Written by J. T. Campbell and illustrated by Shua Hendry, The Legend of Harapan #1 is a brand new fantasy comic book. To be honest with you, I’ve been looking forward to writing this review as it’s not very often you see a fantasy tale in comics these days.
The first thing that struck me about the comic is how incredibly charming the first few pages are. It opens with a written note beginning with ‘Dear friend.’ In cursive font we’re told about the island of Harapan which is inhabited by talking animals and how it is not entirely fictitious. It sets a whimsically appealing tone which carries throughout the entire issue.
When the comic actually begins it starts with a calm looking island with soft warm colours. Next we see a lion sitting atop a rock while a rabbit bounds up a flight of winding stairs carved into a mountainside. There’s an air of mystery built by the fusion of art and writing immediately, like the opening moments of a fantasy film where you have no idea what the rules are and where things will go. When the two animal characters began talking I couldn’t help but smile. The rabbit, who we learn is named Simeon, is especially entertaining to observe with his agitated body language and expressive face. Hendry shows with this one sequence that they have heaps of talent when it comes to depicting animals, just glance at Simeon’s face and you can tell what he’s thinking. The fact you can get that from a rabbit makes it impressively fun to read.
The story continues as we follow on Simeon on his quest as he descends from the mountain and interacts with the wider cast of characters. As the story continues it becomes increasingly unclear just what exactly is occurring and why. However I found myself drawn in regardless, I wanted to know more about the island and its cast. One thing I need to point out is that the issue feels smart, for lack of a better word. You can tell there’s a plan here and that a lot of thought has gone into it. Although I may have felt partly in the dark, it’s clear that the creative team know that everything is going to plan.
If there’s a weakness in the issue then it’s how there are just two little things that damaged my immersion. Close up shots of characters are rather empty. This may have been stylistic choice but when a section begins with a gorgeous establishing shot the following portions look a little bland when there’s nothing but a coloured background behind a character. The characters themselves though look great, there’s a wholesome cartoonlike quality to everything, as if you’re looking at frames of an animated movie. The other small problem I had is that there’s a couple of sequences told in short panels that might have been better were they strung into a single wider panel. As they are it means reading them together is slightly jarring, as one spoken sentence is dragged to cover three different panels. It’s not a large problem, but when the art and writing are so solidly good it just takes a little bit of the immersion out when the flow is interrupted in such a way.
There’s a tiny bit of blood in the issue, which may elevate it above being suitable for the youngest of children. Otherwise there’s nothing here that doesn’t mean anyone of any age could read it. Kids will most likely get the most out of it, as the comic itself resembles an engrossing cartoon. Comixology’s rating for the issue is 9+, which I would wager is only a result of the blood. If you only like deadly serious, mature comics then this isn’t aimed at you, meanwhile if you happen to think that Disney movies are kind of awesome then you’re more likely to be drawn in.
The issue costs $2.99, which is a perfectly reasonable price for the high production values and good length. In terms of page count, it’s got a few pages over what you’d see in the average mainstream comic.
Altogether this is a very appealing comic with an involving fantasy story and some very atmospheric artwork. The Legend of Harapan #1 is, simply put: a fun issue. If you like fantasy stories that are full of wholesome magic and a bit of a mystery, then this is a series that you should consider jumping aboard.