Sorry, didn’t see this until recently!
I was going to talk a little bit about the writing, but I figured that I had much more actionable things to say about the art and my first post was getting long anyways. But since you asked, I can certainly provide my thoughts!
Generally speaking, I will say that I think it’s a good premise. Out of everything, I especially like the focus on Celtic folklore and mythology as that’s a topic and aesthetic I’m personally very fond of. There’s a lot to explore there, and I think delving deeper into that mythology and putting your own twist on it is a really good idea to roll with to expand the story’s scope as it progresses.
As a suggestion, I highly recommend a read-through of the Mabinogian. While not Scotts-Irish in origin, it does hail from nearby Wales and contains a veritable treasure-trove of ancient Celtic folklore and legends that might serve as inspiration for future characters or storylines. Definitely give that a look, it will expand the reach of your themes beyond just druids and give it much more authentic historical basis.
Let’s talk about the general story-telling. For starters, I will say I enjoyed the story and I look forward to seeing where it goes. I’m not going to say that it’s anything particularly ground-breaking (protagonists’ ancient lineage and destiny is thrust upon him only for the dangers/sins of his forbears to suddenly interfere in his life is a pretty well-used formula), but I don’t make a habit of judging things based on similar stories. The aesthetics, topics, medium, and your own personal style are things I think are enough to set this apart from other similar things, and often it takes time to really reach that core of your work.
However, I think I have two main issues with it:
- The story is extremely fast-paced. I understand there’s a lot to get through and a lot to explain, but I think a story with as much potential gravitas as this can maybe take its time more to set up the stakes, characters, and relationships.
Since you’re putting this out as a web-comic, slowing down and splitting these parts of your story into distinct releases is a good way of both dictating the pace and releasing more frequently (something that seems to help generate more of an audience when releasing content online).
As an example, let’s take this issue. I can distinguish at least 3 separate scenes that I personally think could have been fleshed out into entire issues (and therefore slow the pacing down a little):
- The backstory (setting up Danu and Fetch, their rivalry and history, the Emerald and its powers, the Sons of Candall, and history of the Emerald-Men).
- The inciting incident (introduction of our protagonist Stephen, supporting character Carolina, first encounter between Stephen and Fetch, the first meeting of Stephen and Danu, and Stephen’s rejection of his legacy)
- The ordinary life (Stephen’s ordinary day, further development of Carolina, Stephen’s further rejection of the call to adventure, and the emergence of a new threat)
I think all three of these could have easily been their own issues and could have taken a bit more time to flesh out the plot points they present. An added benefit of splitting things up like this is that it gives each issue more of a directed focus and purpose.
As it is right now, Issue 1 is kinda a grab-bag of Act 1 tropes. There’s historical backstory, character introductions, inciting incidents, rejection of calls to adventure. If you’re planning on making this a long-running series, this entire first issue is practically one-third of your entire story. Taking your time and spreading things out can help set the slower pace needed for longer-form storytelling.
Hypothetically, you could do something like this:
Issue 0 is entirely about the backstory. Set entirely in the ancient past, it introduces us to Danu and her conflict with Fetch, the relevant magical elements to the story, the conflict that sets the story in motion, and the history of the Emerald and its protectors. Ending the issue, we get a glimpse of the present-day to gear us up for the actual story.
Issue 1 is all about introducing us to the protagonist, Stephen. It shows us what his life is like right now and what kind of person he is, and shows us the areas where he must grow. It also introduces any relevant supporting characters like Carolina and sets up her relationship with Stephen. This issue can then end with Stephen receiving the Emerald and his first encounter with Fetch.
Issue 2 starts with Stephen meeting Danu and learning about the events of Issue 0. Here we can set up the dilemma Stephen faces and the stakes of the story. Why exactly must Stephen become the Emerald-Man? Why is he the only one who can do what needs to be done? What dangers lurk ahead that threaten to uproot the life he knows? And most importantly, why does Stephen reject all of this? You can end this issue with the cliffhanger of the new threat of Mario Valentine.
I realize all of that comes with the benefit of hind-sight, but I think keeping a slower pace going forward and making sure each issue has a focused purpose might be beneficial.
- I can’t tell what tone you’re going for yet.
Parts of the story, particularly the intro, led me to believe you’re setting up a pretty serious and dark tone. Other parts, particularly some of the dialogue, feel a lot more like you’re going for a golden-age superhero comic type of tone.
Some things feel like grim-dark historical modern-fantasy. Other parts feel kinda…He-Man and Skeletor.
I’ll preface by saying neither one of these are bad on their own. But it’s the lack of a consistent and clear tone that is the issue for me. I’m tempted to critique parts of the writing and dialogue based on the assumption of a darker, more grounded tone, but if it’s meant to be something more adventurous and light-hearted then I don’t find those kinds of critiques warranted.
Another part of the tone issue goes back to the art, and that’s the use of color. The cover and a lot of the more action-oriented scenes are pretty muted in terms of color and go for a darker aesthetic. Other scenes, however, are pretty brightly colored and feel, as mentioned earlier, a bit like golden-age superhero comics or He-Man.
Again, either are fine, but making a choice of one and committing to it means you’ll have to ensure the art’s tone is consistent with the story’s going forward.
On the subject of the characters, I don’t have any major grievances. I think the designs of them are really cool, and for the most part I’m excited to see how they develop.
That being said, I think Stephen in particular needs some more definitive character traits. In this one issue he’s simultaneously depressed and resolute to bury the past, yet excited and confident in taking up his father’s business. He wants to get rid of the necklace, but is extremely against giving it over to Fetch despite not even fully knowing his intentions aside from Danu’s vague insistences.
I hate to really say it, but Stephen just feels sort of blank-slate. I’m more interested currently in pretty much every other character besides him, and he’s the protagonist. Giving him some defining character traits and some obvious flaws to overcome go a long way in getting your audience’s attention and making your protagonist interesting to follow.
Having good character relationships and interactions is also a good thing. Having two characters and their personalities bounce off each other helps to characterize both of them. Stephen and Carolina and Stephen and Danu are both character relationships I’m interested in seeing evolve.
In particular, since I’m assuming Danu is going to become the sort of “angel on the shoulder” mentor character for Stephen, giving them some pretty opposing personalities makes for good drama and gives good opportunity for them to both grow. It’s kind of a cheesy example, but I’m thinking a lot about Sonic and Caliburn from Sonic and the Black Knight. I recommend maybe looking into that and other similar character duos to get inspiration on how to handle that (Steven Grant/Mark Spector and Khonsu from Moon Knight also come to mind).
I know this was all kinda rambly, so if you need clarification on anything, just let me know!
But again, I hope none of that comes off as too harsh. I really am genuinely interested in this project, and if I can help improve it at all through feedback, I’m more than willing.