Diversity may be having a moment in mainstream comics as of late (there’s more variety when it comes to the visibility of characters in comics these days than ever before), but if there’s one thing that I can’t wait to see more glimmer of, it’s more fantasy comics with a teenage girl protagonist. Titles like Jeremy Whitley’s Princeless and Greg Pak’s Princess Who Saves Herself , have defied the doubts of many comic companies, saying that fantasy and teenage protagonists don’t mix. But here is another title that not only mixes these two elements together, but does so in a way that grips you and leaves you wanting more.
Of Stars and Swords, Vol. 1 started off as a webcomic created by husband/wife duo Graham and Caroline Johnson back in 2011. The miniseries was submitted to Comixology via Submit, and since then, the duo has found success with their title reaching a broader audience. The first story arc makes up Volume 1.
The story follows a young girl protagonist named Seren Cassian who finds herself treading the line between vengeance and finding herself. Witnessing her mother and brother murdered when she was a young girl, Seren is forced to use her wits and own judgement to survive, falling into more destructive habits of theft and even taking up the blade herself. When she finds evidence of her father’s survival, she goes on a quest to find him, and is soon caught between both the toll of being on the physical battlefield and the emotional turmoil of piecing together her guilt and inner strength.
What I liked most about Of Stars and Swords was how likeably unlikable the Johnson’s were able to make Seren. She avoids the pitfalls of typical gendered archetypes and is instead presented to us as a reluctant hero on a mission. She’s dutiful, skilled, and it’s her inner struggle – facing up to who she once was and who she is now – that kept me compelled.
The artwork reminds me of what you would see in other fantasy mediums – the still scenes of a fantasy RPG, for example – but still move of their own accord between the panels. The art works alongside the writing of the issues to show us the brilliance of this world that the Johnson’s have created; it’s a world that’s filled with elves, swordplay, and good ol’ fashioned greedy villains that need to be dealt with, medieval-style.
One thing needs to be said though – with Vol. 1, you’re getting six issues of action in one giant issue. So it’s a lengthier read than other comics that run by issue. However, despite the length, Of Stars and Swords is still worth the read. It’s filled with enough action and magical elements to keep you engaged, but at its core, and the most reassuring fact Of Stars and Swords is that the story sits squarely on Seren and her capabilities – we care for her, even when she shows us her doubts and makes mistakes. And when she raises her sword to meet an enemy on the battlefield, we’re cheering alongside her.
You can pick up Of Stars and Swords on Comixology Submit.