Everyone in the realm of Skald knows the legend of Lady Brightblade, the hero who vanquished the dreaded Bone Drake and brought peace to the land, her story immortalized in story and song. Now, in a time when the need for heroes has passed, her son, Alto, longs to follow in her footsteps and embark on an adventure to create his own legacy. Possessed with the skills of bardic magic, Alto escapes from the humdrum life of a prince, eventually making new friends and discovering new magic in the process. However, he soon stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very stability of Skald, and to thwart it will require more than the power of one lone bard. The stories had always made hero work sound so easy, but will Alto and his troupe be up for the task? In his newest fantasy adventure, writer and artist Ethan Aldridge introduces young readers to a visually engaging world that weaves the elements of legends, songs, and friendship into a tale truly made magical.
Being a fan of Aldridge’s Estranged series and artwork, I was naturally excited to dive into this comic, which proved to be just as engrossing as its predecessor. The Legend of Brightblade’s storyline is simpler in comparison, but stands as an impactful tale in its own right. There is more time devoted to developing the plot and character dynamics than worldbuilding, allowing the story to stay grounded and focused on its most resonating element, the friendship between Alto, the gentle troll Ebbe, and the clever Clarabel. Through these characters, the comic imparts the message of teamwork and camaraderie, of building upon each other’s strengths to achieve a shared goal while also providing meaningful support. Though the troupe at first seems like your standard fantasy trio, readers will no doubt be able to admire and resonate with Alto’s passion, Ebbe’s kindness, and Clarabel’s ingenuity. Each one is given their time to shine and make their mark on the reader, strengthening the image of them as a team with their own unique contributions.
Artistically, everything about Skald is absolutely stunning. The environments have a cozy whimsy to them and make it all too easy to lose oneself in this world. Aldridge’s watercolors present this comic as a delicacy for the eyes, giving it a distinctive style that reinforces its most charming qualities, such as the rich colors and wonderfully diverse character designs. The trolls in particular have such a fascinatingly unique look to them, as they come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, looking like they have the potential to be fearsome but are also somewhat cuddly in their own way. Even the characters in the background have interesting quirks and features, resulting in panels that become even more polished and intricate. Aldridge also incorporates a good sense of motion, as the action is easy to follow due to large, spacious panels that strike a clear balance between text and image. This leads to many impressive displays of bardic magic, which definitely give off some Dungeons and Dragons vibes, as multiple colors combine to create illustrated wonders. The visual aspect of Brightblade’s magic system brings this comic to a new level of enchanting, which is sure to entice and ensnare the imagination of any reader.
Due to its accessible plot and presentation, as well as its relatable and endearing characters, The Legend of Brightblade serves as a great introduction to the fantasy genre for any young reader. It provides a story full of adventure, magic, and heart, but is devoid of any overwhelming exposition that may make it too intimidating for those just starting out with the genre. Those already familiar with the genre may enjoy the comic as well, as it incorporates beloved fantasy tropes along with the depiction of a magic system they may not have seen in other graphic novels. The publisher has given the comic an age rating of 8-12, which is apt due to its lighter tone and narrative simplicity. Libraries that see a high circulation of fantasy titles in their youth graphic novel collections and are looking for those with a standout style and story definitely should consider purchasing this title.
The Legend of Brightblade
By Ethan Aldridge
Harper Collins Harper Alley, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Gay