Status: Complete
Genre: Fantasy
A young girl named Nirvana is separated from her father in a plane crash, and journeys to find him with the help of a mysterious creature called a Sithrah.

Reminds me a lot of of Studio Ghibli films, in particular “Princess Mononoke” and to a lesser extent “My Neighbor Totoro”.

The pacing and framing are excellent. For example, when Vonna first discovers that her father and pet cat might actually be dead, the page highlights her isolation by ending on a slow zoom out with her all alone in the center of each panel, getting smaller and smaller as the ‘camera’ backs away. Then, in the next scene, she begins to realize she may not be alone after all, and looks out at the horizon, but the length of the panel and her own shadowed blue-ish colors contrasting against the vibrant orange-y colors of the sunset makes it seem like she’s looking up at something overwhelming and unseen, as if the landscape is literally rising against her.

The artist makes great use of color and shadows in general, really. It feels almost like a digitized version of a Japanese woodblack painting. I was especially impressed to learn that the inking for Sithrah was done on paper, and how professionally the author, Jason Brubaker, treats the whole process.

I saw some commenters who were unhappy that Vonna is kind of a spoiled brat, but honestly, I’ve seen much worse than her. She’s not THAT bad. She at least is capable of being polite and deferential, and has some level of remorse for the consequences of her actions. Compare that to someone like Korra, who’s entitled to the point of throwing tantrums if she doesn’t get her way, is utterly and unduly convinced of her own self-importance, and blames everyone except herself when things go wrong. All this, while being more than twice Vonna’s age.

What is that bad about Vonna, however, is her face. Brubaker seems to insist on making it as ugly and unappealing as he possibly can. No one else looks like this. No one else gets these grotesque, unflattering depictions. Look at these screenshots.

Why? For what purpose? In the fourth Q&A he actually responds to a question asking "why did you make the main character a girl and not a boy” with “because I like drawing girls more than boys”. Does he like deformities, too?

Also, I started feeling like I’d seen the Sithrah’s design before somewhere, but for the longest time I kept drawing a blank. Then while I was typing this up I realized - they’re Moomins!

So that's kinda neat.

As far as the actual story goes… not that great? I think the final act is especially weak. If you ask me, the Author and the End and all that nonsense about Dino being a key should have been cut out. The symbolism is so blunt and obvious that it starts to feel grating. The chip being a metaphor for The Mark of the Beast, that’s classic sci-fi, but it really should have stopped there. From metaphorical confessions to theological debates over the Author’s omnipotence, the story gets so wrapped up in its own allegory that it begins to lose focus.

The ending sucks. Chapter 6 is so obnoxiously preachy that it kills the whole thing for me. Sithrah is basically a ‘road trip’ comic, where the characters explore various destinations on the way to achieving some ultimate goal. But Light City felt like only a fraction of what it had to offer was actually shown off. The vistas of the city, the insane machinery, and potential conflict with the secret police are brushed over in favor of showing the Author effortlessly vanquishing Not!Lucifer after allowing her to run free for no real reason other than to demonstrate the futility of ever rebelling against him.

The End did nothing wrong, honestly. The Author is every bit as manipulative, cryptic, and power-mad as she is, but his colors are white and gold while hers are black and grey, so he’s the good guy. Brubaker has to resort to giving her an irrational love for torture and cruelty to even make her seem like a villain, because going on motivation alone, all she ever wanted was to not have her fate dictated by some unknowable alien god. Even if you consider her wish to basically take the Author’s place and become the new scriptwriter, that is just as much a condemnation of the Author as it is of her. One tyrant is as bad as the next.

Vonna travelling to a dystopian techno-city to find and rescue her father is a more than compelling plot hook. There didn’t need to be any sort of divine power play or societal upheaval, the only necessary part was a satisfying conclusion to her journey. Just because the scale is small doesn’t mean the stakes can’t be high. I think a lot of authors forget that.

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