Land of Lions, by Cassandra Jean, is another little gem that like Todd Allison and the Petunia Violet, I discovered on MangaMagazine.Net. This site is really nice in that it collects together several different high quality mangas and comics together for the connoisseur, or someone who is new to the whole web comics thing. You have to subscribe to MangaMagazine, but the process is free and allows you to follow your favorite comics. It also gives you updates on your favorite authors and illustrators and lets you know when your comics have updated. Usually the comics update chapter by chapter and each comic updates about once a month, though this usually depends on the artists.
Now, Land of Lions is more of a manga than a comic. The difference, for those that may not know, is the art style. Manga is the Japanese comic style, though in this case it has been westernized, that is, you read it the way you would a book, from left to right, as opposed to Japanese manga which is read from right to left.
Land of Lions takes place in a fantasy land where different races of humans are predicated on different animals. For example, there are the lions, the panthers, the tigers, the snails, the crows, the jackals, and so on. Each race has particular attributes attached to it. The lions are strong and brave, the panthers are wise, etc. Now enter Faris, the child of a lion father and a panther mother. He grows up in the Land of Panthers, and is an outcast because of who his father was and because he looks different from the others. But as he grows up, he becomes a respected warrior throughout the feline lands and becomes close with the Prince of Lions (who later becomes King).
Unfortunately, these lands are not all existing in harmony. There is war brewing in the Land of Tigers and the black death is ravaging the Land of Jackals. Faris and Gates, another lion warrior, are sent on a quest to find a mythological chalice that is said to come from the gods and that has the power to cure the black death. Trouble is, no one knows where it is and so the two must search throughout all of the lands to find it. But wait! We also see Faris in a scene from some 915 years later. What is this madness?! It has yet to be explained, but he looks pretty good for being 945 years old. (Don't worry, this comes up really early so it isn't really a spoiler.)
The story of Land of Lions is pretty interesting, if formulaic. There is a magical or divine chalice that is said to cure all ills and the hero is sent throughout the lands to find it. But while this arc is pretty standard, it is the flair that the author/artist gives it that really makes it a unique tale. The various cultures of the people that come from different animal themed lands is interesting and plays on stereotypes in a tasteful manner.
Always of great interest to me is the artwork. Done in black and white with colored chapter covers, Land of Lions is gorgeous to look at. While the style is heavily influenced by manga, the different animal themed cultures add an interesting visual twist with Native American, Aboriginal, African, and other influences. Some of my favorite scenes are the ones where something magical is happening or a myth is being told because that is when all of the stylistic animals come into play. The boldness of the strokes is also particularly inspiring and made me do some inked sketches of my own.
A fantasy tale that stresses diversity and unity, tragedy and comedy, and a range of things besides, Land of Lions is not only a visual feast, but it is also an entertaining tale of adventure that is definitely worth a read.
All images copyright of Cassandra Jean.