Modern Fantasy #1
Written by Rafer Roberts
Art and Lettering by Kristen Gudsnuk
In general, I’m not very interested in fantasy as a genre. Okay, fine, I’ll watch a Lord of the Rings movie or a Game of Thrones TV show, but fantasy books and comics have never really caught my eye, and I’ve never had any interest in swords-and-sorcery roleplaying games. I’ve often joked that the best way to identify a book I will never read is to see if there’s a map at the beginning of it.
Luckily for me, the first issue of Modern Fantasy is unlike any fantasy story I’ve ever encountered. (For one thing, there’s no map.) Part workplace comedy, part crime drama, the story is set in a world that looks not too dissimilar to the real world, but that has elements of fantasy mixed in. There are wizards and barbarians, elves and goblins, and any other fantasy race you can think of living alongside humans in the metropolitan city of God’s Helm. The protagonist, the human Sage of the Riverlands, has a lizard person as one of her roommates. When the office where Sage works brings in a team of efficiency experts, one of them is a human-sized bird creature who communicates in shrieks and squawks. And this is all completely normal, completely in place in a world where there’s a castle floating over the city that could fall at any minute and where a bug-person might spill his bag of spaghetti on you on the bus. This is fantasy that I can get into. Fantasy that understands the ridiculousness of what’s happening and that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Writer Rafer Roberts and artist Kristen Gudsnuk do solid work in this issue setting a scene and establishing the characters. There is basically no exposition in this comic, and relationships between the characters are never clearly stated, but they come through well from the characters’ interactions and reactions to their situations. Gudsnuk’s art is delightful, with a loose cartooniness that sets a breezy tone for the issue. Her facial expressions are superb, and each character seems to have their own distinct color palette. Her backgrounds are detailed without being overpowering, filled with puns that are worth looking for and enjoying. It’s those little details in both the art and the writing that make this issue so enjoyable. The story is a fairly straight-forward, universal one about stolen goods, annoying friends of friends, and a general longing for something more out of life. It doesn’t specifically hinge on being fantasy in nature, but the fantasy elements act as a hook to bring readers in, and they’re the source of a lot of the humor in the issue.
Modern Fantasy #1 is super-fun and funny. It’s fantasy for people who don’t like fantasy. The story takes a dramatic turn within the last couple of pages, and the issue ends on a compelling final panel that’s both deadly serious and very funny. If you’re looking for a light story with relatable characters and a lot of clever humor, this comic is definitely worth your time.
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s taller than a lot of people but not as tall as some people.