Review: Cape of Spirits by Elie Byun and Kristina Nguyen
Overall score: 9/10
Warning: Contains spoilers for Episode one.
Cape of Spirits is one of those comics that makes me think. Season one’s thirty chapters are packed full of character, action, intrigue and a plot that offers more hooks than a porcupine. It often seems with each page a new hook is manifested, keeping me engaged in the unfolding plot. While a story revolving around an exiled prince is often stale, Cape of Spirits feels like a breath of fresh air. Its composition poised to subvert expectation with something a little unique. Even as I write this, questions around what I have read churn and I find myself questioning answers I thought I had received. Somewhere, there is a missing piece of vital information that will change everything I know. I will wait with anticipation for that nugget in season two.
Cape of Spirits opens on a forlorn snow-filled sky then pans down onto bare trees. Mountains in the distance show what appears to be a dilapidated or abandoned village. A figure stands alone on a road, the cowl of their cloak or the hood of their coat pulled up to obscure their face, or perhaps shield them from the cold. It is difficult to ascertain. The next page we get is the broken slats of a hut and a tied up youth. The scene is stark and sets the tone. It brings to mind a desolate and cold world, one that is suffering. I do not know what is happening at this point, who any of the characters are but already I can tell this is not a world where everyone is happy. As the images roll on, we see the cloaked figure again, only this time they are heading towards the hut with the bound youth. Are they friend or foe? This is a comic that the authors have taken great care with setting the scene. The muted colours and the foreboding landscapes immediately bring tension. The long flow of pannels with no direct dialogue or indeed, detailed character profiles is excellent at bringing the soul of the episode to the forefront. Though there have been but a few pages, the amount of tension that has built is palpable and is only heightened by the first words we are given. Surprisingly these come not in the form of dialogue, but rather sound effects, the “Bam” of a door being slammed open and the “clack” of footsteps atop a wooden floor. It is here that the authorial expertise shines. The careful setting of the scene has built up to this point. It feels a momentous meeting. It is then I realise the sound effects are not superfluous flavour, they are all the bound youth will hear. The only sign that he is not alone. And then comes the dialogue
Get up. Do you know how hard I worked… to finally catch the Empire’s most wanted criminal? Even though your father was a degenerate… you were no different. To kill your own flesh and blood…you really are disgusting. But your bloodthirst didnt end there, did it? You just had to go out… and kill him too.The first dialogue in Episode 1
As the figure speaks, we are finally shown the face of our two characters. The figure is a pretty woman, but immensely strong and determined. The slow unveiling of her profile shows us a person consumed by emotion. her eyes are full of hatred and her face full of anger. In a few quick moments, we see what she is about and the cold walk suddenly seems more palpable. It was the calm before the storm. We are shown the smiling face of the ‘him’ she is referring to and then, only then does she yank the hood from our bound youth and we are given a view of his face. His eyes are cold, almost judgmental as he considers her from the corner of his eye. His face is bruised and the barest hint of blood is shown at the corner of his mouth. But all in all, he has a look of defiance on his face. It is almost a poetic opening for their characters and sets the level of excellence that is carried through the comic. Culminating in the brilliant and exceptional finale. But I will say nothing of that, its impact is best experienced organically. It was the topping that made me love this comic even more. A surprise though it was.
One of the things I loved the most about Cape of Spirits is its magic system, or perhaps technology is a better term. It is a unique blend and though we don’t know its rules and limitations, it is clear by the exposition it is given to be both unique and well designed. A hard magic system that harbours what I suspect is a heavy cost in its formation. Time will, of course, tell on whether my suspicions are proven true. But I can say though it by no means completely unique, it is an interesting take and one that I look forward to uncovering more of.
The plot of Cape of Spirits is intriguing as it poses a lot of questions about the past of its characters and because of that, while the actual happenings are very action-oriented and are driven less by characters and more by the circumstance around them. That is to say, no decision made by the characters ultimately changes its course, bar one. The authors have made great effort to ensure its twists and turns are by no means coincidental nor obvious. Effective storytelling that quickly draws the reader into a fully realised world which takes great effort to ensure the impact of its flow.
Overall, if you are into fantasy adventure stories with strong leads. Cape of Spirits is one you cannot afford to overlook. Though it is very much in its infancy in terms of plot and character development, it excels at creating an engaging and intriguing world complemented by fast-paced action and a mystery that seems more complicated with each reveal. Though it is difficult to pin down at this time, I can say this is not a story about Hero’s and Villain. Instead, it seems to stride onwards with morally grey and complicated character, all of which make it much more engaging.
A former heir to the throne, Jinsei Kimura is now a fugitive on the run from the very empire he once called home. Now, to clear his name, Jinsei must fight alongside a team once sworn to deliver his head – working together to uncover the truth behind the coins that power their civilization. In a world without trust, where long-time allies are now enemies, can Jinsei harness the power of the Spirit Coins to find his own personal redemption?