The Webcomic Overlook #79: 70 Seas (formerly Lagend)
(Note: Lagend recently changed its name to 70 Seas. I’ve fixed the links to reference the correct pages. However, the entire review remains the same. Since I’m far too lazy to do a simple find-and-replace, the comic in the review will still be referred to as Lagend. — E.S., 10/09)
I’m sure that out there, somewhere, there’s a certain subset of Webcomic Overlook readers going: “Yarrr! This be a fine site. But whar be the review about pirate webcomics? I’d walk the plank to find me a good pirate webcomic, sez I.” If you’re asking that question, likely your name ends in “-beard” or it’s Talk Like A Pirate Day again and you’re showing way too much pirate-y spirit. That’ll teach me not to mark that day off on my Microsoft Outlook!
Almost a year ago, I reviewed Here There Be Robots back over at the Comic Fencing site. To be fair, however, that comic was less a pirate comic than a parody about pirates. (Seriously, what can you expect from aliens dressed up as pirates fighting robots dressed up as pirates?) If it’s swashbuckling high seas adventure you were looking for, you might come off a bit disappointed.
Fortunately, there do exist some very good pirate themed webcomics out there, including the subject of this week’s review: Lagend by Nick Daniel. There is a catch, though: the characters are all furries.
“Avast! Ye take me for a fursuiter, do ye? How would ye like to feel the cold, point tip of me cutlass, landlubber?”
Relax, buddy. Hard as it is to believe, furry comics aren’t just about creepy pervy fantasies anymore!
Lagend is set in a vaguely fantasy world. Rather than the Tolkien standard setting of the middle ages, though, it’s pushed forward a few centuries to the 17th and 18th centuries. Ah, the Age of Discovery! When ships with high masts sailed the seven seas. When every man and woman could buckle their swash. It’s an era with a unique visual mix of tropical locales and stately interiors that’s used far too sparingly in the webcomic world, if you ask me.
I’m a little confused on how the Lagend universe works. Early in Chapter II it’s implied that the islands float, and wars are fought based on how close these islands get to each other. So how do captains know how to steer their ships from island to island? I’m assuming GPS hadn’t been invented yet. (Notice I’m steering clear of any questions involving the plate tectonics involved in floating islands.)
Another interesting observation: quite a few ships approach Emma Maersk proportions, which is to say several times more massive than what was available when John Smith set off for Jamestown. I’m guessing wind-power is out of the question. So what the heck is propelling these ships?
There seem to be several anthropomorphic races in the world of Lagend. There seem to be a bear-like race and a wolf-like race (who are, appropriately, Vikings … and, in no sort of stereotype against the Scandanavians whatsoever, like cheap furniture). The world may even contain humans (in the pink-skinned, mostly furless sense), though the stories they appear in are non-canon, so who knows.* The race we’ll be following, though, are a fur-covered people with long rabbit ears and long tails.
There are three main characters: Serra (pronounced “Sarah,” I’m guessing), Nikol (“Nicole”?), and Lewk (which is probably “Luke”.) Serra is the tough as nails pirate captain with a heart of gold-covered lead. She’s always after cold, hard cash, yet thus far very unlucky in acquiring it. Her fiery personality reminds me of several female leads you’d find in anime: Faye Valentine, Akane Tendo, even the Space Pirate Ryoko. Maybe even a bit of the bug-eyed insanity of Excel Excel. Get on her wrong side, and she explodes in great vengeance and furious anger. Get on her right side … well, she doesn’t really seem to have one.
Tagging along is young Nikol, gentle girl from a foreign country that looks a lot like Japan. Her meek looks betray an unbeatable fighting prowess. She reminds me most of the most famous wandering rabbit ronin of all, Usagi Yojimbo… only cuter.
And then there’s Lewk. If there’s one character type I love (and I find is very difficult to write believably) it’s the conman who turns out to be the anti-hero. Most of you are familiar with Sawyer from Lost and how he shook off his original appearance as a dangerous redneck to become a charming Hans Solo-type hero. I personally remember Mike Resnick’s Lucifer Jones, a conman dressed as priest who eventually gets banned from all the countries in the world but still earns the amused admiration of several of his antagonists. Lewk is of the Lucifer Jones mold: a guy who’s physically weak yet manages to get out of scrapes partially due to his cunning and partially due to convincing everyone that he’s a holy man. Conman characters are usually so ingrained in the role of an expert liar that they know immediately when they’re being lied to. As a result, Lewk is often the most level-headed and inquisitive of the three.
The interplay between these three characters is one of the best parts of Lagend. We haven’t yet seen what events, exactly, drew these three characters together. However, it’s completely believable that they would stick together anyway. In the case of Lewk, for example, I can see him needing Serra for the protection and the transportation and keeping Nikol close out of a sense of duty.
As a result of their necessity to remain in close quarters, the crew acts like a family. Lewk and Serra bicker like a brother and sister, and Nikol acts like their shy kid. We, too, are drawn into their close relationship. It’s surprising, then, when one of the characters — Lewk, in this case — starts whipping out some secret powers, because, dang it, you think you know a guy!
Each chapter sees our crew visiting a different exotic locale. Chapter I sees them hiding out in the woods from ticked off clergymen who are after that conman Lewk. Chapter II has our characters deep in the swamps and visiting a village where its residents — all now elderly — are unable to have children. Chapter III takes place in the streets and alleyways of a festively-colored city, where Nikol and her baby-sitter evade two pursuing samurai. (This chapter also reveals that the rabbit-like race is also incredibly fleet-footed.) The current chapter takes place on the high seas and inside the confines of a creepy container vessel.
While I have no doubt Mr. Daniel is attempting to establish a continuing narrative (the samurai from chapter two seem destined to return at some point), I appreciate how each chapter can be taken as a self-contained story. Lagend promises fun adventure, and it delivers. In some adventure webcomics, the characters stay in one place for too long, and it tends to feel static. Not with Lagend. Look at how many places the crew visits in Chapter II alone. The story begins with the crew on the high seas, then shifts to busy port town, then moves to a village in the swamps. The world of Lagend is kinetic, its world map and inherent mysteries unfolding at a comfortable pace.
So why isn’t the Lagend audience bigger? Perhaps it’s the title, which looks like a typo. I think the bigger problem, though, is Chapter I. This is one of the few times I think the webcomic author really needs to pay attention to Brigid Alverson’s 8-page rule. The storytelling is dense. Too many characters are introduced. The art too difficult to decipher, which becomes a huge problem when we get to the action sequences. It’s already confusing enough to try to tell the non-human characters apart, but the black-and-white art compounds the problem. Which rabbity guy is which, again?
Daniel does a far better job establishing his universe to newcomers through his Lagend-based short stories. This is one of the few series where the products of a 24-hour comic are recommended reading. The most excellent of these is Tossa Rota. In a tale analogous to the colonization of the Americas and the South Pacific, one hard-nosed naval officer tries to negotiate (i.e., bully) the natives into handing over their land. The story does not necessarily condone the actions of the colonial forces. However, it does shed a sympathetic light on the officers who had to face the cultural dilemmas during the Age of Imperialism. The final scene, where the captain sits on the beach with a native girl to have a non-political conversation, poignantly shows how the steely captain doesn’t see the natives as sub-humans, but rather as victims of inevitable exploitation.
The other extended stories are quite nice as well. Sword, Fish follows two girls imagining a life of adventure. Mary Mendele tells the story of a nun who’s also a bit of a mad scientist. The Kings looks at two hitmen and the orders they have to carry out for their mysterious boss. The last two have rather abrupt endings, which is probably an unavoidable peril when you’re doing these 24-hour comic things. Yet Daniel’s talents at crafting sympathetic characters on short notice are on full display here.
So, by all means, read Lagend and all ancillary Lagend-related stories! If you’re a fan of fun comics, and especially if you’re a fan of good-ol’ Errol Flynn style adventuring, this comic will put a big ol’ smile on your face. Yarrr!
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Another fun one? The goofy Doom vs. Batman.
Posted on June 6, 2009, in 4 Stars, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, fantasy webcomic, furry webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged Lagend. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.