Arbalest Webcomic Review
- By Leah Potyondy-Edens (Twitter and Facebook)
- Website only
- 80 traditional (print) layout pages
- Chapters 1 to 3 are complete with Chapter 4 in progress
- Updates weekly on Mondays
- The story can be consumed on a weekly basis or a chapter by chapter basis, but I feel a collected edition would be even better.
Potyondy-Edens has crafted an atmospheric and creepy slow burn that fills you with dread as work your way through each page in this Dark Fantasy/Horror.
The art and pacing come together to amplify the sense of unease that permeates this work. Just as the main character knows something is off, so to does the reader as together they learn just what is happening.
For six months of darkness at the top of the world, Haelu lives amongst the villagers of Arbalest. Like every Night Twin before her, Haelu is a monster, destined for sacrifice. Unlike every Night Twin before her, Haelu dreams of a way out.
Don’t read this if you are expecting something action packed and fast paced. While there isn’t much gore yet the author has indicated the viewer should be wary. If you don’t like horror or the supernatural this won’t appeal to you. If hack and slash is your horror sub-genre of choice this will disappoint you. You may find yourself let down if you expect to have the world building laid out for you.
Read this if you enjoy atmospheric horror that is more creepy than explicit. The world building seems fleshed out and the world feels lived in with many things to discover in the details and on subsequent reads. Readers who like to pour over details in the art and can read subtext will get the most out of the narrative. If you are a fan of atmospheric art over realism then this will be right up your alley. If you enjoy suspense and character moments, then the character acting will appeal to you.
There is some nudity, most of it is tastefully censored, but there have been a few naked breast shots. There are scenes with blood but no guts. I get the impression the violence and perhaps gore will increase in subsequent chapters. The author herself indicates the series is rated M, for gore, nudity, and sexual situations. As one might expect there is some swearing.
The comic should strike a familiar tone to fans of creepy atmospheric horror like The Ring or VVitch. Potyondy-Edens sticks to a monochromatic color scheme throughout the pages to elicit a feeling of coldness throughout the winter scenes. The main character is a blank slate, having just woken up and made her way to a cottage in the middle of nowhere. She is a good stand-in for the reader who also has no idea what is going on. She is helped by people who are obviously only obligated to assist her and they are as cold as the winter landscape. The art does a good job of helping you feel Arbalest residents’ apprehension and fear. They speak in hushed tones and know exactly what terribleness is coming next.
It is left to our imaginations to figure out just what could have people on edge. Small background details, like paintings and murals, hint towards loss and perhaps an impending doomsday.
The art is stylized, veering just a bit towards cutesy. Potyondy-Edens uses a mostly monochromatic color palette with splashes of color on objects to highlight their importance. There is good use of texture and effects to heighten feelings of loneliness or despair. The art is a little simplistic, with few details but still manages to tell the story effectively. The anatomy can be a little spotty, but Potyondy-Edens challenges herself with intense angles and foreshortening.
Overall, the comic is effective at putting the reader on edge. The pace is slow using quiet moments to build our sense of dread, giving a slow drip of details so we can craft horrors in our head. Something bad is coming and the creator takes time to stretch out our anticipation. The backgrounds are sparse, each object put there with purpose and not for flavor.
The story is easy to follow with the paneling done well, there are some instances where things were slightly confusing but overall not a detriment to the story. Potyondy-Edens takes risks with the lettering and uses it effectively to indicate hallucinations or otherworldly voices. The lettering is a little small and not really suited for portrait orientation on mobile. Landscape mobile reading is ideal, with very few vertical panels, the downside is you lose the intent of the page as a whole. The website is easy to navigate, but not optimized for mobile.
The mystery and premise of the comic are laid out deftly in the first few opening pages of Arbalest. The story begins with Haelu remarking that she is seeing the sun for the first time in her six-month long life. The story moves to her as a newly born child, naked, atop a snow covered hill. Instinctively, she makes her way down to the village and to a cottage where an old woman has been waiting for her. When she sleeps that evening she dreams of her brother. “You are the winter. You are the long night. You are fear. Be brave.” she is told by the angelic apparition.
Haelu was literally born yesterday and does not understand her purpose, her visions, or the strange transformations that occur whenever she sleeps.
We learn that Haelu has been reborn many times and progressed through some terrible cycle of events. She is plagued by mysterious dreams and visions, hinting at her previous lives.
Joining her along her journey is Brand. Who plays the role of her guide. A seen-it-all, bored guardian whose purpose is to track her down and prep her for the events ahead.
The story plays with the themes of predestination and the nature of things. What is happening has happened before, and will happen again, and the inhabitants are resigned to this cycle. The series description indicates the main character Haelu will not be giving in so easily, but will her rebellion even matter?
Thanks for reading! Let me know if this was helpful.
Please share your thoughts if you have read the series.