Little White Knight

Creator/s: Srdjan Achimovich
Run: ?
Schedule: On indefinite hiatus

Website: The site's generic, black-and-white layout's clearly underwhelming as far as webcomics standards go, but after viewing several similar-looking Graphic Smash webcomics, it's apparent the hosting service doesn't offer its creators much opportunity for customization.

While modest, Little White Knight has a decent amount of additional content, including fan art, a description of the comic, a comments box, and links to the creator's other projects. It also has its own subforum, but it's barely mentioned on the site, and has been inactive for a while. A cast page might be a good idea considering the broad scope of the story, but I don't see it as being entirely necessary, particularly since the comic's more concerned with its historical setting. Extra information on medieval Spain would've been a nice touch, however, sort of like how the creator of Without Moonlight elaborates on World War II-era Greece. The subforum also has some thumbnails for the comic, which would've made nice extras for the site.

The archive page is disorganized, with no attempt made to separate the pages into chapters and volumes. While Graphic Smash only offers a very straightforward table of contents, the creator could've uploaded cover pages in order to label the different sections. The table also doesn't make it clear how long the comic is, as while it has links for 143 pages, the real page count's probably closer to around 300.

Lastly, I initially wasn't able to view the pages in the section titled "Drill," and upon closer inspection, I saw that the pages weren't showing because they had "" in their URLs. I was finally able to see them when I edited the links, but it was definitely an unnecessary hassle.

Writing: Little White Knight boldly tackles a variety of complex subjects, including gender roles, class consciousness, historical perspective, sexuality, imagination, racism, religion, and political power struggles. These elements combine to form a surprisingly sophisticated and mature story, and Little White Knight probably has more depth than any webcomic I've read before. I'm confident that I could write extensively about a wide range of topics in Little White Knight, similarly to how I wrote about Loud Era's Marie, but unfortunately, due to time constraints, I'll barely be able to scratch the surface of these subjects in this review.

The story makes it clear that the role of a noblewoman in 11th-century Spain was solely to marry politically advantageous men and have children, and this cultural attitude forms the backdrop of the drama surrounding the swordfighting protagonist, Malena. Her perpetual resistance to authority, pursuit of forbidden love, and cartoonish appearance help make her a compelling and magnetic hero. In addition, her sex, youth, and stick-figure physique give her the underdog's appeal as she battles older and larger opponents, and it appears that the rebelliousness associated with her swordplay encourages her to work particularly hard at mastering it. Malena also makes a very reasonable point: If she really is the best swordfighter in Spain, then she deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded for it. Even her superior fighting style is criticized, however, being called "girlish," showing how resistant the society is to anything that deviates from tradition.

Another particularly interesting character is El Cid, a charismatic military strategist, who upsets the nobles, and is subsequently placed under arrest by his incompetent and corrupt king, Alfonso. El Cid's the complete opposite of Alfonso, being muscular, attractive, intelligent, courageous, selfless, and family-oriented, and it's obvious that Spain would benefit from having him in charge; however, like with Malena, the rigid social structure prevents his merits from being perceived in a positive way. Also, like Malena and other characters in the comic, El Cid's faced with two divergent paths: He can adhere to the status quo and live comfortably, or he can rebel, doing what he believes is right but risking being ostracized. King Alfonso and some other characters hypocritically twist this dynamic, however, proclaiming Christian righteousness as the motivation to fulfill their selfish desires.

While Little White Knight demonstrates a great amount of skill in its writing, it's impossible to ignore the Serbian creator's major shortcomings in translating the dialogue and captions to English. Spelling and grammatical mistakes are the norm, typos are common, and practically every sentence in the comic's written in a way that's awkward and unnatural. The dialogue's also noticeably plain, and lacks the playful, stylistic flair a capable English writer's expected to deliver.

Art: The cartoony, black-and-white illustrations are done extremely well, with the creator prominently displaying his superb inking abilities. Every page shows a careful attention to detail, yet at the same time, there's a relaxed looseness to the drawings that has an energetic, immersive feel to it. The creator describes this look as being intended to give the artwork a "dreamlike aura," and I think he's successful in establishing a sense of fleeting intangibility. The hatching, crosshatching, and detailed brickwork appropriately help convey the story's dark and dangerous atmosphere, as well as depicting the medieval architecture.

The comic capably handles portraying different degrees of realism, with the dream-giants being fairly realistic while Malena's circular head, large eyes, and thin torso and limbs make her more cartoony than the rest. Scott McCloud has a section in his book Understanding Comics that explains why simplistic figures are easier to relate to, and this contrast encourages the reader to root for Malena's success right from her first appearance. The other characters tend to have their heads drawn as a particular shape, such as a rectangle, diamond, or crescent, and this makes them look more distinct and easier to tell apart.

There's a great variety of body postures, perspectives, and panel and page compositions, and the characters are quite expressive and animated. The comic's many action sequences are also choreographed particularly well, with the elaborate and exciting swordfighting scenes being one of the comic's main highlights.

Overall: Despite initially feeling intimidated by the prospect of reading Little White Knight's several hundred pages, my first reaction upon completing it was disappointment that the story didn't continue on further. This is an outstanding graphic novel that's a step up in quality from the rest of the webcomics scene. Aside from its weak English, the comic's remarkably sophisticated in the way it handles its multiple plotlines and wide variety of political issues. I highly recommend Little White Knight to anyone who has the patience and time to enjoy this lengthy but engrossing story.


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