Author: Aero Zero
Genre: Humor, Action, Fantasy
Schedule: Wed/Sat
Section/s: 1-51

I've done a few gaming comic reviews on this site, both being somewhat unique in that they were comic adaptions of pre-existing video games like the original Sonic games for the Genesis/Mega Drive and Pokemon White and not comics about gamers playing games or re-enacting scenarios like Penny Arcade. The tricky thing about this type of comic is that it's indebted to the source material, and the author has to strike a balance between being faithful to the source and taking creative liberties for the sake of the narrative. Kyria, while not being explicitly a gaming comic, feels like an homage to Role Playing Games in its narrative and visual cues. It is both its appeal and its main drawback.

The story takes place in the land of Kyria, where humans, shapeshifters, magic monsters, and various creatures all co-exist. It begins with a human named Xeres tells his brother Xander that he's bored and wants to start an adventure guild to travel the land and kill monsters. Xander prefers a peaceful life in the country, but doesn't stop Xeres from going. Xeres slays a monster and then goes into a neighboring town to recruit people for his guild, but ends up getting into a fight with two locals. He's saved by Mordecai, Vael, Violene, Dai, and Hitero, who have magic, elemental, and/or shapeshifting powers. They all join his group and they all go into the woods to kill monsters and get money. However, they stumble upon a plot by Xeres' former commanding officer Osric's plan to take over Alanoc and they decide to stop him.

Like I said in the introduction, the comic takes cues from RPGs and there are moments when the comic either references or makes jokes about common tropes. For example, in RPGs (and other video games as well), killing enemies often results in finding useful items or money being dropped as a reward. In Kyria, this is explained as being the result of monsters eating the money, causing their elemental powers. But instead of their corpses disappearing and a big bag of money taking their place, you have to gut them and dig it out. Games in the genre will often feature characters who will join your team for little to no reason, usually after defeating them in battle, but in the story it's revealed that the characters join Xeres because they literally had nothing else better to do. And in these games, the player will find enemies that look exactly the same as previous enemies except in a different color. In the comic, Osric's army has the same armor as the defending army but in a different color, though the author states in the comments that there's a reason behind it. For those familiar with the tropes, it can be fun seeing how these game mechanics are explained in a way that makes sense in this universe. And like Not Enough Rings, the author clearly loves the material the comic is based on.

However, like the triggered cutscenes of a video game, the story is plot driven with Xeres and the others conveniently stumbling into the next plot point. For example, Xeres just happens to get into a fight where his future team sees him and decides to help him. Xeres and his guild just happen to slay a monster near Osric's palace, which he interprets as possibly being a threat to his mission and he goes to Xeres to convince him to join him. And when Xeres refuses, Osric and his men knock out Xeres and his team to keep him from interfering, but Violene conveniently wasn't nearby when Osric showed up, and she overhears where they are going. I don't know if this was part of the homage to the genre or just the way the story was written, but it diminishes their accomplishments as a competent group of heroes to constantly be in the right place at the right time.

Finally, this is less a criticism of the comic and more of an observation about comics with a large number of protagonists. In a previous review, I mentioned that a large cast of characters is hard to keep track of and from a writing perspective, it's hard to flesh them all out. To avoid this, I'd recommend occasionally breaking the group off into smaller groups, giving characters an opportunity to show how the characters' personalities complement and clash with each other and establish relationships that are distinct from how they interact with the entire group. Even small interactions between two characters can be telling.

The art is done in full color and appears to be all digital. One of the first things that struck me about the comic was not the art itself, but the word balloons. The balloons are rounded rectangles, the font is a condensed san serif font that would look more fitting on a professional report than a comic, and the characters names are written above their dialogue. At first, I didn't understand the reasoning behind it, but then when I reached this page and saw the ??? above a character we haven't met yet. Again, it comes from RPG's that use text based dialogue. It's probably a rare case where using starkly artificial balloons and font work well when in any other context, these choices would be amateurish. However, the comic does make a common mistake of not pointing word balloons towards character's mouths, and in one case could be confusing (I got the impression that Xeres was disguised as one of the soldiers, but in reality his group is in the distant background). The problems are lessened by labeling the character's speech, though it does make me wonder why the author even bothers with tails on the balloons at all.

Besides a minor issue with balloons, the comic shows a great use of color to imply depth and mood by contrasting warm and cool colors. For example, on this page the city is colored in sandy reds and oranges while the background recedes into blues, an example of atmospheric perspective that shows how large the city is and makes it clear which characters will be important (for an inverted example, this page has the soldiers in the foreground and shaded with cool blue while the heroes entering at the gate are engulfed in red). Speaking of which, when Xeres and his guild enter Alanoc, the whole city is blood red, contrasting sharply with the more natural colors in the page before, giving this battle more gravity than their previous encounters. Finally, the author mentioned on this page that the first pages had a duller palette than the later pages to show a greater sense of excitement adventuring than the village. It's subtle, but a great attention to detail and shows some artistic intention that I wish was more prominent in webcomics.

Kyria is a beautiful comic that looks like it should be concept art for a video game. Sadly, it's narrative cues take a little too much from video games with characters stumbling onto the next plot point rather than taking action, though maybe in future chapters this won't be the case.



  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to review Kyria! I highly appreciate it :D

  2. Great review of a comic I've been reading for a bit. I remember that the word balloons did used to be tail-less originally, but they were later changed due to reader confusion. It was more authentic to the subject matter before, but people are used to seeing things presented in a certain way in comics.

    Even as they are now I'm impressed at how useful a storytelling device those speech bubbles are. The technique really reduces the need to have the characters constantly referring to one another by name just so the reader will remember who is who.

    1. I'd say that it only really works in a specific context though. If it didn't have an RPG or videogame conceit, it would look more like the author didn't have faith in their audience to differentiate characters.

      I can see what you mean about needing the tails though. While it would be more video game/RPG like to not use them at all, there are certain obligations to the comic medium and I can see how that might be confusing. And in hindsight, the comic I linked to as being possibly confusing due to the tail not pointing in the right spot wouldn't have been improved by dropping the tail. The panel itself is just oddly composed by placing the soldiers as the focal point and the main cast in the far distance. It might have made more sense if we had a panel before showing the cast entering the gate and talking, then cutting to the panel of the battle to make it clear what's going on.

    2. Agreed. The context is what makes that device work. A superhero comic just couldn't pull it off.