The Story of Osram
I'm conflicted on whether or not the world coming before the characters is as effective as the opposite. With the sole POSSIBLE exception of Lord of the Rings, the draw of fantasy is normally through its characters--basically, the story has to earn its world building, if that makes sense. It's why you'll see so many people talking about their fantasy world rather than commenting on most other people's. All of the nuance and meaningfulness in your head are inaccessible to the average reader, unless you have uncanny skills.
It's good to see that you make this comic primarily for yourself, particularly because you have been maintaining momentum for close to three years. That makes me believe that you really do have a personal investment. I'm doubly convinced because it seems that you've gone back and touched up the beginning pages--I know that the reigning wisdom is that you shouldn't go back and redo pages, but I don't think I fully agree--taking the time to bulk up pages, especially early pages, is a cathartic experience. Getting closer to your mind's vision feels good and leaves a good impression on new readers.
I'm finding it somewhat difficult to objectively review traditional art, because I frankly admire the physical touch so much that I become extremely forgiving. As I mentioned in Tom and Shelldon, going traditional makes the process--as I know it--much harder. There is no Undo button, there are no dynamic layers, and there are no guides--there's just you and your talent. By and large, your style is successful--especially when it comes to engaging backgrounds and crowds. I know personally that they are a bear to handle, but they can have a surprisingly strong effect on the reader's experience. Once again, it's an investment that shows YOUR investment.
Like all other comics and all other artists, the technical polish needs work. My primary complaint is somewhat subjective--maybe. I would argue that your style becomes less appealing in recent pages. I'd say that around Chapter 3 page 73, a stream of ""realism"" begins to flow into your work, namely your characters. Lines begin to multiply on their faces, which in turn begin to shape themselves more "accurately" rather than stylistically. The problem is that while these are great for learning, they are very unappealing in thee transitioning stages. A good example: comparing Osram as she looks in Chapter 4 Page 95 to how she looked throughout chapter 2 is rather disappointing. Yes, she is less "defined' in chapter 2 and yes, there is more evidence of your early but growing grasp of more accurate real life facial structure, but chapter 2 is far more pleasant than chapter 4 when it comes to your characters. The redraw of chapter 1 is pleasant as well. I might, however, be getting ahead of myself I realize.
I'll interrupt that point about aesthetically pleasing vs more technically accurate with this one, which may be more important: consistency. I have this problem myself somewhat, in that while I stay consistent to the general design of my characters, I still let details through sometimes. These are things like nose shape, ear size, nose length, etc. It is probably due to this being done in a traditional medium, but your characters are consistently oblong and inconsistent in their details. Osram's nose is a big one. It grows large and smaller and larger again over the course of the comic. A good example being Chapter 4 pages 95 and 107--Osram's nose changes size and angularity dramatically within panels.
This effect becomes more pronounced the more "technically ambitious" your style becomes. Before, Osram's nose was like a U. Now, it has nostrils and a curving slope--a specific shape. Now, when her more fleshed out lips curl and lines appear in her face, the shape of that face needs to be less shaky and more concrete. The bottom line is that if you aspire to an ever more technically correct style, mistakes and inconsistency become exponentially harder to conceal or avoid. This is subjective in that you should pursue the style you want, and there is no shame in the transitional periods. It is less subjective when I say with confidence that right now, Osram's design is stuck in a limbo between minimalist and detailed that ends up making her and the rest of your characters unappealing. I think Chapter 4 page 96 struck a good balance, personally. Strong form and pleasant simplicity.
I want to reiterate that your environments and backgrounds have been consistently and thoroughly above par. They are tremendously effective and add a valuable level of depth and character to every scene. And, before I forget, the scene where Xenon tries and fails to pulverize Vallon is done spectacularly. Really well done, that entire scene oozes character. Great drama, too. Also, that blue deer wolf thing... it looks fantastic. Moves just like I imagine it would. Fantastic job on that creature, its the flagship of your character designs and executions.
What strikes me most about the story thus far is how much I had forgotten what it was half way through reading it. Girl meets boy, they strike a deal--money for the appearance of romance, all with a political, high society drama lurking in the background. That's a compelling premise, as far as romance plots go... and yet when I try to recall the story beats that are following this line of plot, I think of: striking the deal, setting the ground rules, meeting the mom... and that's about it. The rest of the 100 or so pages has deviations like a run in with an ant monster, meeting a bodyguard, and a Twilight book parody.
I understand the idea of slowburn story telling. I'm definitely on board, myself. The problem is that there is no sense of urgency or tension when the primary narrative beats are buried beneath what reads like filler. Yes, the slave guard character is interesting, but I'm clueless as to why we should know her right now. How she intersects with the political maneuverings of Xenon or his mother is not clear to me right now, which is a problem insofar as I don't sense any immediate import to her at all. I don't see the foreshadowing of her relevance. As a contrary example, the hooded Southwesterner oozes import. I see him for all of two pages and I begin to wonder what his deal is, how he'll intersect with the story. He feels important. Amara and Blrima--I'm not as convinced. My running theory is that Blrima's family will be used, perhaps with him at risk, to interfere with the plot in some way... but the leads are pretty weak right now. I think you might have even said as much in one of the pages, that the prologue took you 80+ pages. I sympathize, honestly... my first chapter will be about twice as long as I predicted. Live and learn. The lesson is focus and planning. You have not said how much planning you have done for this comic. it would be useful to reflect on whether or not you are taking an organized approach. Your comic does not strike me, the reader, as organized.
The characters themselves are actually quite intriguing, honestly. Xenon and his mother stand out, obviously. It's not that they are complex so much as they are pure. Xenon's insecurity and general struggle with the external world isn't warped by the frivolous drama that surfaces now and again. His arc remains clear. His mother, while less obvious, still maintains her own character. She is the model of a conniving plutocrat, which in turn underscores the strong theme of class tension throughout the story. I applaud the recent scene between Xenon and Vallon once more for this reason--it is a clear story beat that is loyal to this previously unspoken but ever present conflict between Xenon and the rest of the cast. He's an aristocrat. They aren't. His routine and repeated humiliation at the hands of his subordinates both physically and socially is painful to watch.
Osram is the problem. It's a common problem, too, and it runs rampant throughout most of media. She's a plucky, willful lady with a strong personality--and she's insufferable. Reading through the story, I could not believe how she gets away with treating Xenon so poorly. She comes from a weak position of negotiation. She needs Xenon more than he needs her, and yet she acts like a complete brat--insulting him, blatantly ignoring his wishes, and causing chaos. Once more I point to the aftermath of the Vallon fight. Xenon steps up and confronts his antagonist, does his best, gets humiliated, and she rags on him? Xenon needs to ditch this lady. Osram is unbearable.
Perhaps it's intentional. All I'll say is that it is a common problem, that the strong willed female lead doesn't act strong, she acts like an absolute brat. I don't like Osram, and I hope she gets her comeuppance at some point. Lord knows Xenon has endured a lot. In general, I don't find the others all that sympathetic. Vallon calls out Xenon's privileged position, but the comic goes to great lengths to show how bleak Xenon's life really is. He's sickly, socially inept, lonely, and underutilized. At least his uncle, saint that he is, cares.
I enjoyed The Story of Osram a lot more than I expected I would. That comes down to strong worldbuilding and engaging backgrounds, I think, as well as an intriguing character in the form of Xenon. Osram may be an insufferable hellion and the story may be, perhaps until recently, shuffling along, but I can sense a fair amount of potential in a strong narrative climax. Art wise, that will be helped greatly by finding consistency and rediscovering the grace of your earlier work. If you can pair the technical skills you've learned over time with the aesthetically pleasing smoothness of your early work, you'll have a very strong style that will energize the rest of the comic. I'd also recommend taking an organized and focused approach to the story. You have strong leads (the politics, the Xenon/Osram relationship, the city dynamics) being bullied by weaker leads and filer fluff (side characters, Osram hi-jinx). Focus!