Lovarian Adventures by Gabriel Fua, reviewed by Kelly J Cooper
Do you like the details of a good story? Were you the kind of kid who sat around on rainy days scribbling notebooks full of new worlds, complete with different kinds of peoples, elaborate histories, scary and wonderful creatures, as well as magical tools and devices? If so, then you are going to love Gabriel "GeeJay" Fua's Lovarian Adventures.
Born of a gaming campaign, but without any gamer-comic overtones, Lovarian Adventures is a fantasy comic about good guys trying to win against bad guys. There are monsters and magic users, brave warriors and sneaky rogues, plus â€“ of course â€“ a quest. All set in this well-detailed world, building up the complex history laid out for us by Fua.
It's helpful to know there's a bit of backstory, but even if you don't feel like reading it, Fua provides history lessons here and there, as exposition or as dreams. He also provides insight into character history through remembered moments shown as flashbacks.
There are four complete chapters to the story so far, as well as an interlude section that falls between Chapters 2 and 3, called Lovarian Tales. Initially Fua had differentiated between Lovarian Adventures as the main comic, in standard print comic page style with multiple panels, and Lovarian Tales as a smaller and simpler three-panel strip comic. This worked for the first round of Lovarian Tales, called "Helix and Sephriel Look for Horses." But well into the second Lovarian Tales, while Fua was ostensibly writing both Lovarian Adventures and Lovarian Tales in parallel, Fua switched Lovarian Tales over to the main story line and it became Chapter Four of Lovarian Adventures. To make it even more confusing, the story that appears under the "Lovarian Tales" link in the Navbar "Comics" pull down is an incomplete side story by Fua's brother about Goblins.
While that might sound muddled, everything is surprisingly well-laid out and easy to navigate on Fua's very busy main web page. The navigation bar is always across the top of any Lovaria.com page and contains a pointer to home, a pull-down menu for the various comics, a pull-down for essentials (which include background story, character information, a glossary and a map), a pull-down for Fua's gallery, plus links to stats, a forum, and a page of Lovarian Adventures banners and links to other comics.
The Lovarian Adventures main page has a once-sentence overview of the comic, a link to the current page (with the date of posting for the new page), a contribution area for monetary donations or voting pointers, a personal blog and a blog for the comic. Scroll down and you also find a link to his brother's stalled comic as well as recent image uploads, a shoutbox, a poll, and a link list of friends and affiliates. And Fua fits all of this on one web page.
Fua's art is semi-realistic, meaning his characters are in proportion, with reasonably sized muscles and extremities, but faces are a bit simplified. Most of the characters have very specific and individual appearances, between hair styles/colors, beards, scars, clothing, and other accoutrements. Over the years of creating Lovarian Adventures, Fua's art has evolved in general, as evidenced by his gallery, and these changes have been reflected in his comic.
As Fua experiments with styles, the art of Lovarian Adventures varies from basic ink outline with a bit of pencil shading to thicker outlines with some ink shading, from inverted lights and darks to quick pencil sketches, from brilliant color to smooth gray tones. Most of the style changes occur as chapters change, but there are a few times where drastic differences between one page and the next pop up. The shifts can be a little disconcerting, but Fua has done a good enough job of differentiating and defining the characters, in terms of both appearance and dialogue, that the thread of the story doesn't get lost during a style switch. And no matter what the illustration style, the lettering is very readable.
Fua's writing starts off very earnestly, with characters occasionally narrating themselves, making observations out loud about their own actions and thoughts. As Lovarian Adventures evolves, Fua does a good job of integrating various characters' thoughts in place of vocal exposition, with the exception of one character, a female warrior named Nadine whose character is just naive and enthusiastic enough that it works for her.
The archive is gallery-based, which allows the reader to choose a chapter, then choose a page, or just jump in and move from comic to comic using navigation links on every page. Although the dates for each comic aren't listed, Fua has had long delays between pages - anywhere from weeks to months. This can be especially irritating during a fight scene or an extended moment of tension, and creates a kind of disjointedness to the story. That can be remedied by periodically reviewing the archives. And the chapters, which range from 20 to 25 pages, are consistent and flow smoothly when read as whole stories. However, the long delays do make it difficult to keep track of the story and impatient viewers should be forewarned that they might find the pace of delivery frustrating.
Lovarian Adventures is a fun quest comic with a good cast and an interesting story to tell. Fua is in no hurry, as evidenced by side-stories about getting horses for the trip and characters telling tales around the campfire. But it's a pleasant journey through a well-detailed world with lots of room for the curious to romp.