Pullbox Reviews White Ash #5 – Bringing new meaning to the concept of “finger foods”…

Welcome to White Ash, a small smudge of a mining community in Western Pennsylvania, where the secrets are buried even deeper than the coal under the mountain. If you’re a fan of Supernatural, Twin Peaks or Lord of the Rings, you’re going to love getting to know our mysterious town. Created by Charlie Stickney and Conor Hughes with Colors by Fin Cramb.

In all of the comparisons I’ve seen referring to White Ash (see above), all I keep coming back to in my head is a mashup of Lord of the Rings & Justified, a series on FX a few years back. Starring Timothy Olyphant as modern day cowboy and US Marshal Raylan Givens, the show’s co-star is really the small community of Harlan County. Much like that small mining town, the town of White Ash, Pennsylvania features a community steeped in clan grudges, generations old feuds, & bigotries… but not the kind you might expect.

The biggest difference in the town of White Ash is that when you’re talking about generations, you have to be aware that we’re dealing with dwarves & elves whose lives will easily span hundreds of years. Aleck, one of the title’s main characters, has recently discovered his mixed lineage. While his mother was human, his recently deceased father was a dwarf of some renown in their community. Along with that somewhat shocking reveal, he learned that he’s been living alongside such fantasy races as elves, gnomes, and the universally hated & feared brood.

Brood? What’s a brood?

Glad you asked… the brood is a race of folk descended from dragons and so far are the main “bad guys” in White Ash. They all have unique abilities that set them apart from their fellows, but all seem to have earned the hate of dwarves & elves alike. And that’s just about the only thing that the two races are able to agree on.

Before I go too much farther into this review, I’d like to offer up a public apology to fellow ‘Boxer, Andy… He’s been trying to put me onto this outstanding title for a while now, but I’ve been bouncing around it until fairly recently. I checked out issue 5 after getting the review copy from Scout Comics. Once I saw what a deep story it was, full of good humor and dark turns, I went back and bought the first four in digital format. Having read them all back to back, I’m hooked.

Written by Charlie Stickney, White Ash has pretty much everything that any reader of comics should be looking for. There’s a host of interesting and distinct characters, many just wandering in the background but in no way coming across as fluff or filler. Everyone on the page has a story, from the waitress serving stacks of pancakes at Sif’s Diner (I want that coffee mug, by the way) to the guy running the local candy store who happens to be a gnome working from inside a mechanical body.

Up to now, the majority of the story has followed Aleck coming to terms with the reveal of his true heritage… pretty much all of the Lord of the Rings & Snow White jokes you could imagine. There’s also the interplay between Aleck & Lillian, an elf of the highborn & filthy rich Alden clan whose father makes it a habit of looking down on pretty much everyone, but dwarves in particular. It’s an interesting relationship growing between Lillian & Aleck, and I haven’t quite decided if it’s a romantic one or not… which is kinda how relationships work in the real world.

With issue 5, it seems like the story is really starting to pick up steam as it takes a seriously dark turn. As the issue opens, the focus is on Seth, a member of the brood and gifted with the powers of persuasion. Seriously, if the guy was a Mormon, they wouldn’t have to work nearly as hard going door to door. At the end of issue 4, he’d taken Aleck’s best friend Katlyn hostage. While we couldn’t be too sure of his intentions then, we were pretty certain that they weren’t all about happy-fun-times. The opening pages of the upcoming fifth installment locks that concept in stone, then takes that stone and starts beating people over the head with it.

Seeing as how it ain’t a comicbook without awesome pictures, let’s talk about some of what there is in White Ash… I’m totally into the manga-esque style of Conor Hughes. His line work beautifully captures the expressions on his characters’ faces, from Lillian’s cocky self-assurance to Aleck’s near-perpetual look of shocked dismay. Conor does a great job of instilling different traits to the various people populating White Ash, all in keeping with their individual heritage. Finally, the action has a great sense of choreography, especially as things start moving in the latter issues. With colors provided by Fin Cramb rounding it out, the look of this book is nothing short of amazing. Between you and me, I’m itching to add this one to my bookshelf when it comes out in trade.

Always eager to support the local comic shops out there, Scout is happy to stock shelves wherever you pick up your books. If that doesn’t work for you, they do ship direct, and have titles available in digital format. If you’re looking for a title that builds up its cast of characters, lets the reader get involved in their stories before kicking things into gear, White Ash is sitting right there at the top of my list for recommendations. Brilliant covers & fantastic interior art just puts the icing on the cake and burns a straight line into my wallet.

Final Score: 13/13

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