Exiern: Dark Reflections
|Original review author:||Shan|
|Webcomic name:||Exiern: Dark Reflections|
|Author:||Drowemos (page 1-44); Zen (page 45-ongoing)|
|Start Date:||November 29, 2007 (Hiatus after page 44 from January 24th, 2011 until August 12th, 2015)|
|Defining Flaw:||I don't think anything major yet but a few potential points of vulnerability on the horizon if not careful.|
Created by Drowemos, the same creator of the original parent comic Exiern (reviewed here). Initially this premise postulates what seems to be a simple alternate universe story in which one key event in the story early on played out differently. In this case, the dark wizard Faden who the main barbarian hero (whose name was presumably Typhan-Knee or Typh for short as in the original but it's never been specifically stated in this version yet) was battling decides at the last moment to not summon a demon and instead tries to kill our hero himself. From there, it seems to start a chain reaction of events deviating from those of the original comic.
However, as the comic goes on it increasingly seems to be not as straightforward as that. You could call it Exiern's take on a What If? story from Marvel if you like.
When I first brought up the existence of this spinoff to the forums, oddguy himself made the remark that "I refuse to believe a spinoff of this thing can be good." It's a worthwhile question to ask about anything considered for inclusion here, is the initial premise itself so lacking in merit that any attempt to turn it into something worthwhile doomed to failure regardless of the amount and quality of the effort put into it? Well, at the risk of extreme hyperbolic overload, Exiern and Exiern: Dark Reflections share basic plot elements of the Virginia Woolf novel Orlando where a character suddenly finds themselves in a body of the gender opposite to the one they used to have. Then going back even further than 1928, there's the story of Tiresias from Greek mythology.
At the level of its most basic elements, this type of story has been around for a while and some of them have been called classics (though I'm going to be bold enough to say I think it's a bit premature to argue that here). So, I'm going to go with an a provisional 'no' and try to argue the concept both has potential in itself and also to tell a distinctly interesting story separate from the parent comic. However, it's also possible it could crash and burn if not careful.
I think it's too early to say that the story has undergone a downfall but it is at a key point in the narrative where it could fall either way depending on what happens next.
Story and Plot
The story intially starts off at a different point from the original comic. Instead of having been readily defeated and carted off by our victorious heroes to face trial as he was in the original comic, dark wizard Faden is still master of all he surveys. Concerned henchman Vandel is still suspicious of the loyalties of Faden's number one enforcer revealed to be blond bimbo and seemingly willing servant Tiffany.
Alert readers of the original Exiern story will know something is up here as even though our hero got whammied into a female form, Faden still had the serious hurt put on him straight afterwards by our hero and was still carted off to face what was coming to him instead of remaining safely in power and having his would be vanquisher now both working for him and seemingly slavishly devoted to him. Princess Peonie instead of being free and on her way home is still chained up in the basement and on schedule to be sacrificed at the solstice unlike the original comic and how events played out there.
A flashback reveals how things played out differently after the initial confrontation. As stated Faden decides at the last moment to not cast a spell but instead battle our hero himself which leads to him being comprehensively cut to pieces by our hero and his extremely big sword, much to Faden's surprise. However it wasn't that simple to defeat him as that as Faden ends up bodyjacking the princess by transferring his consciousness to her and using her body to stab the would be rescuer Typh when he least expects it.
The rest of the comic so far has been split between present day Tiffany starting to wake up and try and find out her past which had previously been rendered a blank except for this (yes seriously) minus veteran character actor Kevin Spacey's contribution. This was until Peonie told her she used to be a man and a flashback as Faden in Peonie's body trying to trick the then still male Typh into revealing how the magic sword he used to cut up his actual body worked (as it was supposed to be immune to such things as simple dismemberment).
That's basically where we're at at the moment. Readers of the original comic know that this major change to what happened in the original story so early on in the piece has to lead to a whole series of major knock on effects down the line that must take the storyline in a very different direction from the original but we're nowhere near those points in the narrative to see how differently those future events will play out because of this deviation in the timeline yet.
The first 10 pages and the cover were drawn by an artist with the handle Dazzler. A lot of angled features in the characters and nicely done to a high level of skill and not unlike the type of art I've frequently seen featured in a similar style in 2000 AD. After Dazzler left to draw his own webcomic, the replacement artist with the pseudonym Master Krakken. More conventional looking characters than his predecessor but no less high quality art. The present artist's identity is unknown (to me) yet ad has done 3 pages so far since the revival of this comic after a 4 plus year hiatus including the page which finally showed the resulting transformation of the main character.
One of the points of possible concern is how the latest artist has rendered Tiffany straight after her transformation, breasts of a size that suggest chronic back pain in the near future and a waist to hip ratio that is positively terrifying. Overall, she's not proportioned quite like the character was by the previous artists. The character when first seen is chained to a wall and nothing other than her knees down are left to the imagination. I definitely don't want the story ending up in Fetish Fuel territory.
Where the story is potentially interesting is that it's not simply a branch point divergence alternate universe. The sword wielded by the main character Typh in his attempt to rescue the princess is distinctly different from the one from the original story, with a different name, appearance and properties, already suggesting a distinctly different past. Also unlike his original world counterpart, Typh definitely shows more of an interest in women in this world (i.e > none). It fits in with the idea introduced by the original story that both the past and the future are in a perpetual state of flux.
The implications of this could be far reaching as Typh from the original comic universe being discovered to be gay led to the death of at least hundreds of people. On the other hand, in this alternate universe with Typh possibly being straight, from what we know of the original; further down the line could have led to the deaths of up to thousands or more. This might all sound drastically over the top but it makes sense if you know Typh was effectively royalty among the tribes of the North and once destined to inherit the leadership until fate intervened. Maybe this was one of those cases where investigating abstinence might actually have been the least worst option (and we all thought we had relationship problems). I would have also recommended the priesthood except in this world and all its variants, they seem to get an awful lot of action in this department. That plus the people of the North despise the priesthood due to their role in their attempted extermination of them once upon a time.
The most major difference in the characters is with the lead character. In the original universe, despite the sudden magical change of his body, the lead maintained continuity of his memories and personality. In this alternate universe he's effectively killed off for now at least as his body has its mind wiped at the same time it was changed, so for all intents and purposes it may well be a whole new character. Unlike the original version where the main character is more the same person than not, using the movie Total Recall as a reference this is a genderbent version of being Quaidified (or de-Hauserised if you like). Hopefully this version won't end up being as redundant or forgotten as the Total Recall remake though.
The biggest potential danger here is the characterisation of the main character. When we first see her, unlike how the original world played out. she's presenting as the seemingly subservient and bimbofied enforcer for the main villain who has just crushed a revolt for him. Certainly all behaviour the character never exhibited in the original. She thinks the imprisoned princess is her best friend that she can complain about the boss not trying to sleep with her even though she wants him to. She also seems to have a serious case of derpface that shows the effects of this mind control, at least to start with. Not surprisingly the princess sees things differently as she's both chained up in the basement and still due to be sacrificed.
Then abruptly after the princess tells Tiffany she used to be a male barbarian who originally came to rescue her, the character seems to develop a previously absent sense of initiative and resolution to find out the truth of something she doesn't remember and she already seems somewhat different from what we saw her as just moments before for no obvious reason. This does raise both the question as to why Peonie didn't mention it earlier and also why this has the reaction of waking Tiffany up and suddenly start her thinking for herself. Things are in danger of lurching about rather suddenly and if not careful may end up all out of balance. The artwork could also now be in danger of tipping into gratuitous fan service as well. Generally, this version of the Exiern story has been aiming for a more adult take on the material but has to take care not to go too far as a result.
The other big potential concern is if the writers miss even some of the major implications of the major event that triggered this story being different from the original (since this story has been both on hiatus for so long and the writer has changed), as well as some of the things leading up to this major trigger not being the same as outlined above. Things have to play out quite differently from the original, most obviously where certain characters would have to be quite different because they can't possibly encounter our main characters at the same time (if at all) that they did in the original, even if they did, they'd be meeting people who are now quite different. Then there's the fact that certain key figures from the original are either dead or severely crippled here already as well.
At this point in the narrative, it's still early days in terms of number of pages so at this point we'll have to wait and see what develops. This story could avoid many of the pitfalls of the original but if not careful, could fall into new ones of its own.
Written by Drowemos who was also the creator and writer of the original Exiern. Fell into hiatus when the ownership was sold on. Currently being written by Zen (whom I know nothing about). Scott Hicken, who now owns the rights to the Exiern universe who got this title as part of the sale and is currently the writer for Exiern is presently not involved in the writing of Dark Reflections, though a crossover of some sort between the two universes might be in order in the future. I think he also signs the cheques to pay the people it's subcontracted out to.
This comic's original source material has definitely changed from its beginnings and this alternate version take has the added advantage of both skipping straight to the more serious tone the original has gone and adopted as well as the opportunity to put a darker spin or even a completely different outcome on major events from the original, being an alternate universe at all. It also has the potential advantage in skipping over the parts of the original that didn't work out so well in practice. Currently progressing well but at a critical juncture in the narrative. Where this could fail if it both misses the opportunity to do this successfully and especially if the alternate versions of these characters are poorly or inconsistently developed.
Other comics by this person reviewed on this site