Good creator team-ups can be hard to find! Don’t get me wrong, they obviously happen, but when two creators just gel together the story telling symmetry is palpable, and that’s what we have here in this minicomic by Fionn McCabe and Reilly Hadden. The risograph printed Our Fearless Leader/The Wizened One contain 2 sides of the same coin, one being a singular conquest in Our Fearless Leader and the other being a broadly scoped look at who observes the universe in The Wizened One. Each of these stories could exist on their own, but since they are in a “flip over” format I’ll discuss them in the order I think works best.
Our Fearless Hero features a brave warrior on a quest to find… something. This nameless quester doesn’t reveal what it is he is looking for, and I’m not so sure he even knows. In his search he finds himself battling giants, struggling to survive with his surrounding, possibly tasting victory and constantly narrating himself. The voice of the hero is a voice that is full of confidence, however he is not above the fact that he doesn’t always know best and occasionally the details in a heroic tale need to be amended. The almost poetic narration is very funny, it shows that this character thinks they’re hot shit but all in all they don’t have much of an idea what they’re up to.
Visually I thought this first story was incredible. It’s very busy but that busyness keeps the reader just as in the dark as the hero is. Our protagonist spends most of his journey in the corpse of a giant, and as time goes on Fionn illustrates it’s decay by changing what the seemingly endless innards look like. If that sounds gross it’s because it is, but in that there’s a lot to look at, and the bright pinks and dark blues make the nameless hero’s surroundings feel much more fantastical and much less visceral. Meanwhile, Fionn also shows the decay that is occurring outside of the giant and how it’s affecting the landscape, providing a bridge to the next story.
Flip the book over and you’ll meet Artura of the Long Land, also known as The Wizened One (written by Reilly Hadden). Artura’s task is to continuously gain wisdom by witnessing events in the universe at the Elder Lords’ request. This time she must witness a world being destroyed, but she also has the ability to stop it. As the options weigh down on Artura, we see the struggle that comes in having to witness so much destruction. Hadden has created these rules for this story and the characters that inhabit it that seep into the first story. While Our Fearless Hero shows us what one being was doing, The Wizened One works to show how varied the power structure of this universe is.
Whereas the previous story showed vibrant “organic” scenes the world of Artura is much more structured. Artura clearly resides in a place of rigidity and rules. Her surroundings are just as cold as the Elder Lords she works for, and there is a clear union between magic and science. Hadden uses the riso color palette to further this unfeeling world, using primarily blue or purple for the backgrounds and pink for Artura and the doomed world she must witness. The first story, so full of life (and death if we’re talking semantics) juxtaposes with this stories color palette to further the feeling of that these two characters work on entirely different scales.
Clearly this is a high concept story that intentionally has layers. It has a unique format, complicated characters and a broad story line. Here’s the crazy part though: it’s only 20 pages. The amount of art and story, really divided in half, between 2 unique talents is impressive. Each story gave me questions and curiosity, but not once did it feel disjointed or illogical in it’s context. Unfortunately, this book is not easily available. It was limited when it came out and even moreso now, BUT you can get a copy here or digitally on Reilly Hadden’s Patreon.