Michael Poe's Errant Story, reviewed by Brian Daniel
One first glance at Errant Story is not enough. A passing glance, and you'll likely see a fantasy genre comic that is "more of the same": Tolkien-style elves and humans coexisting in a fantasy world where magic supersedes technology, swords are ridiculously big, and guns apparently exist despite a lack of other technological developments.
Take a second glance, though, and you won't be able to turn away. Michael Poe will draw you in with a story that is beautifully drawn, at times amusing, and is filled with a world of clever tiny story hooks that pull a reader in and have him craving more before he even knows what's happening.
Errant Story is Poe's second webcomic, his first project being Exploitation Now. Not having read Exploitation Now as of the writing of this review, I had no expectations for Errant Story. Both are hosted on Keenspot, and both have a strong manga influence to the art. The writing style however is very uniquely Poe, but perhaps that's getting ahead of oneself.
As stated before, Errant Story takes place in a fairly run-of-the-mill fantasy world. The world is predominantly human – dwarves and trolls are mentioned but unseen. Magic is an ever present force, mages a fairly common occupation, and the primary means of traveling across the globe is teleportation. Humanity knows of elves but rarely sees them. Little proves that elves exist at all, if not for a small population of half-elves living amongst humanity.
One such half-elf is Meji Hinadori, a 17 year-old girl still finishing her education as a mage. Meji is surly, quick tempered, and if you believe the writings on the boys' room wall, a bit loose. To her chagrin, Meji doesn't look her age, and is often mistaken for being prepubescent. Along with her familiar, a sarcastic talking winged-cat named Ellis, Meji is on a quest to "become an all powerful, insane demigod and enslave all of reality".
For her school project.
Along the way to ultimate power, Meji runs into a gunslinging hitman named Jon Amraphel. Jon seems more annoyed by Meji and her familiar than anything else, but after saving her from an obviously corrupt police force, he remains at her side for reasons he won't divulge. Despite his profession, Jon is rather kind and noble, though he often tries to hide it.
Meji eventually runs into Ian Samael, the only other half-elf she has ever met. Ian and Meji make off with an ancient text they both believe holds the key to their respective goals. Ian's sister, also a half-elf, is suffering from a heart condition – half-elves are not affected by magic the same as humans, so no known spell can heal her, and it is Ian's hope the ancient tome now in their possession holds the key to saving her.
While Meji is undoubtedly the main character, the story begins and eventually returns to Sarine Elle, a full-elf woman on a mission in Man's world. When she and Meji's group finally meet, Sarine voices she has no intent to harm Meji or Ian, but her interests lie in the book they stole. While to the group it appears to be little more than a badly translated tome, Sarine suggests something far more ominous, informing Meji and Jon that the many such books were destroyed by the elves for reasons not yet revealed. Sarine's motivations are vague, but Jon decides to trust her, if only because she's the only elf so far not trying to kill them.
Meanwhile, there is subplot focusing on a mysterious order of martial artists with an agenda of their own, though it hasn't been made clear yet just how they play into the rest of the story. Still, every good epic has to have a wild card, and these fighters certainly play that part to a T.
The art in Errant Story is nothing short of fantastic. Poe is definitely a master of his craft and has a firm handle on the black-and-white aspect of the medium (though the comic is also available in color ).
His style his consistent, clean, and very pleasing to the eye. From the fast-paced battle scene between Ian, Jon, and the elven soldiers, to the splash image of Meji bathing within eye-shot of Ian in order to get his attention, it is plain to see Poe is a talent to be reckoned with.
The writing stops short just before "great". Poe's characters are consistently funny, all have genuine motivations that are gradually being revealed in a well-paced manner, and the story is gripping enough that you keep reading to find out what happens next. There are times, though, when the story gets a little heavy in exposition, although granted that's a common tendency in works of fantasy. However, it can get bothersome at times, as the reader can get unsure of where the story is going. In some ways, it still feels as if Errant Story is just getting started, as if some important aspect of the plot has yet to be established.
The strength of Poe's writing shines through the character dialogue, such as when Meji and her group are simply walking down the road, killing time by trading stories. Despite being characters in a fantasy comic, these characters talk and act like real people.
The bottom line is Errant Story is one of the best fantasy comics on the web. It has its faults, but they certainly aren't glaring. The art is great, the writing is good, and the characters are well thought out. If this was being sold on the comic store rack, it would probably sell like fantasy hotcakes. Poe is definitely a creator to be watched, and this comic is inarguably one that should be read.
Brian Daniel is a guest contributor for the Comixpedia. You can find his own work here.