Realm of Owls - Featured Reviews 

The Webcomics Weekly #282: Hoo Could it Be Now? (5/7/2024 Edition)

By | May 7th, 2024
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

The Webcomics Weekly is back in your life! Flying in for a second week in a row, I have decided to really go out of my comfort zone and review a…shudders…comedy series. No serious dramatics or contemplation here. Just good old fashion goofs, gags, and guffaws. Also Owls in funny hats. Lo! Prithee praytell what goes on in the “Realm of Owls?” Forsooth, we shall discover readily.

Realm of Owls
Story #1: Introducing Buffet – ‘#1 Home is Where the Food is’ – ‘#10 Taking a Closer Look’
Updates: Fridays
Written by Gheralf
Illustrated by Vayandil
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

I was a bit more rushed than usual this week so I only got the chance to read 10 pages of “Realm of Owls” instead of the full 40ish pages of the first story. Don’t let that fool you into thinking I dislike the series though! “Realm of Owls” is a bundle of fun with an absolutely killer website. One of the best bespoke webcomics sites I’ve used in a while. Maybe not since “The Contradictions”, which has been, sadly, taken down now that the book is out in the wild. The big box sites have nothing on this and neither does your standard Tumblr template.

OK. Enough gushing about non-comic stuff. Back to the Owlish realm.

It’s got a Terry Pratchett sense of humor, taking the absurdities of real life, placing them into a fantasy setting, and wryly presenting them back to us in a novel setting with witty commentary. It’s just a lot slower of a read than your typical webcomic, be it webtoon or traditional page format. That’s because the conceit of “Realm of Owls” is that of a history/chronicle of this world by a pair of owls named, you guessed it, Gheralf and Vayandil. As such, the act of reading the comic is more like flipping through a game manual, a travel guide, and a bestiary. Each entry is fun on their own but the real joy is in the cumulative effect of this storytelling approach.

When we begin, we know nothing other than this is a world of Owls cloaked in a European fantasy aesthetic and that the main city used to be called Hoo, then Hoohoo, and now is Buffet because of the abundance of rats. The next story has nothing to do with any of that but it does introduce us to the concept of Scholar-pioneers and the reason why these Owls wear clothes. I promise you it is way sillier than you think (in the best way possible.) By the time you reach the fifth or sixth entry, you’ve built up a bit of a lexicon and an eye for the sight gags in the panels. It makes one feel accomplished and, most importantly, comfortable. Considering that’s often the hardest part of fantasy – properly establishing the otherworldliness without alienating the reader – I’m impressed.

I also like how immersive “Realm of Owls” is. Each aspect of the site has been calibrated to support the aesthetic and reinforce the time period. The background and borders are textured to look like old paper. The lettering is thick and uneven, as if written by a quill pen on a scroll, while the webcomics author notes at the bottom are couched in the kayfabe of the comic. The owls Gheralf and Vayandil both provide additional lore and banter while also informing us about practical art changes or site navigation without appreciably breaking character because they are, in fact, our storytellers.

The art, too, is scratchy, reminiscent of woodblock prints, illuminated manuscripts, and field journal illustrations. It’s not particularly ornate though. I’m not pouring over each panel and marveling at its intricacies nor its minimalism. Early Jeff Smith, this is not. It is functional, plain and simple, and that is its intent. It shines in the ways it must, in its relation to the text, producing the cadence of a good “New Yorker” cartoon. It catches you off guard with a one-two punch and you can’t help but smile or burst out in a laugh. #5 and #7 in particular have this rhythm down pat.

Of course, only being a few pages in, I only got a flavor of what “Realm of Owls” has to offer. Perhaps it grows and grows and grows or perhaps it grows stale. Perhaps it becomes more story focused or perhaps it keeps up the scattershot approach. Regardless, Buffet calls and if you’ll excuse me, I have a lava-pigeon to catch.

//TAGS | Webcomics

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.


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