This one starts off with a lot of purple prose that feels like it’s trying way too hard to set the mood. All it ultimately amounts to is letting the reader know that the world is cutthroat and brutal and it sucks. Xiphina tells the reader that someone killed her family because they wanted to stop a war, but the reader isn’t given much context for those words to hit home with, and it feels kinda dry.

Yet, despite the flowery exposition, at times it also feels like not enough is explained. Look at this panel.

"Cipher"? "Awakenings"? The reader has no context for what these terms mean yet. This is a trope that is sadly very common in sci-fi and I’m routinely disappointed that it continues to stick around.

This comic actually does do a pretty good job with exposition after the first chapter, much better than most sci-fi I’ve read, but it’s not a good first impression.

I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the art style either. It is unique-looking but honestly pretty unappealing to look at. Everything feels a little crowded and the most important parts of the panels often struggle to stand out.

A lot of the character designs look pretty ugly too, they all have this ‘uncanny valley’ feel. Vaan in particular I found very off-putting. It’s not unacceptably bad, it’s just… kinda weird. There’s also some weird anime-inspired bits to the art like the occasional chibi rendition or the use of gigantic sweat drops to indicate exasperation and I think it doesn’t fit at all. Aesthetically, the society here seems to resemble something more akin to Saint Seiya, with the crazy futurist architecture and werd fashion and color-coded superpowers, yet at times the art style switches over into something more like a poor imitation of Ouran High School Host Club. I just don’t think it works. Still, despite my gripes, I’ll take this any day over bland, generic anime artstyle #55,342. Weird, even if it doesn’t work, is always better than boring.

Not a fan of the fight sequences. They tend to be full of annoying quips and as stated already the art just isn’t appealing. Not horrible, but not anything I’d write home about.

However, my gripes with the art are more than made up for by the characters. I ADORE how logical and calculating Vaan is. He reminds me a lot of Jun from Alethia, who’s one of my favorite characters ever. A damn shame that comic was abandoned, even if it ended up going way downhill after chapter 6.

The Empress-Mother is a damn good title for Xiphina, outstanding leadership and motherly qualities. The extent to which she cares for Vaan makes it very easy to root for her. Vaan’s family really feels like a family and their bond is honestly heartwarming.

All in all, this is a great comic if you’re looking for a science fantasy story with great character relationships, but ultimately this comic does put quite a bit of stock in its fight scenes, so if you’re in the mood for action… I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
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