Don’t be concerned if you haven’t heard of Al’Rashad: City of Myths unti just now – I myself just learned about it a few hours ago, and of course, I’m the absolute arbiter of what you should and should not know about. It’s an ongoing fantasy adventure webcomic from writer Christopher Bird and artist Davinder Brar. Internet fans may be familiar with Bird’s MightyGodKing.com blog, wherein he has championed himself as a guy who should write the Legion of Super-Heroes and/or Dr. Strange, and where he has showcased amusing parody works of the Big Two with stuff like this piss-take of Greg Land at the height of his porn tracing. He is a talented writer, and Al’Rashad is a good showcase for what he can do on a serious level. I would definitely read his version of the Legion.
Bird has built a highly detailed world full of royal bloodlines and political chicanery between several make-believe nations, and the first chapter of six 28-page black and white books (the seventh is still in progress) drops you right in the middle of things with a treacherous assault on the mighty Gundring flagship that leaves one survivor who calls himself Halfdar adrift in unfriendly waters, enough so that he’s thrown into slavery in the city of Al’Rashad. There, he is chained to Kahal, pictured above, who warns him that the water contains an addictive additive that is used to better control their slaves. Fortunately for Halfdar, Kahal has been planning an escape. Unfortunately, there’s an unstoppable man-mountain named Broah in their path. After escaping by the skin of their teeth (and the weight of Broah), they unchain themselves and head their separate ways, but it seems they both have a higher calling that brings them back together eventually amidst the royal family of Al’Rashad, who must deal with questions of national alliance, potential war, a skullduggerous conspirator named Dalakhar and the ominous mystery of the Undying Wizard-King and his Bokan armies of the undead, which includes a very striking sort of heavy artillery, which you get to in Book 6.
That’s just skimming the surface of 6.5 full issues of comics, but it’s a great way to spend some time online, especially if you’re into big-picture politics of the ancient world and occasional surprise splashes of fantastical elements. But it’s also very much about street level adventure, as Halfdar and his young assistant Joro spend a great deal of time beneath the street level in the sewers, on the run from the Bokans, through a nest of killer monkeys and everything, while Kahal is reuniting with Rayana of the royal caliphate of Al’Rashad and fighting off lots of assassins. Bird strikes a great balance between action and intrigue with very entertaining dialogue, while Brar’s artwork takes a little getting used to, but then becomes very impressively detailed, as is required in a setting full of fancy runes, intricate wardrobes and elaborate geography. Brar’s skill makes for a powerful ‘oh shit’ moment when the giant skeleton monster shows up, for example.
Web comics are not the fringe things they once were, and the internet provides a great opportunity to get your work out there while cutting out red tape and middlemen. Bird & Brar are doing just that with Al’Rashad: City of Myths, and it’s very much worth your time and it’s quite accessible, to boot. As they explain in their very short “About” section: “What you need to know before reading: this is a comic about a fantasy world. Everything else you can figure out.”