There are many aspects of a finished comic that take it from good to great, and one of those essential things is the setting of a story. It’s what causes your reality to fade around you as you become invested in the story and its characters; it is, essentially, what makes the whole thing seem real.
For anyone going through a hard time or just having a bad day, good stories with magical settings and likeable characters can get you through it or cheer you up after a rough patch.
Would the world of Harry Potter be the same without the magic of Hogwarts? What about Alice without Wonderland? Batman without Gotham? The setting, often overlooked, is just as important as the story and characters.
This week’s topic is ‘Stunning Settings’ and the following are my favourite picks out of the comics I’ve read as of late:
Ancient Ireland – The Hound
Written and illustrated by Irish artist Paul Bolger, The Hound is the reimagining of Ireland’s greatest myth – the life and times of the warrior Cú Chulainn. The black and white northern kingdom of Ulla, the palatial seat of King Connor, features some truly stunning artwork and landmarks that are especially highlighted because of the lack of colour except for dashes of red throughout the book.
Many of Ireland’s natural national treasures are featured in the book as well, including the beautiful Giant’s Causeway, known as the Fomorian Stones in the story. With a simple yet arresting structure, a place called Brunaboyne, the Great Mother’s Mound, otherwise known as Brú na Bóinne as gaeilge which is one of our world’s most important prehistoric sites. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get rather excited when I see landmarks or places that I’ve been to myself or that I know well when I read comics. Granted, it can take you out of the moment a little as you giddily read on, but it’s a nice touch all the same.
Even simple places in the world of The Hound like Farrell’s Farm with its low stone rows and circular enclosements are so beautifully drawn and stay true to the setting and the tone of the book and the story, along with other favourites of mine like the rustic yet regal hall of King Connor and the Isle of Skye. None, however, are so beautiful as Tig Cullen, the blacksmith’s forge. With a nearby lake mirroring the high turrets and torches of the forge, as well as the unique art, the two page spread is so stunningly presented you really do have to stop reading for a minute to take it all in.
Asgard – Thor
No list about stunning scenes and places in comics could be complete without at least mentioning Asgard, home to the Asgardians based on Norse mythology. The capital city of the same name is the main place we see featured, most recently in the Marvel’s Thor. The bifrost is one of the most iconic images of Asgard; a burning rainbow bridge, it reaches from Midgard (our world) to Asgard (the realm of the gods) and connects the two.
With magnificent towers layered in an impeccably laid out golden city, Asgard is fit for a realm of gods. The throne room, too, is always a beautiful backdrop to whatever issue Odin or Thor have to deal with (usually Loki) while the vast plain of water and buildings below add to the noble tone of the comics.
Cleave – Saga
Not only is Saga a fantastic graphic novel for the story and characters alone, it also has some awesome settings which, to me, make it pretty much perfect. Saga is about star-crossed lovers Marko and Alana who come from very different, warring worlds, Landfall and its moon Wreath, in search of a safe haven for themselves and their daughter, Hazel.
Some of the best moments of the series happen when the couple are together fighting their way through all kinds of strange and terrible situations. The constants throughout are their love and the unusual settings. One such place is called Murder Valley on the planet Cleave, which the two come across on their way to find the Rocketship Forest, another one of the more memorable scenes. They witness their two native armies in a full on battle at Murder Valley with both sand and sky filled with blood thirsty soldiers.
The clue is in the name when it comes to the Rocketship Forest, as it was at one time populated with living, sentient rocketship-plants. Trippy, I know. Izabel, Alana and Marko’s Horror companion, revealed one of the rocketships to the couple and their infant daughter so they could escape the forces hunting them down. The scene inside the tree was so cool as it wasn’t at all as I expected; with a foyer (I can still hear Marko’s excitement!) and a menagerie of glowing roots and sprouts throughout along with ample greenery and tropical plants growing out of the engine room… or is it the kitchen?
Overall, even though Alana and Marko move between places and planets in the quest for sanctuary, the settings are always thoughtfully created with more than a little quirk about them.
What do you think? What are some of your favourite settings? Let me know in the comments below!