Webcomics come in all shapes and sizes: from long series that run for years, to strips that started strong then ended fast, and then there are the one-shots, those short but thoughtful comics that are a testament to what makes comics appealing. I believe a successful one-shot is a mark of a webcomic artist’s skill, for the ability to tell a coherent story within a limited amount of pages. And, perhaps one of the best one-shots I’ve come across in both artistic style and story-telling prowess is Isaia’s comic: The River Dwellers.
Now I do apologize in advance for the uh, succinctness of my own review. But part of the charm of one-shots like this lie in the fact that I don’t need to say much; it is manageable in one sitting, my duty here is to simply convince you to check out the link in the first place. Anyhow – The River Dwellers is an eleven-page one-shot written by Isaia who is “fandom famous” for her numerous Avatar: The Last Airbender and bold, original works. She has a distinct style, drawing on what I would describe as an anime-Disney fusion, however, there is something else about Isaia’s work that sets hers far apart and beyond that typical stylistic fusion. Instead of garrish, over-Photoshopped pieces, Isaia relies on natural tones with little to no shading, highlighting, or abuse of the hard-light layer — she’s also inventive with her brushes, relying on different types of brushwork and ink instead of straight tips. She has a plethora of various, interesting pieces that draw on a medley of cultural influences — from her subject matter to her brushwork, and even the various papers she uses, Isaia’s art is uncontrived art that is very pretty to look at, and very sensitive to the cultural influences that inspired such work.
Well, now that you can see why I respect and dig this artist’s style — let’s get back on track and talk a little more about her comic!
The River Dwellers tells the tale of two spirits who are intertwined together. After a tragic separation, the comic explores their various incarnations and the ways in which their spirits continue to meet with one another. Whether they finally are reunited, or not, is revealed at the end. (But since it’s so short you’ll be able to read it in one sitting, I promise)
So what more is there to say about this comic? Isaia manipulates her style to match each time period, each chance encounter these two souls have as their lives spiral into the future; it’s a nice touch that helps solidify the story from pre-colonial Filipino art (That means it’s quite abstract and simple) to a more “modern” touch with a limited color scheme. There is no dialogue, each cue is visual, but Isaia crafts tangible thought and emotion through expression and gestures, something that is perhaps hard to decipher in the first few pages, but all too clear in the following arcs as the art styles evolve as well as the relationship between the titular “River Dwellers”.
Definitely give The River Dwellers a read; it’s a quick read-through, short and sweet, but beautiful in both its style and its humble message that really needs no words — just the expert work of a webcomic artist.
(If you haven’t noticed, there are hardly any pages copied onto Moar Powah or previews; as I said before this is a one-shot and because it is rather short — and because the experience is only better if you go in with open eyes, and not entirely sure of what to expect, here’s the link again for you to check it out.)