Every now and again, I like to read a bit of non-Spidey stuff in my quest to become "Better Read". Whenever possible, I like to dig up local (i.e. New Zealand) comic creations, like this three part offering from Richard Fairgray, entitled "Falling Leaves". Richard was the subject of an earlier "Better Read" on his lovely one-shot comic Drinking Mercury.
Before we get into the story - let's cover the basics. This is an A5 (for U.S. readers, that's a Letter size folded in half) format. There's about 40 pages per isssue. Good quality white paper with B&W line drawing illustration. Glossy soft-card full-cover cover art.
The story is about Eddie, a student whose lecturer describes a recurring popular myth-pattern about a prince who's emotional state affects the kingdom. When the boy prince is happy, the land and the people prosper. When the prince is sad, misery and destruction follow. To cut to the chase, Eddie discovers that he is a modern instance of that ancient tale, and the consequences terrify him.
The three characters are Eddie, his female friend Scarlet, and the elderly professor. A couple of other characters drift in and out and help with the exposition at times. The story hinges more than anything on Fairgray's dialog, and his fearless plotting. Though Richard is not exactly a natural artist, he's functional and adequate enough to support his own work. Perhaps it even provides more emphasis on the plot and narrative elements.
In that area, Fairgray is definitely a talented writer. The first couple of episodes flow naturally, and maintain good interest. Eddie discovers his "powers", and then realizes that his lack of control make him a menace to everyone. There is some quick metaphysical stab at the difference between ancient myths and the modern translations which (in the absence of kings and princes) now tend to involve ordinary men who become "super-heroes".
I must confess that I struggled with third part of the story. The story-telling is subtle and a little indirect. As Eddie becomes increasingly distressed the story makes some pretty big leaps with not quite enough explanation. On my first reading I didn't actually figured the ending - I had to have it explained to me (thanks Katie). In hindsight, it makes perfect sense. I think I might read it again.
It took me a couple of years between finding Falling Leaves #1 and managing to track down #3. NZ Comics really suffer from almost non-existent distribution channels. But I'm assured that parts 1, 2 and 3 were originally released with a month between each issue. That's almost unknown in independent comics publishing. There's nothing like unreliable production to turn people off a series.
For my money, Fairgray is far and away New Zealand's greatest comics writing talent. The Drinking Mercury one-shot staked that claim, and Falling Leaves proves that it wasn't a random thing - especially with a reliable and professional roll-out of the issues. Despite my problems with the slightly abstruse story-telling of the conclusion, I'll certainly grab anything I see by Richard in the future.
Now if only somebody would set up an online store with a decent warehouse of New Zealand independent comics!
P.S. Richard's new website is Square Planet Films.