Colourful, funny, vibrant - these are a few of the things you can expect from Nikki Stu's Herald Owlett series! When I found Stu's table at MCM, I opened the page to see a page full of intense colour as well as fun and detailed b/w panels, so I immediately tucked this little number into my bag.
The premise of Thank Goodness for Herald Owlett is pretty common but with unique, interesting and fun characters to make the whole thing feel fresh! Bushwatchers once helped govern the essence of the world, the nature of things, and guarded against evil. But now they have disappeared from the world but there is a prophecy about one who will rise up and defeat evil! Herald Owlett, a feather blue monster with five eyes and large cactus-like stripped horns, is this prophesied Bushwatcher, but he doesn't know it just yet and Bufu - a purple jean-sporting punk on a bad day - is sending monsters to destroy him! This is a quick little read but well worth it! It is fast-paced as after a brief prologue - where we get a glimpse of Stu's marvelous creativity in the form of Bushwatchers - we dive straight in a daring chase scene. Bufu has unleashed big black tentacle monsters on a beautiful floating forest and they chase Herald all around the forest. Stu leaves us on a cliffhanger: will Herald survive this multi-eyed monster who has just revealed Herald's Bushwatcher capabilities to him??
The panel layouts are nicely varied, keeping mostly to four panels per page but often dividing them up into squares or rectangles to avoid repetition. The tale is told mostly depicted in black and white, but with a four-page explosion of colour in the middle so readers can fully appreciate the vibrancy of Stu's world-building, as well as exploding acorns! The art style itself extremely interesting: there is a fluidity to it, a curliness and softness that is pleasing to the eye. Stu manages to fit a surprising amount of detail despite some panels being very small and adds extra depth by adding patterns to nature. For example:
See how Stu adds different kinds of patterns to the various natural forms within her work, from geometric to scales to more intricate patterns. I would think this was mostly an aesthetic choice but I also like to think this reflects the life within nature. Adding this extra detail makes them look more alive, less 'in the background' so-to-speak, and I'd like to see how this develops over the next volumes.
So enough on the art, what are the characters like? We are only introduced to the protagonist and antagonist in this volume - there are hints Bufu isn't the TRUE villain of the story though - as they mock each other like they have been fighting the same fight for years and this is just another round. There is a familiarity to their dialogue, Herald often rolls his eyes at Bufu's attempt at 'evil' dialogue and like some tired big brother he acts like he hasn't got time to listen to Bufu make an ass of himself! Stu adds a lovely playfulness to her characters along with their unique appearence, which is why I think this comic could easily be recommended to children as well as adults: there is nothing harmful in it or stressful or brutal (so far!).
If you want to support Nikki Stu, you can do so by following her Tumblr and checking out her Etsy store!