Review: The Liber Arcana #1

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (21/Dec/2018)

The Liber Arcana – Dark Medieval Times

Art & Story by M. Valdemar (Facebook / Instagram).


The world of The Liber Arcana is a dark medieval fantasy. Join Arcana as she ventures out into a world ripe with magick, monsters and the macabre. As she searches to destroy all those who pose a threat to her master the mighty sycthe-wielder, Death.

With 2018 almost over, I’ve one last review before I leave you all for the holiday season. It’s issue one of The Liber Arcana, which creator M. Vademar was good enough to fire me a digital copy of for a reivew.

The comic is written, illustrated and lettered by Valdemar. Issue one jumps straight into some of the earlier days of Arcana. It reveals details that will make it clear why she is hunted. Arcana is more than just a wandering sword-fighter. Things have been decided about her life before she was even born. And those who made those decisions aren’t about to let an important person like Arcana out of their grip.

The story certainly has things in issue one that have potential for interesting comic series. That said, the storytelling needs some work to iron out the problems that hurt the reading of the comic. First thing was how the reader is immediately in a flashback without any introduction or preamble. The reader has no idea who is narrating the flashback. Is someone we should care about? Or is it the villain of the piece? When it breaks out of the flashback, it’s the person listening to the tale that’s the first face the reader sees. It totally took me out of the story and I had to read the sequence a couple of times to better understand what was happening.

There’s also a lack of ‘breathing space’ between some of the beats which gives some of the story the feeling of things running into each other. The story moves onto the next beat almost as soon as enough has been told on the previous beat. Part of this is down to the amount of story that is contained in issue one. An already substantial page count doesn’t give much room to draw out some of the scenes.

This means that the reader does have to work harder at times than they should have to with the story. For example, moving between scenes at times isn’t clear. At one point the story moves from a forest to a dungeon with no indication of the relocation until the third panel of the first dungeon page.

In terms of the art, I really liked it. The comic has some great images that really strengthen the tone of the story. I was quite impressed with some of the art on backgrounds. They had some nice details and the sense of depth was well done in some panels. The choice of costume for the dungeon torturer seemed a little out of place when compared to the rest of the cast. His clothing didn’t seem to be in keeping with everyone else’s. But maybe that was a deliberate choice to make him distinct for the others in the story.

The last thing I’d like to mention before I wrap up this review is the lettering and the text of the comic. Some of it is simple things like the use of the letter ‘I’. There doesn’t seem to be a consistency to how it is used. Sometimes it switches between an I with the bars to one without in the same panel (curse you, Rogue Comics, for explaining the use of the I! It can’t be unlearned!). There are also some basic punctuation and spelling mistakes that need fixing. The presentation of the lettering suffers a little in parts too. In one panel, there are three speech balloons and each has a different size of text to the others. But the panel doesn’t read that the speaking is rising or lowering within the panel. The lettering also changes style during a persons speech due to the initial style being unsuitable for some panels. An editor and letterer being involved would have caught much of these issues in the production stages.

At the core of the comic, there’s a good foundation to build on in future issues. The comic does have some wrinkles that need ironing but nothing that’s insurmountable. The creator could perhaps get some others eyes to give it the ‘once-over’ for areas that need work.

Valdemar certainly has the ability for writing and illustrating the comic. They just need to refine their craft, and no better way to do it than to make more comics. A promising start to The Liber Arcana story.

Copies of The Liber Arcana are available at Angry Cherry (Derry) and Comic Book Guys (Belfast)

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