Sera and the Royal Stars, Vol. 1

Princess Sera, traveling with her troops in a time of famine and civil war, is recruited by the Indo-Iranian deity Mitra to find and restore the Royal Stars. If she is unable to break the stars’ bonds, death will befall her kingdom of Parsa (Persia). The Bull, the Scorpion, the Fish, and other figures of ancient Persian mythology will join her journey to save Parsa from ultimate destruction and her traitorous uncle Shaheen’s machinations. Or, to hear Sera summarize her situation in the first chapter, “I had my heart replaced with a glowing rock. Then I rescued an ancient star being from a gang of lizard men. I can handle complicated.”

Audrey Mok and Raul Angulo have created an eye-catching monster. Sera & The Royal Stars is too beautiful to resist. Everyone has a symmetrical, expressive face. The outfits always have a flowing element to them, from sashes to hair to those large tassels that come out the back of soldiers’ helmets. Paneling constantly uses cause and effect: a shield is struck in one panel and cracks below in the next. Someone charges forward in one diagonal panel and is challenged by someone running up the opposite direction along the same line. The colors are so damn satisfying that, after originally reading this comic digitally, I also purchased physical issues to check if the uncanny warm/cool color balancing works on the printed page (it does). The use of realistic and supernatural settings, as well as day and night light sources, means a variety of colors for each location. Jim Campbell’s lettering is unobtrusive and allows the visuals to breathe as much as possible. This isn’t just eye candy, it’s a mouthful of your favorite full-sized candy on Halloween.

I am no expert on Persian mythology and cannot evaluate the accuracy or educational value of the figures portrayed; all the same, this is an attractive and compelling story that allows Sera ample opportunities to be strong, bold, stubborn, wistful, sad, assertive, amused, and confused. She must navigate family drama, especially her uncle’s power play for the throne. Supernatural norms emerge as she converses with royal stars and learns how they lost and could possibly regain their strength. The royal stars themselves act as mentors, instigators, teachers, and skilled defenders. Fire and ice magic bloom on the page. Punches, kicks, and blades create swooping lines and blur effects, though the violence is never gratuitous or gory. There is a water spirit who appears with an exposed (blue, translucent) breast on one page. Language is mild, with a couple of “dammits” and little else.

Hand this comic to fans of The Dragon Prince, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Yona of the Dawn, Blackbird, and anything else resembling a gorgeous fantasy adventure. Think of it as Monstress without the M rating and a must-have for your collection.

Sera and the Royal Stars, Vol. 1 
By Jon Tsuei
Art by Audrey Mok
ISBN: 9781939424570
Vault, 2020
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18)

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Character Traits: Persian
Creator Highlights: BIPOC Creator
Related to…: Inspired by myth