HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Graphic Depictions Today's Date:

Neotopia: The Enlightened Age

Once upon a time, when Mark Alessi and CrossGen had yet to fold like a bad hand of hold ‘em, I remarked more than once on the attention to world building that some of their artists displayed, and I’m sure that I often applauded CrossGen’s ability to write almost entirely in an all-ages respect. But CrossGen is gone, thanks to bad business practices, and the books themselves are collecting dust in bargain bins and half-off boxes around the nation.

And Despite Marvel’s recent stab at making books for the all-Marvel Ages category and DC’s line of kids comics (Teen Titans Go!, etc), there remain few comics that are capable of being read by a readership of many ages and yet maintain a level of writing that interests more than just the “under-12” crowd. While books like Runaways gets lumped under the Marvel Age publishing category, that title really is a book that is more enjoyed by an audience over the age of thirteen, just for some of the themes it deals with, and books like the ones from DC are just not written very well. This is a reason we lose kids to manga more and more, because a large sampling of manga panders to the younger audience, while still entertaining some older readers.

So while I’m perusing the manga shelves, I come across something that looks like manga, but is not. I came across Antarctic Press’s Neotopia, written and drawn by Rod Espinosa. And just like that, my faith in all-ages comic bookery was restored.

Neotopia is a land a thousand years in the earth’s future, one in which the people of Earth have survived a great cataclysm caused by the proliferation of industry and the overuse of earth’s resources. Technology, while not entirely gone from this world, is looked down upon, in favor of the ecologically balanced existence humanity currently enjoys. Magical races like faeries and brownies that fled during the Industrial Age, have now returned, and the lands of Neotopia have experienced unheard of peace. But not everything is perfect.

Enter Nalyn, the Grand Duchess of Manthenia, or at least that’s what everyone thinks. Nalyn is actually just a servant that looks similar to the Duchess and who, through the use of faerie glamour, fulfills all the duties that the Duchess feels too bothered to do. This includes such menial tasks as combat practice, attending to civilian courts, and other such “boring” activities. Nalyn even manages to fool the Prince and King of Manthenia, so convincing she is. But things begin to escalate when the still-industrial nation of Krossos attempts to abduct Nalyn. After the abduction, war breaks out and now the nation of Manthenia must defend itself from the machinations of the Krossosian people, as well as fight threats from within, and Nalyn must maintain her secret while leading her people into war.

While Nalyn is the main protagonist, Espinosa has created a cast of characters that are well realized, interesting, and compliment each other well. Each character has their own temperament, their own unique style of humor and speech. I love being able to tell which character is speaking just by reading dialogue, and Espinosa does this just by writing good characters. The Duchess’ personal guards Marro, the arrogant elfin archer with a chip on his shoulder, and Segeant Tinbolt, the over-cautious mechanical man, are interesting, as is the air ship mechanic Philios who is obsessed with ancient technology (and one must laugh when “ancient” technology refers to jet-packs). There’s the talking, psychokinetic dolphin Ki-Ek, who is Nalyn’s best friend and along with the brownie Nimn, one of the only people who knows her secret. The Duchess’ teacher/advisor is a pterodactyl-man, who cluelessly continues to educate the young imposter, and then there’s Monti; Philios’ best friend and a great airship pilot, as well as being a very literal bat-man.

Espinosa’s cast is incredibly rich, not just from his writing but also from his creative character designs, which is a product of his world building techniques.

And let me say, the man’s world building techniques are spectacular. While there is a section in the beginning of the graphic novel that gives the reader something of an introduction to the world, the rest of the world unfolds for the reader very easily. The use of airships and how they work is woven into the story, as is the system of government the Manthenia employs. Espinosa often uses just his artwork to describe the world, letting the images speak for themselves, which is refreshing compared to many writers who, when faced with having to world-build, resort to pat exposition.

Espinosa lets the reader discovers the intricacies of his world slowly and within the narrative and he never misses the mark as his pacing is excellent. He often uses smaller panel progression just leading into grand splash pages and full-page pieces and it fosters in the reader a great sense of movement, not just in the artwork, but in the way the reader perceives the story. The story moves and even the slower and quiet parts make the reader want more as Espinosa just continues to build the story.

Espinosa's work, like Lea Hernandez, is informed by manga and has many of the conventions of manga, but his style also relies on some more American artistic techniques. There is almost no facial sameness as his style is more detailed than many mangaka’s work. His character designs are excellent and he uses specific care when designing the clothes of the grandiose ducal family and some of the other characters.

Especially impressive, and not surprisingly so since Espinosa graduated with a degree in architectural drafting before he began his comics career, are his landscapes. The attention to detail on the structural aspects of world building help fully realize Espinosa’s Neotopia, and the combination of his great character work, great pacing, and structural ability make Neoptopia one of the best looking comics I’ve seen in years. And did I mention that the entire thing is in color! The color is beautiful in this book and adds even more to the already impressive artwork.

For $9.99, you get the first five volumes of Espinosa’s work, and a small atlas section in the back. It’s well worth it and not only can it be enjoyed by the younger reader, the older reader is nothing short of entertained. The closest parallel for this level of work in the manga/anime medium is Hayao (Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa) Miyazaki. That’s how good this is.


Robert Sparling

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites