Not many people know this, but I used to have a webcomic of my own. It probably goes without saying that it was awful. One of the things I tried, and miserably failed, to do with this never-to-be-named comic was shade with brush pens, a technique I had seen other, better artists pull off with gorgeous results.
If I had read Chirault back when I was making that comic, I wouldn’t have bothered. I would have known I could never approach Varethane’s level of brush pen mastery.
Chirault seems at first glance like a typical generic high fantasy comic, if a strikingly-drawn one. You’ve got your elves (well, the pointy eared people are “humans” actually, which is an interesting touch), your demons, and your spirits, and the
elves humans are struggling with overpopulation in the small patches of land allowed them by their ancient treaty with the tree spirits of the great forests. The mages’ guild in the city of Chirault starts trying to find sneaky magical loopholes in the treaty, with disastrous results.
The reason I love this comic has less to do with the plot, though, and more to do with the characters. They’re charming, they’re endearing, they seem rich and fully-fleshed even just through their dialogue and interactions. The story follows moody, taciturn Kiran, the first demon member of the hunters’ guild, whose duty it is to roam the wilderness hunting rogue demons, and gregarious Teeko, a young demon girl who Kiran rescues after she’s accidentally shrunk by a magical mishap. Their journey to find a way to cure Teeko’s affliction brings them right into the midst of the tension and intrigue rocking the mages’ guild.
The fascinating thing about Chirault is how many moving pieces the plot has – the protagonists’ journey, the people they meet along the way, a massive migration of demons from the west, the terrible device made by the current mages’ guild and the mysterious figure who stole it, and the conspiracy involving the last guild council – and how smoothly and seamlessly they mesh together. For instance, when adorable secondary character Bethan runs afoul of a security spell and is turned completely intangible, it’s an interesting problem the characters have to address together, and seems like nothing more. But when her intangibility becomes a critical part of uncovering the conspiracy in the mages’ guild, that’s truly fascinating, a great I-see-what-you-did-there moment. And this story is full of those.
There are only two disappointing things about Chirault. The first is that pretty much everyone seems to be de facto white. Varethane has drawn some gorgeous and interesting people of color on the sidelines of this comic, so why can’t there be any in the main cast? The second is that it’s completely devoid of queerness, which is a major downside for me, frankly. But on the other hand, there’s no straight romance either, so at least you don’t have to deal with the usual hetero bombardment of typical stories. I feel like that evens things out.
And as I’ve said before, if you like the idea of a cranky monster dude/mischievous girl with a tail odd couple, read this comic and not Unsounded. Please.
Final verdict: Which is better, the instantly relatable characters or the gorgeous brush penwork they’re rendered in? Both. They’re both better. Read Chirault if you like those things.