Spera is one of my favorite things that Archaia releases and I love the success of the format. The series actually appears on the web first and is then collected for print. Now I’ve seen a lot of series follow this format and not a lot of them continue that way after the print releases. Spera has made it three volumes now and I’m sure it’s already working on its fourth. The thing that’s incredible about this series is the world of Spera. It’s a world that’s filled with fantasy elements from different cultures and influences. It’s quite possibly the perfect fantasy world because it has a variety of elements, but has found a great way of making them all work in harmony. There are spirit creatures, bandits, giant insects, royal kingdoms and two princesses and their companions left to explore the world as self-labeled adventurers.
The last two volumes of this series set up the world and our characters, while this volume establishes the conflict that’s waiting for the girls. Lono’s kingdom has been taken over by Pira’s mother and since they know that there are no chances of a winning battle, they ran away. Well two of the people who worked in Lono’s castle are out for revenge against the runaway princesses.
The group which includes of course Pira and Lono has added Yonder and Chobo back to their ranks, but also picked up Adel as well. They’re in search of the “Treasure of the Waterfall.” After some difficulties with a giant beetle they arrive at the waterfall. Behind it they find a cave and not a lot else until one of them notices a mossy rock in the back. Yonder tells them that the moss can only be moved by spirits like him. He opens it and they find a shrunken water spirit trapped behind it. They’re confused by this, but it’s soon revealed that Kyle and Nole from Lono’s Kingdom are behind the events.
As with every volume of Spera the story is told in several chapters which leaves you plenty to read, but there are also several short stories as well. I’m going to touch on a few of them before moving on to the art and writing.
The one that stood out to me instantly was “Just A Kiss” by Ken Niimura. It’s an amusing story that only stars Lono and Pira; Lono is reminded of her first with a prince. They end up getting in trouble and while Pira is trying to figure out what to do in order to get out Lono continues to bring up the kiss and the fact that Pira hasn’t had one. It’s quite funny and Niimura does a great job of capturing the girl’s personalities.
Another short that really stood was “Hopscotch” illustrated by Jake Wyatt. This was a clever reimagining of the entire world and cast of Spera. It places the story in a punk inspired private eye world. Not only was this a fun experiment with the cast, but it worked. It really shows how wonderful the characters are that you can place them in a different setting and world and still have their personalities show through; it reminded me of DC’s Elseworlds in all the right ways.
The overall story and writing is as great as usual. The thing about this story is that it’s so massive that it has the potential to go on and on. The other thing that’s powerful about the writing is characters. Pira and Lono come across as living breathing people and not just some fictional characters. In the opening scene when the girls are taking on the giant beetle Pira runs into battle without the slightest chance of succeeding; meanwhile Lono is looking for her dagger and arrives to the battle late. It’s not that she doesn’t have a sense of urgency or danger, it’s just her personality. As much as I enjoy the incredible fantasy world of Spera, I enjoy the characters that populate the world more.
There’s always an incredible mixture of art for this series and what’s equally incredible is that each artist manages to capture the world and personalities of the characters. Of course one of my favorites is Michael Dialynas; his work here is different from Amala’s Blade, but it’s still equally impressive. It was also the best choice to open up with as his style and visual storytelling is perfect for fantasy stories. Meg Gandy follows this with her cleaner animated look, but I enjoyed it just as much. Gandy’s style couldn’t be more different, but she still captured the world of Spera. I really latched on to her style and would definitely track down more of her work.
The next artist on the series is Cory Godbey and his style was fairytale inspired. Yonder as a young pup was particularly cute here. Godbey captures the strength of Lono’s personality with this chapter as it shows just how strong she’s become out on her own and away from the castle she’s lived in her entire life. Sam Bosma rounds out the regular story and once again his style is a sharp change from the previous artists. His artwork for the series was like a Venn diagram of influences: Manga, classic fantasy and fairy tales all overlapping in the middle. It was a great way to close out the main story and made me a fan of his work for sure.
Spera may be on its third volume, but the series always manages to cleverly recap itself as the story goes along. In that way it makes itself accessible to readers with any volume. I know the likeliness of someone starting here is next to none, but if you’re feeling adventurous then why not? You can always go back and see what you missed; just make sure that you start somewhere. This is the perfect series for anyone that’s a fan of the adventure genre and was waiting for their next fix after finishing Delilah Dirk.
Writer: Josh Tierney Artists: Michael Dialynas, Meg Gandy, Cory Godbey, Amei Zhao, Sam Bosma, Kyla Vanderklugt, Ken Niimura, Afu Chan, Giannis Milonogiannis, Jake Wyatt, Rebecca Mock. Publisher: Archaia Entertainment Price: $24.95 Release Date: 10/2/13