Fantasy literature (and comics) has lived for a while in the shadow of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth setting, due in part to the popularity of Tolkien’s works and his utilizing of European mythology while crafting his world. This tendency to view fantasy with Tolkien-colored glasses tends to be reinforced seeing that the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy roleplaying system in turn borrowed heavily from Tolkien in turn, though over the years the system has slowly evolved into something that bears only a slight semblance to Middle Earth (not counting the insane twist it took with the Edition-Not-To-Be-Named, which my friends jokingly call “Dungeons and Diablos” after the computer game). Still, for all its flaws, D&D has helped inspire a number of fantasy writers to move beyond Tolkien’s shadow; one such example can be found with the epic fantasy webcomic Amya, which focuses on the inadvertent journey of the noble Faye True Eolande and the destiny that awaits her.
Just what that destiny is has not yet been made clear, and keeping with fantasy literature traditions, she doesn’t travel alone. Indeed, her story begins when Accel, another noble, who’s trying to flee from his old life, stumbles across her and pulls her along as he tries to evade the bounty hunters that seek to capture him. From there, Faye’s companions grow to include Kaden, a young man who they happened across at an inn and who decided to travel with them as there was safety in numbers, and the half-elven ranger Silenna who gets involved when it’s revealed one of her companions has ulterior motives in mind with Faye.
One of the more interesting aspects of Amya is that Faye is mute. While she can still hear (and use her magical talents of illusion and flame), she’s forced to converse with her companions through written notes and gestures which her companions are not always able to comprehend. Faye’s muteness is handled quite well, not only with the depiction of how she communicates with others, but with their own reactions to her. One such example lies with how Accel and Kaden treat her as an invalid, despite the fact she helped them defeat an entity they encountered soon after meeting for the first time and I rather enjoyed watching Silenna bring them to task about their actions and how they treated her, especially as they were talking about her like she wasn’t there soon after Faye literally leaped through a closed window five stories up to escape the comic’s newly-revealed primary antagonist, using her magic to slow her fall.
If the comic has a flaw (outside of updating three times every two weeks – I must admit that with a story as enjoyable as this, I kind of want more of it), it lies with how Faye doesn’t really start to shine until the first chapter is finished. The comic’s start is ominous enough (with Faye dreaming of her country’s demise in a true apocalyptic fashion), but our introduction to Faye as a noble girl who has a love for books ends up leaving her only standing out due to her muteness. Though come to think of it, I’m not sure how many fantasy stories these days start with the hero or heroine as a rich noble; no doubt this is due to the belief readers would identify better with a protagonist who has to work for a living, rather than someone raised on a silver spoon.
Fortunately, cowriters Savannah Houston-McIntyre and Andrew Hewitt are able to help Faye shine in small ways as the comic commences. She may not be some great sword-wielding warrior or the like, but it’s clear she’s got a head on her shoulders and knows how to use it (which, when you come to think of it, runs contrary to a number of fantasy heroes). Likewise, the other people she meets with in her journeys (both traveling companions and those she and her companions meet only briefly) possess unique traits to help them stand out as well.
While Amya focuses primarily on Faye and the destiny that awaits her, her companions have been given chances to shine in the limelight as well, with recent background stories provided between the last two chapters. Interestingly, the first short story focused on the comic’s initial antagonist, the bounty hunter Vincent, while its second story showed a bit of the past for the half-elf Silenna, revealing how half-elves are looked down upon by many of their elven brethren. These stories only give brief glimpses of each character, but it does help establish motivations for their actions as the story continues to grow.
One of the more interesting ways Amya stands out from its other fantasy brethren is the integration of magic and technology in the story. While Faye and Accel use magic, Kaden actually uses a pistol though it appears to be a single-shot pistol and I don’t recall seeing him reload the pistol in the story. In addition, the first chapter ends with Accel and Faye leaping from a train to escape from something ripping through the train car’s walls (and which Accel initially believes is after him) once Vincent lets them go (seeing that if Accel were killed by this thing, he’d not be able to collect his bounty). Not too many comics combine magic and technology or allow them to coexist peacefully.
In short, Amya is an enjoyable comic with the promise to be an epic storyline following a fairly unique heroine while inhabiting a world that definitely emerges from the shadow of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Houston-McIntyre and Hewitt have crafted interesting and enjoyable characters, while Rebecca Gunter’s artwork, both in character designs and backgrounds, creates a medium in which the comic truly shines. If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, I highly recommend Amya. And if you’ve avoided fantasy as derivative of Tolkien, I urge you to give this comic a chance, and let its world slowly change how you view fantasy literature.