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The Shadowlark Symphony

The Shadowlark Symphony, part of Poisonwind, a collection of comics created by Icymasamune and Mutant Penguin, is arguably one of the more enjoyable manga-style comics on the web right now.

Running on a roughly tri-weekly basis, it tells the story of Psyte Haden and friends as they journey on a pilgrimage to the Temple of O'Ryu in order to learn more about the powers Psyte can command. He is one of the Five Dragon Circle, reincarnated fragments of a long-dead hero, and requires control over his powers to deal with those wishing him and the other members of the Circle harm.

The main strength of The Shadowlark Symphony is, without a doubt, the truly gorgeous artwork. From action-packed pages to the more 'cutesy' shots, the duo pulls them off stylishly, with Icymasamune providing the regular pages and Mutant Penguin following with a series of more humorous out-takes and 'what-if's. Toss in some splash pages you'd swear are straight out of the pulps, and the resulting mix adds up to a real graphical treat.

While the basic premise behind the plot may seem a tad generic, and the dialogue liable to stray between hit-or-miss, the comic is nevertheless a gripping read. Action and expository scenes are well-balanced, with neither ever becoming long enough that they drag, while snippets of comic relief, often in the form of small background conversations, help to keep the reader's interest.

Meanwhile, a glance at the encyclopedia or dojo sections of the site will show you just how thoroughly the creators have prepared and plotted out their fictional universe. From the world's origins to the magic system to plot and event points set 20 years from the "current" time, they've gone all out to ensure every possible angle is covered.

Overall, The Shadowlark Symphony may not be for those who read webcomics expecting a joke each update - being fundamentally plot-based, it isn't afraid to give up on the jokes for certain scenes. If you're looking for a good fantasy webcomic, however, it comes highly recommended, especially for those who enjoy some manga flair to their pages.