It’s been almost a year since my short review of the contemporary fantasy comic Geist, which I uploaded before my yearly hunting vacation in Colorado. Unfortunately, my Muse has been being stubborn when it comes to reviewing this comic and I usually end up procrastinating and putting it off. Part of this may be due to the comic’s weekly update schedule; weekly comics tend to drift from my radar unless the comic’s cartoonist takes care to compress the story and eliminate extraneous plotlines to accelerate the story’s pacing. The problem with this is that it’s extremely difficult to balance characterization, story, and pacing, and in this cartoonist L. S. Zwarenstein is no different than her peers. And while Geist may not be as glacial as many comics, it has still taken its time in building the story as a whole.
The story follows Kate Crowley, a teenager who we learn was attacked by an invisible intangible creature known as a Geist, which left her with a scarred eye and a twisted hand. What’s worse, the same incident resulted in her best friend’s younger sister being comatose, and the teenagers responsible for it blamed her. As she tries to cope with being shunned at school by her former friends (including Landon, her best friend) and the harassment of the Geistlords, the teenager group behind the incident, she starts to see things and realizes after a short while that she’s now able to see the Geists. What’s worse, her cursed hand tends to attract Geists, which could drive her insane or leave her comatose as well if they manage to attack her again.
Fortunately, while Landon does hold her responsible in part for his sister’s condition, he also blames the Geistlords and is soon willing to work with her to find out what happened. That’s actually the path the comic is currently taking, with Kate and Landon working to find out more about the Geistlords and try to figure out how they’re able to control Geists. At the same time, I suspect Kate is also realizing there is more to the Geists than them being simple unthinking monsters, though admittedly this speculation may be based in part off of background material Zwarenstein has provided. One thing that I found interesting is that the Geists are a recent phenomenon, which leaves me to wonder if the story is set in some alternative Earth. Given the presence of cell phones and the like, this is a distinct possibility.
Despite the presence of the Geists and the supernatural elements in the comic, at its core Geist is a story about the social isolation that can occur for someone bullied by those in a position of power. Kate’s isolation (even with Landon) is a recurring refrain, especially given the feelings she has been developing for Landon. The comic itself stands out from its peers through Zwarenstein’s artwork, which I believe is one of the few watercolor art comics out there; this also allows for the depictions of the Geists to be fairly abstract which helps build on the alienness of these entities. And while its weekly update schedule does slow the pace a bit, it has had the benefit of keeping the archives small enough that they can be read through fairly quickly, while being sizeable enough to understand what’s going on.