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Lately I’ve been finding and reviewing webcomics I found through various social networking sites (you know which one; there’s no need to pad their egos further). While I joke that the people who’ve been linking these are trying to get even with me for addicting them to so many new comics, truth be told many of these are truly innovative stories that deserve to have their stories told. (And this is one of the reasons I prefer the web to print comics, as it exposes these stories to a wider audience for a much lower financial cost to the cartoonist.) But it’s rare for me to read through and immediately review a comic. Normally it’ll take me a couple of days to work through the archives, as even the best of comics have slow moments that give me a chance to walk away and let other things distract me.

This wasn’t the case with Everblue, a fascinating fantasy comic set on a water-world with ancient floating cities and a pair of teens who are finding themselves involved in one of those epic quests that always seems to strike people who’d normally want to avoid “interesting times.” Actually, Luna’s the one who isn’t all that interested in the “interesting times” (or rather, feels she has too many obligations, at least until things spiral out of control and she’s forced to leave her home at the end of the third chapter); Ten, the young sailor who ends up an integral part of her story, is more of a wanderer who greets life with a smile and nary a care… unless he feels responsible for events, that is.

The story itself starts out fairly slowly, which may dissuade some readers. Indeed, while the first six pages do a nice job of creating a serene setting and introducing Luna to readers, it could easily be compressed into half as many pages. In addition, cartoonist Michael Sexton is in the process of slowly replacing (and coloring) the art in the first chapter (following in the footsteps of many of his contemporaries), though part of this is undoubtedly so the comic can later be printed. Part of the pacing is due to Everblue’s nature; at least at this juncture, the comic is less about action and more about character development and atmosphere.

In fact, for six pages near the end of Chapter 2, Sexton invokes that most rare of storytelling mediums of telling a story by image alone, with nary a word spoken. I must admit I found this to be truly innovative (and it reminded me of one of my favorite short comics by Colleen Doran done in one of the early issues of A Distant Soil), especially as it worked quite well in showing the growing relationship between Luna and Ten. Not that the comic’s just about our wandering sailor and the young shipwright who finds herself growing increasingly attracted to him; in many ways the secondary characters and their stories help drive the comic as well (especially with Luna’s adoptive brother Seta, who encourages her relationship with Ten).

If you’re more into the action aspect of epic adventures, then the first couple of chapters for Everblue will likely not be your cup of tea. While there are occasional moments hinting at the broader story growing around Luna, it’s not until the third chapter that things really start to develop and Luna’s world ends up turned on its head. Personally, I enjoyed the slower pacing of these first few chapters; I was reminded of the start of “The Fellowship of the Ring” in Hobbiton, in which Tolkien took his time to create an idyllic setting and establish his primary characters before tossing them into the fire. Likewise, Everblue uses the quiet of its first two chapters to establish its primary protagonists. There are a few places where things could be tightened up, but on the whole the comic is well worth reading, and a story I definitely intend to follow.