‘Cannons in the Clouds #1-4’ Comic Review
Cannons in the Clouds is an ongoing digital comic series published by Alterna Comics. The first four issues are currently available through Comixology, MyDigitalComics, and DriveThruComics. The story comes to us courtesy of Daniel Woolley and Anne Gresham, with visuals by Jorge Donis. Set in a world in which humanity lives on floating islands in the sky, the story follows the adventures of a young heiress who rebels against the role that has been chosen for her by society, who wants nothing more than to sail the seas of the sky. The following review is an overview of the first four issues of the series.
Nova Cielo is the crown jewel of the Novian Empire, home to many powerful and influential families, with the chief among them being the Windbourne family. Headed by Chester Windbourne, the man is not only an industrial magnate, but a hero of the war which unified all of the known sky-islands under the rule of the Novian Empire. Business is at an all time high, with many of the upper-crust families reaching unthought-of heights, yet there is a dark undercurrent lurking beneath the veneer of staid gentility and prosperity. Social unrest is at all-time high, with saboteurs and propaganda agents lurking around every corner, and much of this vitriol is directed at the Windbournes. Some even whisper that the notorious pirate captain, Jenny Avery, may be waiting in the wings, lured to the city by the opportunity to grow rich during the upcoming unrest.
Set against this backdrop of sky-pirates and agents provocateur, we are introduced to Sela Windbourne, the only heir to the family name. A young woman who is far more interested in sailing the sky and participating in ship-to-ship battles than being groomed as a ‘proper lady’, she absolutely chafes at being forced to conform to her arbitrary place in society.
After a severe row with her parents, she decides to run away, and join the crew of the nearest sky-ship that is leaving port. In her mad dash to freedom, she comes across a number of ne’er-do-wells, catching them in the act as they are setting explosives to destroy her father’s new sky-bridge. After attempting to stop their foul plot, she is forced to seek haven on Jenny Avery’s ship, a woman who happens to be a notorious pirate.
Although the pirates manage to fend off the mongrel pack of thugs, the ringleader escapes, and the damage is done… The explosives destroy the bridge, and Sela is framed for the act of sabotage. Little does she know that this is not a random act, but one that is sanctioned by rogue entities in her own government, men that seek to topple the ruling families and capitalize on the ensuing chaos. Her only friends number Robert Cadman, the younger brother of a steel-worker who was killed in the bomb-blast (and a man who is absolutely ace with any type of whip, along with being a whiz with diametal, the substance that keeps the sky-ships in the air); Captain Jenny Avery, a pirate through-and-through, but one that has taken a definitive shine to Sela, and sees her as a younger version of herself; and her family and friends, who are quite a bit more capable than Sela suspects.
Daniel Woolley and Anne Gresham ably craft a story that is full of adventure, mystery, and a true sense of fun. Quick-paced and action-packed, the tale jumps from one cliffhanger moment to the next, constantly keeping the reader on the edge of their seats. The characters are all wonderfully crafted, with the leads and their supporting cast instantly likable, while the villains are suitably despicable. Although the setup will seem a bit black-and-white, there are many different social issues being explored underneath the more obvious adventure tale setting, chief among them is the idea of being locked into a certain social status by the happenstance of your bloodline, along with gender roles within society.
Sela is, admittedly (by her own father), an absolute wiz when it comes to tactical thinking and planning out a course of action (although her new friend Robert might disagree with this assessment), along with being a better sailor than the majority of those residing in Nova Cielo. Add to this her innate charm and charisma, and she projects as a first-rate leader and captain.
Jorge Donis’ art perfectly compliments the story, capturing all of the key elements contained within the narrative. The character designs stand out, and his depiction of the character’s emotions and body language is spot-on, effortlessly capturing the mood of each scene. Working with a heavy line, and a minimal amount of shading, his work may lose detail in far remove, but the action and circumstances that the characters find themselves in are always cleanly depicted. Most notable is his ability to capture the pure adventure of the story, and visually project the wonder and sheer fun that is at the core of this series.
The art is fluidly dynamic, moving the story along at a good clip, while moving the reader’s eye unerringly from point-to-point. Some of his panel composition and placement can be a bit experimental, but it works wonderfully, causing the reader to focus in, and then immediately causing them to pull back to appreciate a more panoramic scene. With a varied, multi-pronged approach to his art style, Jorge never fails to impress throughout the initial four issues of the series. Very good stuff.
All-in-all, this series is a heck of a lot of fun, made all the more impressive by the fact that is produced by an independent press, and the various creator’s love for their story unerringly comes through in the finished release. With an interesting story, likable and engaging characters, and top-notch art, this is a series that really is running on all cylinders. Do yourself a favor, and head over to Comixology and pick this up. One of my favorite independent comics of the new year… Enjoy!