Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #204 by Drew Barth

Long Road to Somewhere

Most journey narratives end with our protagonists returning home with the splendors of treasure, knowledge, or both to an adoring hometown crowd that celebrates the transformation they’ve undergone in the time they’ve been away. That home is the root—the place the protagonist can tie themselves to and reflect their new world against as a source of familiarity and comfort. But what about when that home no longer exists? What about when the journey needs to happen, but there’s nothing to look back at except ruins? In the first issue of Wes Craig and Jason Wordie’s Kaya, we see the beginnings of a journey that has no return.

Kaya and her brother, Jin, a prince who no longer has a kingdom, are wandering. It’s been some time since they were able to escape the destruction of their village, but the wasteland they wander in is vast. They have to keep journeying northward to reach some kind of safety, despite Jin’s protests that his princely status imbues him with authority over where they travel. Kaya is, of course, doing her best, but when the pair are overrun by lizard riders in the husk of another destroyed village, she must reveal the magical arm that will keep them both safe from the wilds of their world. Luckily for them both, Kaya knows one of the riders and finds brief safety in their camp, but precious little food or comfort for the rest of their journey.

While the story of Kaya is just taking off, what’s immediately apparent in this first issue is the skills and interplay between Craig’s art and Wordie’s colors throughout. Craig, having just come off of the conclusion of Deadly Class earlier this year, is flexing a more fantastical muscle with this series, but his lines still remain as sharp as ever. Wordie’s colors, however, help to elevate the story even further as they provide this watercolor-esque feeling to expressions and backgrounds that help provide this new depth to the page. And it’s their usage of red and yellow throughout—colors that are present in almost every page, especially the impressionistic backgrounds—that helps to keep a thematic grounding to the story. It really helps to cement the idea that this is the dawn of Kaya and Jin’s journey and there’s still a scant hint of brightness to their characters despite everything that has happened.

This first issue of Kaya keeps that crucial balance between character, story, and worldbuilding that can only come from creators that have had to cut their teeth on many first issues in the past. As close as it plays its cards to the chest, you’re still able to peek at something larger happening in the future.

This is a story that makes you want to keep going and see just where this ever-forward journey can take our protagonists.

Get excited. Get going. 

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.