As a pre-teen, I got my first taste of the fantasy genre trilogy after a long lasting introduction to Michael Scott’s Windlord series. The story of regular teenagers arriving into a Middle Earth version of the Tuatha De Danann (from the early era of Irish folklore), meeting other magical teens from that world, and all of them later Destined To Do Great Things sparked my early love of writing and drawing epics of my own. At this time of writing, I’m still learning how to do it properly.
Another thing I adored – and still adore – about the Windlord books was that, even though it touched upon Irish legends and characters, their presence never once overwhelmed the stories and fixed them to a distinct locality. In a way that my 12 year old self understood, it was a great example of world building and character development over the limited course of the books. (Here’s hoping Wolfhound Press do a reprint someday.)
It’s almost fourteen years later, and Anthea West’s graphic novel The Earthbound God was first released in January 2013 with that same world-building spark in mind. Rather than touch upon Irish mythology, West has borrowed and expanded upon tales akin to Inuit hunting stories and spirits, and has even provided notes from art design to dialect in the afterword.
Yaeya and Eusha, the main characters, are like chalk and cheese and ricochet off each other at times, but they have a strong and wonderful bond to help them through the journey that’s been laid out for them. Early on in the story, it is revealed that they have been sent by an old and dying leader of a Grasslands tribe to seek the heart of a mountain god to heal his illness. The people of the mountains provide them with information on how to trap and kill this god (with the elder’s backstory eloquently illustrated) after the women prove themselves worthy to go on their way.
Because of the clashing dialects between the people of this world, the dialogue is intentionally choppy, but it functions to portray the cultures in the story, with original tribal pictograms flickering in the text for untranslatable phrases. The very first and last times the pictograms are spoken in the book are by the same person, and they are exactly about the same thing. That’s how much care was put into the dialogue without forcing proper English all the time, which is a sad reason to be put off from reading The Earthbound God.
The artwork is cute and soft overall, with West’s rendering of nature and animals complementing the other designs of the people and their cultures. The anatomy and style of the characters gets rather soft and unstructured in places akin to putty, but the overall energy in the panels, as well as some moments with wonderful layouts, makes up for it. The fact that West has done this, all on her own after almost a year of development work, is commendable enough. There is evidence from the concept and guest art at the back of the book.
Even the minor characters are written with plenty of heart. They flesh out the world of the book before we get to meet the titular god itself, and drive Yaeya and Eusha’s journey forward at full steam. The two women are passionate and determined in what they sincerely hope to achieve but, after checking with West herself to see if my suspicions were happily correct, I can say this: never has a lesbian relationship been written with such subtlety and brilliance in Irish comics before, if at all.
The reprint is coming very soon, so do yourself a favour and purchase this book to keep it coming, as well as having the honour of owning a pretty damn unique Irish comic.