpeace member will do but Rose goes ballistic - there is no way she's going to be like Raynd.
The conversation takes a hilarious turn when the matter of dragonslayers come up.
Hahahaha! Just a bone for us Dungeons & Dragons players.
Rose must have gone for a walk to clear her head. What she happens upon is a strange little bulletin board.
A bulletin board were one can actually contract people for 'hits'. As in 'hurt somebody' or 'kill somebody'. Judging by her smile, our 'goody-goody two-shoes choir girl priss' isn't very 'goody-goody' after all. Witness here addition to the bulletin board.
A bit hard to read. It goes: "A call to action! A beast working among us in the form of a woman! Which you will end the reign of terror (by killing her dead) The Doer of the Deed will be paid in a cash reward!" - then a time and venue where would-be Doer of Deeds can apply.
Unfortunately, Raynd has a fearsome reputation.
No one wants to go up against her.
It looks hopeless for Rose until someone pops up with some good advice
Hmmm. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Let's look over at what Raynd is doing. She's over at the tavern. Rose pops in with a bomb?
Now I'm lost, I thought that the "virgin advice" would result in some kind of tryst being arranged by Rose. But a bomb? Doesn't make sense. Until it does. This is the quirky world of Darkwood after all. See the big heart emblazoned on that "bomb"? It's an indicator of what this "thing" is - it's a kind of "viagra" bomb or libido bomb. Get it? So the bomb is thrown in Raynd's direction and the big question is: does it work?
Fast forward to the next day . . .
and . . .
And just like that, no more unicorn hunter.
What we have gone through is the first of three subplots in Legends from Darkwood. The first legend is another way to put it. The second legend is a flashback about the origins of both the town and of Raynd. What makes this particular part effective is Ira.
Ira is a journalist who's doing a write-up about Moore, the leader to of the town, for a food magazine (don't ask). What makes Ira so essential is because he has modern day sensibilities, our sensibilities. If Rose is Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund rolled into one, Ira is the Human Rights Commission and the United Nations rolled into one. He gets handed a copy of some memoirs detailing the town founding.
It starts off with explorers looking for a new land.
They find it but it's inhabited.
These explorers bring out a nefarious contract to steal the land away from the natives.
All the while telling themselves, and others, that they are in the right.
The natives offer resistance and they are massacred.
And that was how the town was founded.
In Legends from Darkwood, if the unicorn serves as a stand-in for oil, rare earth, blue fin tuna, any resource that an economy depends upon but the over exploitation of the same is ultimately harmful, the natives in the tale could stand for any number or real tribes, or peoples, so many of them really, just search the history books. Anyway history is not so black and white - conquerors bad, conquered good. Life is more complicated than that.
There's more about this little town founding tale though. Somebody survived.
This young native is captured, her life spared, they accept her into town society and she is no other than Raynd!
Ira confronts Raynd about how her entire tribe was massacred and their land stolen and what is Raynd doing serving her people's killers and all that and Raynd has this to say.
Again, call to mind all the "conquered peoples" of the world. Given a few generations of living under whatever colonial master it is, the old culture is thoroughly defanged although not erased. This is just how it is. What I'm saying is that what Raynd is saying is truth. It feels halfway unacceptable but it is also truth.
I like Ira, because all throughout this flashback he voices our opinion about the whole thing with tirades like this.
Perhaps the best legend is the last one. It also ties in all the others.
I'm sure you've watched one of those nature shows. If you have, one of the more popular settings for such shows is the Serengeti Plains in Africa. Remember the wildebeests? Huge, bull-like herbivores covering the plains in massive numbers. Then here comes a pride of lions and boom! The whole herd is stampeding with the lions pursuing - and eventually taking down a kill, or, occasionally failing to take down a kill. The whole thing is almost cliche for nature shows.
Now what if one of those wildebeests - a really, really, big one with huge horns - what if the creature stopped and just thought: " I don't care if I die in the attempt but I am going to gore one of those damn lions to death!". Hahahaha. That would be awesome wouldn't it? Well, we are going to get something like that here in Legend from Darkwood. Sort of.
As you can see Andrew is a unicorn. Andrew has also heard a rumor: If you eat a man you gain the powers of a man. That's crazy isn't it? Actually, it is crazy but it's also not. I read a book once called the Golden Bough (the abridged summary of a multi-volume work). This book is a study of mankind's ancient tribal cultures and superstitions and it turns out one of the most prevalent beliefs during those dark days of our race is the belief that if you eat something you will gain its abilities. There were a lot of examples like if a tribal leader would cut his nails, those nail cuttings would not simply be thrown away, they would be hidden, buried or something, for fear that if anybody got their hands on the tribal leader's nail cutting they would be able to gain power over the tribal leader or be as good as him. Looks like it's the same reasoning process governing those voodoo dolls and the practice of cannibalism.
Back to Andrew. Not only has he heard the rumor. Andrew is also one angry unicorn - he knows they're being systematically hunted. So one fine day he does this.
He munches down on the "man" to the point that he can't even stand up.
Now the entertainment factor goes up a notch as we introduce.
He isn't named but take your pick of any being from the underworld or the dark side that you'd care to name. I'll call him Bob because he's a dark lord lite edition type of being.
Bob tells Andrew that a lot of animals have been wanting to kick man's butt for a very long time. Specially these guys.
The second thing that Bob tells Andrew is that the rumor is right about eating man. You do get to get man's abilities but not all of them - just three. And with that Bob comes out with the list.
Hahahaha. Look at how useless our abilities are! This is all made funnier by the fact that this list is pretty accurate. My first reaction is that Andrew got into a chump deal, there is nothing here that he can use.
Andrew has a complaint: He can't read.
First choice: Language. Now Andrew can read.
Next Bob chooses "Fire" for Andrew giving Andrew the ability to breathe fire like a dragon. That will be useful.
Now Bob notices that Andrew, a herbivore, just ate a man and will soon die of meat poisoning. So the last choice: Omnivorous Diet.
Before leaving, Bob gives Andrew a "bonus". Andrew gets bigger, "almost a dire unicorn" as Bob puts it.
After all these long years of being hunted the unicorn war machine is at last ready and Andrew begins to systematically burn the town to the ground. Here's the funny part. Two places in the town are spared.
The Nunnery and the Orphanage. The only two places that could very well contain virgin females - a particular weakpoint of unicorns. It doesn't make sense except that Raynd gets to shout this out.
Raynd may no longer be a hunter but she's still a fighter. She confronts Andrew and stops him dead cold with this.
If you can't be a virgin the next best thing is getting an unwilling virgin to shield you.
Andrew gets stymied and gets beaten up bad.
Worse than that, he is compelled to serve as Raynd's mount.
And that is how this tale ends. The controversial town is burnt to the ground and Raynd, Rose, and Andrew find themselves companions on the road to who knows were.
Think about it: Raynd + Rose + Andrew. I don't know what the next stories are but with these three together they're bound to be wackier than this first arc - and this one is already pretty wild.