The Portent: Duende by Peter Bergting
It seems as if every month when I go into the comic shop, I discover a new science fiction, fantasy, or horror title. These genres are getting better and better treatment in comic books. They are done so well and there are so many of them that you could happily spend your time reading only SFF and horror comics and have no time left over for novels in those genres. Just last night I read an excellent fantasy title: The Portent: Duende by Peter Bergting.
It has some of the best art I’ve ever seen. In fact, the art is so good, the one person I mentioned it to today looked it up online and purchased it immediately after seeing the images. I should end my review right now. The story is great; the art is better. Go buy it.
But I suppose I should tell you a little bit about it: The story begins when a stranger comes to town; however, the town is no place on this earth: “Between Heaven and Earth exists no place where there isn’t also good and evil. Spirits, or as some would call them, ghosts, or even demons, occupy these places. Rocks, trees, animals, rivers, even humans can be animated by the spirits. Thus they come in any shape or size, good and bad.” When the stranger arrives, he is greeted by two diminutive spirits who, like weary villagers, kindly try to warn him away. But he proceeds, despite their warnings. He quickly meets less welcoming spirits.
We also are told of an ancient legend: “In the beginning of time when even the gods were young, two deities created Dai-Jiu, the very first spirit.” This legend is central to the quest of Lin, our main character (whose story continues in a second volume). She has a mysterious past that is revealed only toward the end of this book. We do find out part of her history early on: She was raised by a coven of seers who have trained her in their mystic arts. Alkuin, an old, wise man, accompanies Lin and serves as her protector and advisor. When the stranger meets up with Lin and Alkuin, the trio embark on a journey together, and that is the story told in The Portent: Duende.
The tale includes talking birds, magical spells, dangerous terrain, battles, and a glimpse of some Lovecraftian tentacles (in one of my favorite panels). But the art is what pulls this story together and makes it work. The artwork truly carries the story along and transports us to another realm. The Portent is a great example of the type of fantasy comic I love: It allows me to enter into a rich, alternative world that could be created in a novel only by an introductory section that is often much too long for my tastes. Novelists have two choices: Build the world before starting the plot or allow the world to develop as the plot unfolds. The Portent shows that a great visual storyteller in comics can manage both without a burdensome, descriptive-heavy prologue to the story. When you turn to the first page of The Portent, you have arrived. Trust me; you’re going to want to read The Portent. The only fault I can find is that you’ll want to read volume two when you’re done with volume one. You might want to have it handy.
*Notes on Comic Book Reviews: FanLit is dedicated in reviewing as much as possible in the SFF genres; however, that is NOT the case in the area of comics, which is an art form and not a genre. There are plenty of comprehensive comic book review sites that are to comics what FanLit is to SFF. Therefore, with very few exceptions, I review only comics that I’m prepared to give at least four out of five stars and that I think the FanLit demographic would be interested in. I want to tell you about the best of the best, whether it’s new or old, well-known or not. I also apologize that many of these comics are out of print or go out of print quickly. That’s the nature of comics: Luckily, Comixology makes many out-of-print comics affordable and easy to get. As a side note, until Amazon improves their guided viewer for digital comics, I recommend the Comixology app, even if you are reading on a Kindle device. Comixology programs its guided viewer individually for each separate comic book AND page based on art and text; the Kindle guided viewer ignores the reading flow in individual pages, focusing on text to the exclusion of the art, or following a repeated quadrant-by-quandrant progression that isn’t always followed by comic book artists. If the comic book repeats a simple small panel-by-small panel pattern like Watchmen, Kindle’s digital books are fine, but most comic books don’t follow this pattern.