With a world of war and rules waiting to be broken comes Artema, a story by Rachel Cholst with art by Angela Boyle. The duo gives us some fun character dynamics to play with in a unique landscape, all while focusing on the life of the headstrong title character and her growth.
Artema is part of the once nomadic Koma’i people, and whereas her mother was an accomplished healer, Artema wishes to become a Guardian (AKA soldier). Through her training one fact is made clear, Artema has a rage in her that is not easily quelled and some other Guardians worry they won’t be able to keep her at bay and in compliance with the sacred pacifistic laws the Koma’i have laid out. Pushing Artema even further is the approach of the warring Chengoll army, who seeks conquest with their sizable battalion.
Eventually Artema’s rage gets the better of her, resulting in exile from the one who she has ever really known. In another time period (we’ll get to that), she is looking for more Chengoll to enact her justice on and stumbling upon another curious traveling group. This new group seems accomplished and storied, but will their methods for the Chengoll allow Artema to do what she feels needs to be done. Also, what began this quest for vengeance in the first place?
The character of Artema is continuously headstrong but in that we also see a lot of resilience. Regardless of the odds, she is constantly working towards her own quest and figuring out who she is as a person and as a warrior. Instead of seeing one throughline of Artema’s life Cholst & Boyle have us see the timeline the same way the Koma’i look at events, not as a straight line but as a big tangle of our histories that we need to revisit and grow off of. Cholst throws numerous different points in Artema’s life our way and each has a different objective. It’s interesting how you may think of each age of Artema being a different character, showing us snapshots of who she is and where she’s come from.
The art in this book made the world feel large and the territories vast, which really made the Chengoll feel like an all encompassing force to think they could claim it. As the book goes on we see Artema violently battle with enemy troops but we also see some really cool environmental visuals. It’s clear that Boyle has an understanding of emotions. Cholst’s dialogue for Artema is brash and leads to visceral reactions and Boyle illustrates in pace with that. I also thought that throughout the non linear timeline Boyle was able to make the different ages feel as varied yet connected as Cholst wrote them to be.
I enjoyed Artema. It’s fun to experience a character transforming through the years of their life and how that changes the overarching world. While time jumping answers a lot of contextual questions, it also produces a mystery with the gaps between each age. A gap I’m sure will continue to close as the series goes on. Currently there have been two issues of Artema, The Exile and The Beast, with a third book titled The Lover currently being Kickstarted. You can pick up the first issue here!