Sparkler Monthly has a membership drive currently happening, and I was given access as a reviewer to poke around and check out what this unique magazine has to offer. I browsed around the site a bit, and while I realize the flagship title is Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, my attention was first captured by the currently running series Dire Hearts and the selection of short stories.
Dire Hearts is by Christy Lijewski, and currently has 2 chapters available. Rose attends a special school for Casters, girls with magical abilities who are paired up with Knights. Rose has a severe case of amnesia, a slightly obnoxious roommate, and angsty problems because Sir Shur has chosen her as his caster, even though her abilities aren’t up to speed. Rose is an entertaining, somewhat caustic heroine, who is struggling to regain her memories and not fitting in well to the overly mannered society at her school. Something about all the school uniforms and undercurrents of psychological trauma reminded me a tiny bit of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The standout aspect of this title is Lijewski’s art, which combines the pretty and the grotesque in stylized lines and good panel composition. This was my favorite of the titles that I sampled, but unfortunately this series is now on hiatus.
Windrose is by Studio Konsen, it has a more conventional pretty shoujo art style, and I found myself intrigued by the first two chapters, which launch heroine Daniela into an adventure filled with pirates, as she searches for the truth about her father. She falls in with with brother and sister mercenaries Angeline and Leon. Angeline is predatory and sneaky and Leon seems to be silently sympathetic but without much personality yet, so it will be interesting to see if this somewhat random group is able to fulfill Daniela’s quest. I enjoyed the art and the story for this comic, but it is a bit tricky to judge a comic based on only two chapters.
Gatesmith is by Jen Lee Quick, who is I suppose the flagship creator for Chromatic Press, since her title Off*Beat is available in all three volumes, including the first two previously published by Tokyopop, and the final third volume published by Chromatic Press. This series is a western with supernatural and horror elements. The first chapter shows a wagon journey gone awry, as the travelers are robbed and killed, and the only surviving robber ends up dying in the desert, only to have his corpse be reanimated by a skinwalker. The following chapter shows a mysterious stranger sharing a meal with some ranchers, only to head out alone to track down a supernatural manifestation. I think I’ll be able to get a better feel for the series after reading a couple more chapters, but so far this title does seem very intriguing. Quick’s art is expressive, clear, and easy to follow.
There are short stories available too. Of the three short story series available, Ring of Saturn was the standout for me. I enjoyed the story about a struggling pianist. The historical setting and aspects of the art reminded me a bit of the manga Emma. Before You Go was a meet cute story about two girls who strike up a relationship after sharing the same commute for several weeks.
Sparkler Monthly has put together an impressive amount of content for such a new venture. I was just checking out the comics and didn’t even start reading the prose or audio dramas. I wish that there had been a few more chapters available for the non-Off*Beat series, but I appreciate that it takes a lot of work to issue a chapter of a comic, and many of these comics have just been recently launched.