The Webcomics Weekly #209: Kingfishing In the 20s (10/25/2022 Edition)

By | October 25th, 2022
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Howdy everyone! Elias here to introduce this week’s comic, as reviewed by Mel: “Kingfisher.” It’s the spooky season so we’re doubling down on the scary, or at the very least the mysterious. And what’s more mysterious than Art Deco? Nothing. That’s what. Want to know what any of that has to do with “Kingfisher?” Read on, fellow webcomics travelers, to find out!

Book One (Foxhunt), Episodes 1-164 and Side Reel
Updates Fridays
Created by Skulkingfoxes
Reviewed by Mel Lake

Note: There is a comic on Webtoon with this same title in the fantasy genre. There’s also a horror webcomic called “The Kingfisher” on its own site, which is about vampires and also looks pretty awesome. But this review is of the “Kingfisher” story on Tapas. It’s part of the Tapas Early Access program, where access to pages can be unlocked with Tapas Ink.

Art deco is an immediately recognizable style, and it’s one that permeates “Kingfisher,” an ongoing mystery comic on Tapas. Set in the 1920s, this story features a wannabe scholar, a tough-guy dock worker, a woman trying to make it in the male-dominated museum world, and a thief who looks like a stylish flapper. If you vibe with art deco, you’ll probably vibe with the artwork in this story, which has a loose, sketchy style using traditional ink and a limited color palette while still incorporating the shapes that are so indicative of the time period. I’m no expert on artistic movements but I love this aesthetic and it’s definitely what drew me to this particular story.

Seymour is a bookish researcher who comes across a mysterious artifact, a box that has magical properties. His friend Gabriel is also his roommate, his bodyguard, and possibly (probably? definitely, right?) something more. They take the artifact to be certified as authentic to a museum where they’re met with immediate suspicion by the dour Dr. Parker, a serious and equally bookish scholar who struggles to gain credibility with the museum’s director. When the artifact is stolen by a thief with a playful streak, the trio has to solve a series of riddles in order to get the box back and make sure its strange powers aren’t accidentally unleashed on the city.

Each episode of “Kingfisher” is one or two pages of the comic, so although the sheer episode count may seem daunting to those who don’t have a lot of free time, fear not. (Yes, I know that 163 episodes are nothing in webcomic terms, but for me, an adult with a day job, it seems like a lot.) “Kingfisher” has a traditional page layout instead of an endless scroll, which makes each episode faster to read. (For me, anyway, your mileage may vary.) The very beginning of the story has a few extraneous pages but for the most part, each episode moves the plot along swiftly. Sometimes a story will hook the reader and then sag for a bit while the author explores the world and raises the stakes. That isn’t the case here. Once the thief is introduced, the plot moves quickly and the setting expands to include the whole city of “Fogport,” which is a pretty clear analog to New York. The physics-bending climax takes place on a version of the Chrysler building, and the way things like old-timey radios and buildings are included in the artwork is delightful.

One of the things I look for in a webcomic is whether the characters are distinguishable from one another. If I’m reading a page and I can’t easily tell who is speaking, I’ll generally hit the back button. “Kingfisher” has lovely character designs that, while they rely on archetypes, work for me. Seymour is the professor, Gabriel is the brawler, Dr. Parker is the smart lady, and Fox is the femme fatale/cat burglar. The fact that I can easily come up with archetypes for them is a good thing! Because it means they each have a starting point to grow from, and as the series progresses we learn things like the fact that Seymour is insecure about himself and his relationship with Gabriel. Dr. Parker is driven by anger, not greed or selfishness, because she’s never been taken seriously, being a female scholar in the 1920s. That being said, because the characters are fairly typical archetypes, there wasn’t too much of a surprise when the mystery of “who took the artifact” was solved.

Gabriel and Seymour’s relationship is central to the story and is one of the other main things that kept me reading. While I wanted to know more about them, I did like that their interactions were subtle instead of broad. It feels appropriate to the time period and the characters, since although the comic isn’t going for strict realism, having an openly gay and affectionate relationship would’ve been rather difficult for the 1920s. There are a few other threads in the plot that I wish would’ve been explored in more detail. We don’t know where Seymour got the artifact or why he was searching for it. We also don’t know how Gabriel and Seymour met or what brought them together. And how did Gabriel start boxing in his spare time? These are things that might be explored in the next plot arc, but they felt like they might have worked better if they were weaved into the first one. The actual power of the box itself is another aspect that wasn’t explored much, and this feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. When the box opens, things start floating and coming apart at the seams, which looks very cool when illustrated in the artist’s style, but we don’t know much about what exactly happens or why.

The artwork and the fun rapport between the characters are the main draws for me to “Kingfisher.” The mystery of the Kingfisher Box itself is a McGuffin that works well enough to bring me into the world of the characters and the setting but the reason I kept reading was the lovely art deco style and the affection I felt for Seymour and Gabriel as a duo.

//TAGS | Webcomics

Mel Lake


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