Hi, everybody. Delta-v is back with another webcomic I’d like to share with you. If I were to say the words “Manga”, “Masamune Knights”, “Sword”, “Dragon”, “Priestesses”, “Magic”, and “Quest for Justice”, you’d probably envision an epic, sword-and-sorcery tale, set in feudal Japan, with noble and heroic characters vanquishing foes and expounding on Bushido. Aaah, not quite.
What we have here is an impressive mix of dark tragedy and rollicking, light-hearted action, high and low comedy, and some truly endearing characters. Artist and head writer Kristy Murdaugh and her co-writers Robert Dawson and Philip George, present you with not so much a parody as a re-purposing of traditional manga elements. Kristy said it was fine with her, so let’s plunge right in to the spectacle that is TEC: The Echo Chronicles.
The story begins with the Masamune Knights in therapy, explaining what lead to their present problems. Their leader, Bran Kidd, recounts how he and his right-hand man Jake Skyton were sent to the top of the tallest skyscraper in their city of New Mercy by Mayor Spencer Woodell to search for an EMP bomb. They didn’t find an EMP, but they found plenty of regular explosives, and were caught in the blast.
Fortunately for them Yuki Shinrin, a powerful mage-healer who had been burglarizing a nearby office looking for evidence that Cam Seru, High Priest of the Third Plane, had murdered her parents (keeping the various Shinrins straight will be your greatest challenge), found them and stabilized them–then left. When the police arrived, they arrested the Knights on suspicion of terrorism.
When the guys are released on bail. Yuki hires them to help her prove that her parents, the then High Priest and Priestess of the Third Plane, were killed so that Cam could have the position. Yuki also believes that the title is rightfully hers.
Yuki concocts an elaborate plan to force Cam to confess during a gala fund raiser/blood drive held by the mayor, so she enlists her younger sister Belle (not a fan of Yuki’s, and she’s also Bran’s girlfriend), and uses a truth potion brewed by her youngest sister, Rose (also not a fan). Their brother, Vincent (not a fan, just not as hardcore about it as the girls) is the sniper for the Masamune Knights, and is apparently sitting this one out.
The plan goes horribly wrong, and the High Priestesses of the First and Second Planes get involved–one on each side of the controversy.
How I Found It:
Why I like It:
The Team does a great job of entertaining and engaging the readers. The plotline has more twists and turns than a plate of spaghetti, and if you don’t get blindsided frequently, you probably aren’t paying attention.
The interpersonal dynamics and political maneuverings drive the story, but the politics have nothing to do with “Left” or “Right” or even “good” or “evil”, but rather “your ambition” and “my ambition”. Think “office politics”, or “academic infighting”, or “Sorority houses”, and you’ll get the idea.
Against that backdrop, we have the Masamune Knights, a hapless bunch if ever there was one. To put it another way, if you were in a battle, and the Knights were on your side, you’d pay them to defect, so you could win. The reason for that, is their leader Bran. Looking pretty ridiculous in his minimalist Samurai-style armor (just the shoulder boards, actually–the only Knight so attired), and a sword he doesn’t know how to use.
Bran bumbles along creating hilarious mayhem wherever he goes. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a likable sort–good natured, good hearted, well intentioned, cheerful, and eager to help people–but he’s also the most clueless individual you’ll meet who isn’t wearing a diaper, a big, lovable ball of doesn’t-get-it. I would pay money for a video of the Team brainstorming Bran’s next move.
The humor itself is all over the map, but with a heavier emphasis on “earthy” than “cerebral”, and uses dialog, art, and silly situations to mine the various pockets of comedic ore. It helps that Kristy is so good at expressions and body language, and has a fine appreciation for ironic poses. And then, there’s my personal favorite, snark. Soooooo much snark. If you add all the snark in the art, it averages over a snark a page, and I think I’m in love.
While Bran is the comedy foundation on which the comic is built, the other characters also play their parts. Bran’s sidekick, Jake is a wanted criminal, an alcoholic, and the former boyfriend of Rose Shinrin. Jake is often the straight man to Bran’s goofiness. Reba Jay is a bounty hunter and all-around tough cookie who is the bodyguard for Mayor Woodell, and guardian of his secrets. Her favorite outfit is a black leotard, and her favorite hobby is beating on Bran and Jake, although Jake seems to enjoy it and even eggs her on.
Reba bashes a wide swath through the comic, but my all-time favorite page is where she gets absolutely pwned (it’s a gamer term–look it up) by someone I didn’t expect. It was such a surprise, that I laughed for hours.
Other quirky characters include: Ace Blitzer, the biggest, strongest, toughest Knight, who is their finance officer (read: accountant). Mayor Spencer Woodell, an enigmatic figure who supports Cam Seru, and has been mayor for at least 100 years. Cam himself who doesn’t seem all that bad, once you get to know him, and his occasionally clairvoyant daughter Miyoshi (currently crushing on Vincent). Celeste Leigh Crofter,who is an apprentice to the High Priestess of the Second Plane, Celeste has pointy ears and only a sketchy understanding of humans–draw your own conclusions. Ava Gray, self-absorbed High Priestess of the Second Plane, who supports Yuki. Mildred Beatrice Smythe, scheming High Priestess of the First Plane, who supports Cam (for obvious reasons, it turns out). Even Yuki’s daughter Naomi, a cute and eccentric little girl who is also half Black Dragon gets into the act.
Some, like Ace are funny just by existing, while others have meatier parts to play, but the one thing they all have in common, is that they are cleverly written, and expertly developed.
The art work is a form of manga with clean lines and good contrast, which is something I deeply appreciate, and more on the cartoon side of the style which perfectly suits the characters and their various goings-on. Never one to let “Good enough” be good enough, Kristy has been actively improving her technique, and has been trying some new effects–to very good results. In spite of what she says about her work, the comic is beautiful.
What Could Be Better Done:
Not much to say, here. The team has things pretty well in hand, and are constantly honing the writing and the art. There was one notable comment by someone who wanted navigation buttons above the comic as well as below, but that’s about it. ;)
I had the hardest time choosing the images for this review, images that would get the point across without giving too much away–the comic is just that jam-packed with good stuff.
TEC: The Echo Chronicles is one of the first comics I turn to on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to see what happens next. Whether the actions serious or hilarious, it’s always a pleasure to read, and I recommend it highly.
The comic also has a lively, involved Commenter Community just waiting for you to join right in. I know the Team even appreciates goofballs because they don’t delete my comments (well there was that one, but I kind of asked for it….)
The one sad note is the criminally low Top Web Comic ranking for such a fine comic. You can help correct this grave injustice and feel empowered and good about yourself, by just clicking here.