Legend of Zelda: The Edge and the Light

Comic: Legend of Zelda: The Edge and the Light
Creator: Queenie Chan
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Doujinshi
Schedule: Fridays
Rating: 3.5

When most people think of literature, the first thing that comes to mind is typically a book containing only text and perhaps the occasional illustration. Some people may also include graphic novels, acknowledging the validity of visual storytelling. Few consider how much the written word and illustrations can complement each other. Illustrations in non-children's literature are often few and far between, while graphic novels limit the majority of text to dialog. However, it is quite possible to blend the two writing styles even further into a medium all its own, as the webcomic Legend of Zelda: The Edge and the Light, attempts to demonstrate.

The website is easy enough to navigate and boasts a fairly large collection of short manga by Queenie Chan in addition to The Edge and the Light. She's a prolific writer and has some successful printed works. Some of her latest comics, including this one, make use of a writing medium she calls graphic prose, which she discusses further on this page. She also posts her work to a number of other well-known sites, including MangaFox, SmackJeeves, DeviantArt, and Tumblr. Some of her comics are also for sale in print, but Queenie Chan takes quite a bit of effort in distributing her work so that a large audience can access it, whether they choose to buy it or not. It's a wise course of action that serves both to expand her readership and avert the potential problems of crashing servers or web inaccessibility to certain audiences.

The writing is competent and has the occasional enjoyable moment, but it's not without its flaws. There are some minor grammar and spelling goofs that pop up from time to time. A little more time proofreading would easily take care of that, but of greater concern is the pacing. As Legend of Zelda fans know, the core of the video game series is exploration. The majority of time spent playing is set in some kind of dungeon or temple, searching for the monster and whatever plot-progressing prize it guards. Now seven chapters in, there's still no real exploration or adventure, save for a flashback or two that mostly glosses over the actual searching. The exposition, while interesting at some parts, tends to swallow up the story. People who play Legend of Zelda games are quite familiar with the sense of grandness and mythos prevalent in recent games, and the comic does grasp onto that, but it misses out on the real heart of the games. There's still quite a bit of story left to go, but with the characters spending most of their time planning, reminiscing, and discussing, it has yet to hit stride.

The characterization, on the other hand, is admirable. Being a silent protagonist, Link is a difficult character to write, especially when the time comes to give him dialog. Here, he's depicted as being carefree and impish, but with a serious side when the time calls for it. It's a good choice, making him likable while still being recognizable. It's a little extra flourish added onto an existing character to make him more interesting and the effort pays off. Probably the most entertaining of the bunch is Queen Ruto, with her temper and dry wit. For the most part, everyone stays in character and what traits are added generally complement what is established in the games. The character interactions offset the otherwise sluggish pacing by a bit and the light humor sprinkled in keeps the story from getting too heavy.

The art has a mangaesque style complete with screentones and effects common in manga. Although there are some pages that turn out pretty good, it doesn't measure up to the quality of the some of the author's other manga. The line work isn't as smooth and the shading is a little too grainy. Much like the writing, it's not notably good or bad. Some pages have anatomy mistakes or awkward posing (Zelda's hand on this page, for example) that someone of the author's caliber shouldn't be making at this point in her career. However, the character design, which takes a few minor liberties while still keeping trademark features intact, is well-done. All of the characters are instantly recognizable. There just needs to be a little more polish here and there and a steadier hand on those lines. A little more variety in the panels would also be of benefit. Nearly every page features a shot of someone's face from the shoulders-up. Some pages are more diverse, but the constant use of that same shot and angle gets a little repetitive.

The most interesting thing about this comic is neither the writing nor the art style. Rather, it is the presentation that is the most compelling. The use of graphic prose makes this one stand out from other webcomics. So then, what is graphic prose? Simply put, it's a written story illustrated with sequential art. Although the author cites the prose portions as a way to cut costs and time, the potential for this writing style goes beyond mere efficiency. It combines the strengths of writing and illustrative storytelling. Need to do an action scene, sudden reaction, or comedic moment? A single drawing can be far more effective than a paragraph of description. Need some introspection or backstory? In this case, prose is often more suited to the task. It's a very creative style that requires a careful balance of both writing and art. It goes without saying that graphic prose is at its best when the writing and art are both of high quality, but using it effectively requires an extra skill easily overlooked even in regular comics--formatting. And this, quite frankly, is where The Edge and the Light shines the brightest.

Which sections should be written and which should be illustrated? What parts deserve more emphasis? On what note should the page end? These are the questions presented for every single page. The answers are always well-chosen, text and visuals working together marvelously. The layout is a thing of beauty. Every page flows easily, making it clear which panel or block of text to read next. There's never any confusion and the art always suits the mood of the writing on the page. Even the pacing is improved with the art and writing supporting each other as well as they do. Often, a section of writing will lead up to a panel or series of panels where something crucial is revealed. It's a powerful, dramatic way to deliver plot twists. Most impressive of all, by breaking up the written portions into blocks and interspersing visuals in to accompany them, the pages never feel like a wall of text. The composition could not be better. Yes, the pacing is slow and the art quality could use some work too, but it's impossible to view them as separate components because they are so closely integrated. Both visuals and writing are more enjoyable together because they were purposefully designed to work this way. They blend naturally, serving as a perfect example for future graphic prose works to follow.

Most of the people who will read this comic will likely be Legend of Zelda fans. The comic doesn't rely too much on obscure references, so newcomers could follow it as well, but for most part, it's written by and for fans. What really makes it stand out from the gaggle of other Legend of Zelda fan works is the unconventional format. Legend of Zelda: The Edge and the Light is one example of a work that manages to be more than the sum of its parts. It doesn't have remarkable writing or especially polished art, but the integration of the two is good enough to make it deserve some attention for just how innovative it is.

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