Cassidy has just smashed her cheating boyfriends car with a baseball bat and the cops are at her door, when a mysterious alien woman (a “Head”) offers her an invitation to a ‘brand new life.’ Hopping through an interdimensional portal, Cassidy finds herself in a world with one major form of entertainment, the race, and it’s been decided that she will be its new rider. Her steed however, a dragon named Grey, is still grieving the loss of his last partner, Goliath, and isn’t so eager to see him replaced. The two are instantly at each other’s throats. Cassidy has been offered a new world, but will her baggage from the old one ruin her second chance?
Take Off is a fantasy webcomic by Meaghan Carter. Unlike all the other comics I’ve reviewed so far it’s an honest-to-god finished webcomic! They do exist! The joy of webcomics is watching the process — of watching an artist hone their craft over years to see how far they’ve come. Some webcomics go on seemingly forever, like classic serialized strip comics, without an end in sight. Others, when they do end it’s usually because the artist/writer got a ‘real job’ that pays ‘money.’ Personally, endings are my favorite part of stories, so it’s always a great pleasure when I get to see a webcomic tell its story and end properly – like Take Off.
While Take Off has a very high-concept, out-there setting (interdimensional beings! Empathically linked racers!), the meat of the story is a close-knit personal drama about forgiveness. Carter’s real strength is writing interpersonal relationships. She understands how people misunderstand each other. Grey and Cassidy are both sympathetic. The audience is given a lot of access to both of them. We see how Goliath’s death has scarred Grey and we see how Cassidy’s suspicion of people has made her defensive and angry. We also understand how together they can become stronger and heal. Their relationship is complicated however by Alexander – the rider who caused Goliath’s death.
Alexander creates the conflict in the second half of the story, and also furthers the themes of the story. He is a character branded as irredeemable by his peers, but not irredeemable by the story. Take Off believes that people are not beyond saving, no matter how awful they might seem, and an extended hand is often the greatest gift in the world.
If you’re waiting for the wicked twist — that the Heads are actually malevolent, the race is a death trap, soylent green is people – you’ll be disappointed. If fact, the opposite is true. The reveal is that the Heads created this dimension, this race for even more benevolent reasons than first thought. The Heads are the epitome of compassionate gods, offering a place for mankind (their favorite) creatures in the multiverse, to heal and grow.
My fondness for Take Off comes from its deep optimism and humanism. These values are reflected in the plot and themes, but also in the care and detail put into the character acting. All the human characters (and non-human) feel very three-dimensional. You can even feel this in the highly personalized wardrobes for each character – all the outfits reflect the inner lives of the characters, such as the prim and proper Song versus the tomboyish Cassidy. Carter’s character acting is good throughout, but you can see a bit of her learning curve art wise. In the beginning you can see pencil lines poke through the coloring and some awkwardly squished speech bubbles. By the end, however, she’s really gotten into her stride. She’s currently working on a new webcomic based in Egyptian Mythology called Godslave that I also recommend.