White Ash Review
White Ash is a fantasy horror produced by Scout Comics where Aleck Zwerg’s sole purpose in life is to escape his small town and leave it behind for good; that is until he realizes there are dangers lurking in the background where everything is not even remotely what they seemed. White Ash Volume 1 is written by Charlie Stickney, drawn and lettered by Conor Hughes, colored by Fin Cramb, and it includes issues 1 through 6.
Driving home that small-town feel, writer Charlie Stickney has discussed the real-world vibe one feels when out of high school, versus the dark realities when dangerous secrets unfold; “White Ash is about that quest to discover who you are and how you fit into the universe. And if you find out, is it actually going to make you happier? Or in this case, is it going to get you killed?”
White Ash Synopsis
Aleck is packed and ready to get out of the town he grew up in, with plans of heading to college and leaving White Ash in the rear-view mirror forever. But before meeting him, you are introduced to the darker side of things when pale-skinned Seth, who is dressed in all black, hitches a ride to Aleck’s hometown, after leaving a bloodied corpse on the bathroom floor of a local bar.
As this dangerous person approaches town, Aleck has to finish up some last-minute errands before he says the long goodbye to his home and his father. Traveling along with the main character through White Ash, you discover some of his friends and a possible love interest or two. There’s also Thane Alden who clearly looks down on Aleck, wanting to stiff him on landscaping duties, while his daughter Lillian seems to find Aleck as a wonderful excuse to rebel during her teenage years.
Aleck’s father, Gunther, soon has an “accident” in the mines after an altercation with Seth, and the life Aleck wanted to leave behind becomes completely transformed in an instant. White Ash quickly turns from a boring “I want to get out of here” town to a fantastical place filled with legendary lore. From dwarves, elves, and the evil known as the “Brood,” White Ash turns into an ancient battleground with an unknown reckoning on the horizon.
White Ash is a Fun Discovery of Ancient Lore and the Characters Built from it
White Ash is a light-hearted exterior mixed with a depth of character soon to be discovered. Charlie Stickney does a great job hashing out who these characters are, without giving away every single detail up front. The allure of this story comes from learning about what’s happening within the town at the same time that Aleck learns, while getting a relatable feel of those teenage years when all you want to do is discover everything else in the world that’s not your hometown.
This story gives its main characters time to shine. Seeing Aleck and Lillian react with one another, which includes playful and awkward moments, is thoughtful storytelling and it pays off. Afterall, they’re trying to build trust, while also learning about the villain’s whereabouts and how they plan to take him down, so seeing this natural progression is important. The growing relationship between the two feels authentic, even with some of their miscommunication, all while this underlying tension between them continues to grow as they both get to know one another more. It definitely adds a romantic spark where you are waiting to see if that kismet moment will happen.
“White Ash is about that quest to discover who you are and how you fit into the universe. And if you you find out, is it actually going to make you happier? Or in this case, is it going to get you killed?“– Charlie Stickney, White Ash writer and co-creator
It’s also clear that Stickney’s ability to generate a well-developed story is equally matched by his framing the groundwork for future stories, which includes a successful Kickstarter that explores part of White Ash’s past in Glarien #1. Even more so, the concise tale in White Ash Volume 1 is wrapped up exceptionally well. Yes, while establishing that there could be more on the way is incredible, it’s also important that this chapter ends on a note where it doesn’t feel like anything needs to be changed. Much like visiting a cozy small town on a road trip, if you decide to stop by White Ash, you will find yourself delightfully compelled to stay.
White Ash Artwork gives the town a Singular Vibe
The artistry in White Ash is pleasing to the eyes, with the color palette leaning toward a variety of softer tones, which allows the story to easily move along from one panel to the next. Even when you come across a fight sequence with a stab wound or a bloody death scene, it doesn’t feel jarring in the slightest. This color presentation really allows you to focus on the characters, the moments they have together, and the overall sense that this town has an old-world kind of feel.
Conor Hughes and Fin Cramb have teamed up to illustrate White Ash in a way that feels unique, while presenting something oddly familiar. As if you’ve stepped into a world created to match a Riverdale meets Rivendell vibe, the combination of characters, architecture, and weaponry presents a fun universe where high school meets Lord of the Rings. Large archways, a secret underground hideout, and ancient beings provide this wonderful feeling of stepping into a much bigger world than you already thought possible.
White Ash also comes fully equipped with plenty of picture-perfect facial expressions where words don’t have to express sarcasm, surprise, or pure shock. It helps to elevate intense moments, romantic glances, or just the wrong time to cross Lillian with some gross male banter when she has a fork in her hand: yikes! It’s also important to note the lettering and attention to detail, as they are noticeable qualities to help this story shine. Car sounds, lines for physical action or movements, and clever business signs all play a part in making the White Ash town have its own special feel, including dedicated advertisements from local businesses.
White Ash lands a Winner for fans looking for a Small-Town Middle-Earth
The creators of White Ash have put together a fun storyline where the main characters join forces for a bigger cause. Aleck and Lillian are hoping to protect the people of their town, all while trying to figure out who is into who romantically. The chemistry between the two of them definitely makes you want to come back for more, while plenty of fiery conversations or action scenes keep things moving at a solid pace.
The history behind the elvish and dwarven lore is fascinating, and it’s worth repeating that the creative touches to put more into place for potential future storylines is absolutely well done. Whether you’re discovering the reasons why both dwarves and elves are in White Ash to begin with, or how they’re able to track down friends using “wood from Nildavellir,” a place where they all originated from, it always leads you to wanting to learn more. All of it is put in place to share a mythical story that has a satisfying ending; yet, still wanting future storylines as soon as possible.
White Ash Volume 1 is the kind of story that you’ll read, and then as soon as you finish, you’ll check online to see if there are any other comic books already available. Fortunately, White Ash will return in November!
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