Snow by Night Volume 1: Calcination by Eric Menge & Brittany Michel

Several things to admit: first, I’m friends with the creators of this excellent webcomic. Despite this friendship, and my knowledge that Eric Menge is a brilliant writer, I’m absolutely wretched at keeping up with webcomics as they publish, even his. I get sidetracked and forget to check in, and while I’m not one of those “real book” elitists, there’s just something missing to me when I read a comic electronically instead of in physical format. Maybe it has to do with how I feel there aren’t any really good electronic readers for comics, the kind that let you breeze through a story yet adjust your viewing so you can drill down into the art without straining your eyesight or fiddling with unwieldy controls. So when Eric gave me the first two books in his series, I was absolutely delighted to be able to catch up with his rich fantasy world of Corthis.

Set primarily in a land based on French Canada, the first volume of Snow By Night follows the exploits of a pair of master thieves (or rooks, in this world’s parlance) who are bewildered by a thief who keeps beating them to their spoils. Worse, said thief is robbing those who pay Jassart and Blaise for the privilege of protection. Our dynamic duo sets a trap for this thief, and are stunned to discover that she’s really a manitou named Snow By Night, who has come to the mortal world in search of her heart.

This volume contains the first four chapters of the story (roughly akin to comic book issues) along with five shorter vignettes that serve to illuminate the background of the setting and the minor characters. It also includes some terrific maps, as well as sketches of the characters, complete with commentary on their designs, and bonus artwork. I really enjoyed the amount of thought Brittany Michel put into her art, as well as the behind the scenes look into what goes into creating this comic.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the main draw of Snow By Night for me is Eric’s excellent writing. It takes skill to write a story of rogues and magic that is at once humorous and suspenseful, and on top of this (or perhaps below, as its foundation,) Eric has created a wholly original setting, with its own mythologies and linguistics that are that much more striking for being based off of our own. The website provides further insight via its Almanac section, but is it terrible that I’m holding out till more physical volumes are published? Review of Vol II coming very soon!

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