Fire Messenger #1

By Penina Gal
36 pages, color
Self-published

One of the things I like about going to the Small Press Expo is that I often end up with mini-comics (self-published, hand-assembled comics) that I’d have never found anywhere else. A comic that almost immediately jumped out at me was Penina Gal’s The Fire Messenger; for people who assume that mini-comics are all assembled on creaky copy machines with cheap paper and reeking of old toner, this full-color book would certainly be a bit of a surprise.

A fire is raging through Quail Hollow, and Aiden’s powers over flame are unable to stop its continual advance. When he and his friend Nik suddenly find themselves in a deep forest instead of the streets of Quail Hollow, though, their world is understandably turned upside down. Where are they? What happened to their town? Why have Aiden’s fire abilities changed so much? And will they ever get home?

What immediately struck me about the writing in The Fire Messenger #1 was how Gal has clearly mapped out the entire world of Quail Hollow in her head. We aren’t given long detailed expository speeches about it, but we learn a lot about the world through casual conversations between Aiden and Nik. As we find out what their schooling and lives are like, it makes them feel that much more real. That’s a good thing; the absolute basic plot itself is pretty standard and something that we’ve seen before, but the writing works because of the small details added into it.

The same can actually hold true, to some extent, with the art. When it comes to the basic figures of her characters, Gal’s art seems pretty average; a stripped down style that looks simple but is remarkably consistent and gets the job done. What grabs your attention, though, is Gal’s amazing sense of color throughout the book. Her painted colors on top of the inks absolutely shine; from the very first page that we see Aiden and Nik cornered by the fire, it’s hard to not just stare at the yellow and reds of the flame and how they flow together so smoothly. Likewise, once they’re out of Quail Hollow and into the forest, the deep greens just pop off the page at the reader; Gal has a real talent with paints, and with just this alone The Fire Messenger automatically succeeds. Fortunately, that’s not the only plus in the book.

With handsome metallic gold accents on the front and back cover, The Fire Messenger is a beautiful mini-comic; Gal is creating an entire world here, piece by piece, and I’m looking forward to seeing more. The credits page at the end of the comic mentions that Gal is a student at the Center for Cartoon Studies, and if this is the kind of work that the college is producing, we’re all in for a good treat as more and more graduates come forth.

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