It was one of my first posts on this site, actually – and it was a hell of a time to talk about the comic, with a storyline that is still a blast to read through. Of course, the best place to start is at the beginning, and that’s true now more than ever. With my current focus on Comic Genesis strips that really step things up to the next level – and with the supreme awesomeness currently dominating the strip – now seemed the perfect time for a full-blown review of Freelance Explorer Indavo!
Let’s start with some general discussion about the comic. The description I gave it last time – “good solid fun” – still holds true. This is a strip that absolutely epitomizes the quest for adventure as our heroes travel from one bit of trouble to another – righting wrongs, saving worlds, and fighting more bad guys than you can shake a stick at.
It isn’t surprising that the storyline is never dull, but what is suprising is realizing that it isn’t just one random battle after another. We learn important things about our heroes. They learn important things about themselves. And the big picture slowly – ever so slowly – starts to come into focus.
The strip has currently reached a momentous point. We’re coming face to face with showdowns the strip has been building up to since it began. The latest arc abruptly shifted from its classic style into stark noir tones, and once again I found myself surprised by how far the artist, one Nathan Bonner, is willing to push his skills into new directions.
At its heart, the strip has all the things that draw me in. Updates come at a solid pace – three times a week – and are almost never missed. The archives are simple and straightforward, with both dates and storylines available for easy browsing. The cast page and FAQ are extremely well fleshed out, kept up to date, and include a sizable run-down of what has happened in the comic thus far.
But all of that – it’s good stuff, don’t get me wrong, but it is what makes a comic professional, not what makes a comic good. It is certainly possible to be one without the other – there are a couple of comics I read that have stuck with me simply due to reliability, rather than because they do anything to actually engage my interest. But Indavo ain’t one of them.
The art is easy on the eyes, and that’s always a good thing. Art won’t make the story good, sure – but it really defines how well a good story can take hold, and the art for Indavo fits the story perfectly. I mentioned earlier that Bonner really pushes his skills in new directions, and its true – for all that most of the strip has an old school comic book feel to it, there are more and more moments that go a step – or two, or three – beyond that.
What really does it is that the art in this strip has a masterful sense of style. You see it in the character designs – the Time Traveler in the Big Hat remains my personal favorite, but most of the cast and crew have the right attention to detail to make them uniquely alive. Little details and themes throughout the chapters – such as the noir style rendition of In His Immortal Name - shift the mood to suite the plot at hand. The cover pages for each chapter, while seemingly ordinary at first, not only set the mood for each individual arc, but also evoke a connection throughout the entire story as a whole.
And, of course, it’s a good story. There are a lot of strips that move from small struggles to epic battles, but Indavo is one of the ones that does it right. From the beginning the steps are laid to build up the story, but carefully enough they never feel obtrusive. When the inevitable payload comes along, it feels like a perfectly natural result of all that came before it, and let me tell you – that takes some doing.
I don’t know if we’re approaching the end of the run – the stakes are big enough, sure. But even with everything at hand… Indavo feels like something that could go on forever, our merry trio of explorers wandering the universe from now till the end of time.
I have always been a fantasy fan, first and foremost. Science fiction – I read it, sure, but as often as not because it was lumped into the same section as the books I loved. I won’t say I don’t enjoy it, but it takes a really amazing work to truly get me invested in the story.
Indavo is one such strip. A damn good comic that captures the sense of excitement and adventure offered by a universe of endless possibilities. There’s an epic tale there, but not one that loses sight of the little things, and that makes all the difference.