December112011

Vattu by Evan Dahm

I figured for my first review I’d start with something that I think everyone can enjoy.

Vattu, by Evan Dahm of Riceboy fame, is the latest in the tales of Overside, Dahm’s fantastical world populated by bizarre non-human creatures, ancient prophecies, and a mysterious robotic race of men.  Dahm’s universe is densely populated and has a sprawling history spanning milennia.  Don’t believe me?  Check the entire wiki dedicated to chronicling Overside’s events and inhabitants.

As dense as Dahm’s work seems, don’t be discouraged.  Each of his stories, while enriching each other and the world, may be read independently of each other and without specific order.  I decided to cover Vattu first since it is currently updating, and because it is definitely one of my top 10 webcomics at the moment.

Genre: Fantasy-Adventure-Pseudohistorical-Drama (as described by Dahm himself)

Plot: The story follows the life and journey of a young girl named Vattu, born to a tribe of nomadic creatures referred to as Fluters by others (they simply call themselves Those Marked in White).  Every turning (presumably the changing of the seasons) they follow the course of the river Ata, which they worship as their deity.  Vattu is born during a time of upheaval in the tribe, with threats coming from dangerous predators, a mysterious, unmarked tribe of Fluters known only as “The Dead”, and even from within the tribe itself.  Vattu herself is unhappy with their antiquated traditions, desperately longing to be a hunter despite the fact that only males of her tribe fill this role.  However, everything changes for Vattu when a band of soldiers from the previously unknown Empire of Sahta arrive with aims for conquest.

Warnings: Vattu, while in every way a coming of age story, takes place during a time rife with conflict.  There are several scenes of violence, though none of them are particularly gratuitous.  Still, if you are triggered by or uncomfortable with blood and death in your comics, you may wish to approach with caution.

Art: Evan Dahm is, in my opinion, one of the most visually inspiring artists of our generation.  If you’ve read any of his earlier works you will know that even at his most simplistic Dahm is capable of painting lush and alien landscapes that capture the imagination.  Vattu is his return to colored cartooning, and I couldn’t be happier.  The comic is lush with striking colors and brilliant use of light.  You never question what time of day it is in Dahm’s work, he adjusts the tones and so shadows subtly and fluidly that I find myself often times just staring at the page as if I were watching a sunset.

Dahm should also be praised for his creativity in character design.  Let it never be said that any two characters, even those of the same species, are anything other than fully 3-dimensional and individual in both personality and appearance.  His world is populated by people who look like lizards, dogs, six armed bug creatures, horned plush monsters, crow men, tree women, robots who don’t even have faces and yet every one of their expressions are relatable and evocative.  Vattu doesn’t even have a mouth, but those big eyes tell you everything you need to know.

Final Recommendation:  If you’re not reading Vattu, you really ought to be.  It is one of the few webcomics that takes a world and reality completely divorced from our own and gives you an engaging, deeply emotional story, while constantly expanding on the universe it inhabits.  Vattu as a character is instantly likeable.  Precocious, clever, intelligent, and capable, she is already a compelling protagonist, and has the makings of a heroine meant for so much more than even she can even imagine.  The comic is currently in its Second Book (213 pages total), and according to Dahm will be continuing for a long time, so jump in now while its still short!  Vattu updates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

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