Nahast

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I started reading at an early age. I don’t remember everything I read; there were the typical books by Seuss and other children’s books, but the one thing I definitely remember is that I started reading The Lord of the Rings when I was eight years old. (I actually think I was reading it when I was six, but I can’t be sure on that.)

My attraction to fantasy literature should come as no surprise then. If you think of it, Seuss’s books were also fantasy, as were other books I was weaned on (The Wizard of Oz for one). This attraction to fantasy continued into reading webcomics; among the first comics I read were Clan of the Cats and Elf Life.

This shows a second tendency of mine: I’m attracted to epic storytelling. There are exceptions; early College Roomies from Hell was mostly shorter stories, as were the stories in Alice. But if you look at the vast majority of comics I’ve reviewed, you’ll find a preponderance of storyline and epic comics.

Nahast is a case in point. I actually started reading this superb comic probably half a year ago, and have been waiting for the right moment to review it. Unfortunately for me, there hasn’t been any one scene that jumped out at me and demanded to have a review written; indeed, a half-written review languished on my hard drive (and was then lost when the hard drive corrupted on me) while I tried to figure out what to write about the comic.

The problem is that there is so much to Nahast. Alejandro Melchor has spent the time and effort found in many epic novels in creating this comic. The mythology of Nahast and for that matter the world of Nahast itself is complex and fascinating, and by reading through the background material you can get a feel of what the comic may grow into.

This is not the story or one or two people that will change the face of the world. Instead, it is an ensemble cast. The initial story is of Derrexi Tzelan, a noble swordswoman who has been ordered by the Empress to train a small cadre of female halberdiers called “Hawk Maidens” at the city of Beldatz. Hawk Maidens protect their city when the soldiers and guards of the city are away, and formed back during the Demon War mentioned in the mythology of the comic. Her story takes her into the midst of a play for power among the powerful of Beldatz itself, and also draws others in who likewise have been brought to this city.

Tzelan’s story alone easily could be the focus of the comic. She has a rich background that has been hinted at. Her own history as a Hawk Maiden was a failure, though she went on to become a skilled swordswoman who gained renown in one battle where many fell facing demonspawn and other foes. The politics and maneuvering in Beldatz society could easily have been the focus of the story. Melchor has added to that the stories of the seven young women who wish to become Hawk Maidens, the girls that Tzelan will train and who may very well be instrumental in the future of their empire and the Fifth Age of Nahast.

To tell each Hawk Maiden’s story would have taken years, and this is where prose has been mixed with the artistic aspects of webcomics. Several of these girls have their own stories told in a prose format. Further, these girls have their stories combined in one last prose piece, leading each of these young ladies to forsake the world they know and become Hawk Maidens.

You don’t need to read these sub-stories in order to understand what’s going on. Things such as Behari’s past as a brothel prostitute or Niriko’s half-elven blood is revealed in the comic itself. However, these stories do help enrich the tapestry that is being woven. It gives us a deeper understanding of the girls who will no doubt become the core of the Hawk Maidens of Beldatz.

The epic nature of Nahast suggests that we’ve a long ways to go here. The comic first started four years ago, and we’ve only gotten to Chapter 6 of the story. The girls who would become Hawk Maidens have only just started their training, and the others who were drawn to this place are only now coming to Tzelan and telling her what they know.

Part of this has to do with the evolution of the comic’s art. While some of the comic was greyscale, much has been colored. Further, Melchor’s coloring skills have improved over the years, and the coloring has become increasingly complex (and in turn takes longer to color) as the art continues to evolve.

Mostly, it’s because it takes time to tell a good story, and Nahast has considerable promise. Things have been hinted at and suggested that may very well not culminate for years. But with what I’ve seen to take, it will well be worth the wait.