Today, I shall be reviewing ‘The Dragon Masquerade’, a prequel story to the ‘Twokinds’ webcomic by Tom Fischbach.
The webcomic itself runs weekly at http://twokinds.keenspot.com/ and, depending on who you speak to, is either a fun little excursion into the world of furry webcomics, or is a stain on the web. You see, it is the opinion of some readers that what began as an interesting concept quickly descended into a mix of racism, furry fan service and bland art littered with anime clichés. Personally, I think that cries of racism are misguided. Yes, the webcomic contains a hefty dose of racial conflict, but this is clearly portrayed as a negative thing. The art style does indeed have some anime edges, but this is part of what brought the webcomic to my attention, and so this does not have to be seen as a negative. As to the fan service … well, we’ll get to that.
Background: While the webcomic deals primarily with an amnesiac human named Trace Legacy, ‘The Dragon Masquerade’ focuses on the popular supporting character, Natani, and her brother Zen. Six months prior to the story, Natani’s mind had been damaged. In an effort to save her, Zen allowed a mage named Prince Clovis to merge their souls. Now, with the Prince threatening to reveal Natani’s gender to their guild (women are not allowed to join guilds in this world), the pair have agreed to steal a mystical artefact in return for their freedom.
The Good: Given the current low price that the comic is available for ($1.99 – $5.99, depending on format) on http://www.indyplanet.us/product/112367/, this if remarkably good value for money. The print is clear, the paper is high quality, and at 32 full colour pages in length you certainly feel that you’re getting your money’s worth. Character designs are kept simple, and that really is something that should be praised. Rather than litter the anthros with a host of overly busy markings, those present are well placed and stray closer to realism than extravagance. That’s not to say that fursonas with unique designs are bad of course, it’s just that from a comic standpoint I personally find that the simple stylings of the book are less distracting.
Now, the webcomic can indeed fall prey to the trappings of fan service. By which I mean that there are at times boobs on display. This is not as regular an occurrence as you would be led to believe (certainly in more recent times), but it is certainly present. This particular print comic will no doubt be criticised for the same thing, but I feel that it would be prudent to point out how little this happens here: three panels. That’s right, a whopping three panels where a female character is front on, topless and drawn in low detail. If anything, there are far more nude shots of males in the comic, but even then there isn’t exactly anything to show.
From a story standpoint, the comic is a great deal of fun. The masquerade setting allows for some interesting situations for the characters to find themselves in, and it’s good to see some more backstory for Natani. The dragon, Lady Nora, is suitable visualised as a being of great power and the more playful side of her nature comes through nicely towards the end of the book, adding to the fun in the process. Perhaps in response to the vocal detractors, there’s also an undertone of the different races successfully coming together, even if it is only for one night.
The Bad: While the story maintains a decent pace and an air of fun throughout, the script can feel a little clunky at times. This isn’t an issue that applies only to Indie Comics mind you, so it would be harsh to heap too much criticism on it for this. There will no doubt be cries of sexism for the way women are treated in respect of guild membership, but it is worth noting that this is not portrayed as a positive part of society. The length of the comic does mean that how much can be fit in to the story is limited too. In some way, this could be seen as a good thing as it means that the story isn’t given the chance to drag on longer than is necessary, but at the same time it means that things are dealt with in quick order when a little more detail would be nice (this isn’t based on individual instances in the tale, but rather a general feel for me).
From an art standpoint, the comic is for the most part quite strong. The only real issue is that the facial (and muzzle) expressions on display are not hugely varied and this is far more noticeable because of the simple style of the art.
The fan service that does appear, while not prevalent, will no doubt cause some concern for some and not for others. Due to the low levels, that will likely come down to your own personal views of such things both in general and in how it pertains to humanoid wolves and the such-like. If you either aren’t particularly bothered by anthro stuffs or you feel that the low levels will be sufficient to make it less of an issue, you’ll be fine.
Final View: Much like the source webcomic, ‘The Dragon Masquerade’ is not without its problems. Despite this though, it manages to be a good quick read that serves as both a strong introduction to Natani for new readers and an enjoyable interlude for long term fans of the series. In short, you could do far worse than give the book a shot.
Final Score: 4 / 5