Story: Michael Jasper
Art: Niki Smith
For many an aspiring writer/artist, resilience is probably a more valuable asset than any measure of talent. Michael Jasper and Niki Smith must have felt like their moment had finally come when their effort In Maps & Legends found a weekly webcomic spot on DC Comic’s Zuda site in 2009… only to have its home demolished when Zuda Comics was closed down earlier this year. Undeterred, Jasper and Smith are continuing the series as a self-published and digitally distributed comic, with ambitious plans for a new issue every six weeks.
The first issue of In Maps saw artist Kaitlin Grayson visited by ambiguous suited stranger Bartamus, who wishes Kait to somehow use her artistic abilities to save his dying world. Kaitlin had been working on a cartographical sculpture, see, based on an outline drawn by her grandpa, now missing; and as is always the way, our protagonist and three friends have now found themselves sucked into said map. In this issue we get to see a little more, if arguably not quite enough, of the fantasy landscapes that Kait somehow has mapped into her subconscious.
This is a truly wonderful looking series. Niki Smith’s illustrations look like the concept art for a fantasy video game that never was… heavily textured but never overworked, with some distinctive character designs and uncanny creatures and contractions. The series has an aged, weathered “feel” to it, perfectly encapsulating Jasper’s themes of artistry and history, and giving In Maps & Legends an aesthetic unlike anything else currently on the web.
According to its creators the series is being targeted at fans of The Sandman and Lost. The latter comparison now fills me with dread; not merely because of that series’ infuriating, unfulfilling finale, but due to the sad truth that few independent comic creators are ever able to see their dreams through to the bitter end. In Maps & Legends is the sort of book that gets a kick from teasing its readers, which means that it’ll be a far more satisfying read in collected form – and infuriating for us readers should the series not see at least reach its proposed 10-part initial arc completed. But that said, In Maps is about as beautifully produced as any online comic I’ve ever read, and hopefully the series’ recent Zuda exposure will have already earned it a devoted enough fan base to ensure that Michael Jasper and Niki Smith’s perceptible ambitions are fully realised.
In Maps & Legends is currently available from, well, pretty much every digital distributer imaginable, including Comixology, Graphic.ly, and DriveThruComics, and priced at a mere $.99 per issue. It’s also available in an equally vast range of formats, from PDF to iPhone, iPad and Kindle versions. So what you waiting for, eh?