Slightly Damned, Book 3, by Sarah “Chu” Wilson – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Slightly Damned, Book 3, by Sarah “Chu” Wilson

Phoenix, AZ, Slightly Damned Comics/Orlando, FL, Ka-Blam Digital Printing, Aug. 2014, trade PB $39.95 (unpaged [282 pages]), digital download $4.99.

6828_113758BSlightly Damned, Book 3 is here, collecting pages #377 to #571 (March 15, 2010 to January 26, 2013) of Sarah “Chu” Wilson’s Ursa Major Award-winning internet comic strip. They are divided into Part 5, Forgive Me, and Part 6, The Flower Festival.

“The Story So Far” begins: “After Rhea, Buwaro, and Kieri rescued a pair of kidnapped Fairies in Riverside City, they joined the traveling Sinclair family on the road.”

Does this tell you anything, if you’re not reading the strip regularly? Like any long-running newspaper or Internet comic strip, new readers have to just jump in and pick up the background as you go along. Briefly: Rhea Snaketail, a yellow-furred (she sheds) Jakkai, is murdered, but because she wasn’t really bad, she is only assigned to the Ring of the Slightly Damned in Hell. She meets Buwaro, a horned, purple-furred Demon, but basically a nice guy. After several adventures (Book 1), Rhea escapes with Buwaro back to her homeworld, Medius, which has two moons and a lot of fantasy beings wandering around. They meet Kieri (Buwaro calls her “Snowy”), a blue-haired Angel who became stranded when she came to Medius (rather, to Rhea’s continent of Fragaria) with her brother Kazai, and he disappeared. Buwaro and Kieri fall in love (“A Demon and an Angel? It just isn’t …”), which infuriates (or as the earthy Rhea would say, pisses off) both the Demons and Angels who traditionally try to kill each other. The Odd Trio search Fragaria for Kazai; first in nearby Riverside City, then joining the Sinclair family of traveling merchants to continue their search in Weyville, and then larger St. Curtis.

“Forgive Me” begins with Rhea, Buwaro, and Kieri deciding not to tell Mr. Sinclair that Lazuli, a Demon, is following them to kill Kieri, because he might, y’ know, object to their attracting a killer to his traveling home? As they near St. Curtis, Buwaro tries to learn fire magic and sets the Sinclairs’ roof on fire. More of Medius’ history and really complicated religion are developed: There are three “human” Gods and twelve anthro Guardians: dolphin, wolf, rabbit (water); bee, dragon, lynx (fire); falcon, mortari, bat (wind); and stag, snake, and mole (earth). “Anyway,” Rhea explains, “there was a huge war among Heaven, Hell, and Medius, right? Depending on who you ask, it ended over 300 years ago, only a little over 15 years ago, or, taking current events into account, maybe it never ended at all. Most of the guardians remained neutral, as they were the creations of both Gaia AND Syndel. But Siara the lynx and Melli the bee sided with Heaven, and Broxis the wolf and Toski the rabbit sided with Hell. […]” Buwaro (and the reader) are totally overwhelmed. The three help Miranda (the pregnant Mrs. Sinclair) to make magical Rainbow Reverie to sell at the Flower Festival. We see that Jakkai tails are strong enough that Rhea can balance herself off the ground with hers. There are ominous previews of trouble awaiting them in St. Curtis, a large mixed Human-Jakkai city and the home of its world-renowned annual Flower Festival, the biggest gathering and celebration on Fragaria. Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 7.16.50 AM

In Part 6, The Flower Festival, the Sinclair traveling-wagon family plus Rhea, Buwaro, and Kieri finally reach St. Curtis, just as the annual Flower Festival is about to start. Rhea has never been to one, so it’s all new to her, too. And this year, to everyone. The Sinclairs (Cliff, Miranda, their daughter Samantha, and Duster, Mr. Sinclair’s sarcastic “pet” mothlike Fairy) are used to seeing Humans and Jakkai mix in friendship, but they are dumbfounded by the sight of Angels and Demons together, too. Rhea, Buwaro, and Kieri encounter Sahne, a giant but friendly Demon whose explanation of why Angels and Demons are together is unintelligible. Kieri, still looking for her brother, learns that warrior Angels do not have a good reputation in St. Curtis; and Mr. Sinclair learns that Weyville was totally destroyed after they left it. The three discover a baby golden wright wyvern (what’s that?), a Khamega (giant anthro turtle) thief, and a very rare Human-Jakkai crossbreed (let’s not talk about that!). A sinister quartet (General Iratu, Buwaro’s foster brother and not a nice Demon; Tsavo, an adult green-&-black wright wyvern; Azurai, a murderous Demon; and Mr. Moonshade, a dishonest Jakkai) plot to slaughter everyone at the Flower Festival. Rhea meets an old Human friend, and Buwaro meets a God.

Slightly Damned is a comedy-adventure with long somber stretches and an occasional tragedy. Chu, like any long-term comic-strip artist, subtly changes her style and “improves” over the years. Here is strip #398, six years into Slightly Damned. Look at the overhead shot in panel #2. Look at the pencil tied to one of Buwaro’s claws in panel #5. He hasn’t been able to write because he hasn’t been able to hold a pen or pencil. The strip shows gradually without pointing it out that Buwaro isn’t stupid as much as really inexperienced and physically not designed for mortal civilization. Note that Kieri’s speech is lettered smaller than the other characters’. She’s very soft-spoken. Note the comments about Lingo, Rhea’s homeworld’s language, and “warrior Angels”. Over the years Chu has been developing Rhea’s world from a stereotypical RPG sword-&-sorcery land into a complex and unique background; and the Angels and Demons from formulaic Good and Bad Guys into real individuals.

Like any collection from a long-running comic strip, Slightly Damned, Book 3 does not end as much as it breaks off in mid-story. You can get all this for free on the online strip’s archive, but this large, full-color trade paperback volume does not require a computer to read it a page at a time. Like Books 1 and 2, Book 3 is printed 8 1/2″ x 11″ by Ka-Blam Digital Printing, and sold exclusively through Ka-Blam’s retail outlet, IndyPlanet, both of Orlando, Florida.

I reviewed Books 1 and 2 on Flayrah on September 10, 2014, summing them up by saying, “Slightly Damned frankly was not my choice for the Best of the Year Ursa Major Award [for 2012 and 2013], but it is easy to see why it won. These two collections will bring it more fans.” Book 3 will bring it even more fans.

– Fred Patten