The best way I can describe Mishka and the Sea Devil is whimsical. It’s a lighthearted and fun story that never takes it self seriously and is full of simple moral lessons and plenty of imagination. Upon reading it the art will change throughout the story. The first time this happened I flipped back to the beginning to see who the second artist was, but discovered only one name… I was confused, but looking at the original solicit I discovered that creator Xenia Pamfil did all the artwork in addition to writing the story, but she intentionally used eleven different art styles throughout the story. No joke, it really does look like eleven different people worked on the art.
That alone is probably enough to justify the purchase because not once does Pamfil break style. She reinvents the characters with each style and even if it means that they end up looking extremely different from the previous style. It’s very clever and bold, but it pays off because we’re treated to wonderful art. It also keeps the story from being boring because it does give it a collaborative feeling even when it’s not.
The story itself begins with Mishka out on the ocean with her boat fishing. We’re told that she’s a skilled fisherman who supplies her town with plenty of fresh fish. Everything is normal about the day until a hairy whale looking beast with horns jumps over her boat and causes it to sink. Luckily Mishka manages to find some drift wood to cling to and washes up on a nearby island.
The island becomes home to the story as Mishka wakes up without memories and strange night creatures suck her spirit to feed the Sea Devil. She begins collecting friends, the first being Captain Furball a man trapped in the body of a cat. This tabby is cute as he has an eye patch and all. The next is a ghost of a female pirate and the last is their guide to the Sea Devil. The group teams up to bring down the Sea Devil and reclaim the things that it’s stolen from them.
The story is straight forward and everything is surface level. It’s not attempting to be deep or anything like that. It’s trying to be fun and lighthearted and it succeeds in doing so. The characters all have unique voices and that carries through with the art changes.
Speaking of the art changes, Pamfil does a wonderful job with the transitions. They’re all broken up by a single page of art that is also in a different style, but more than that they happen at points in the story that make sense. A lot of them happen when Mishka is asleep and wakes up the next day, but others happen after the story jumps ahead a scene. It’s not just a change for the sake of change and that’s why it’s successful in not distracting from the story.
All of the art styles are enjoyable, but I’m sure there will be a few that people cling to more. I personally enjoyed them all and just wanted to see how Pamfil could continue to create so many different styles without overlapping.
The story is all-ages for sure, but there’s a lot for adult readers to enjoy. The story may be straight forward, but the talent behind the art is not. That’s where the layers of complexity come in and it’s a wonderful piece of artwork and storytelling because of it.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Xenia Pamfil Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment Price: $24.99 Release Date: 10/15/14 Format: Hardcover