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Stuart Kolakovic

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Page 45 Review by Jonathan

"You know we don't have to climb these mountains don't you?
"I could make you a tunnel that goes straight through it.
"I could even give you wings so you could just fly over it.
"All you have to do is wish for it.
"This silent treatment is really starting to wear thin.
"Do you think you're so high and mighty that you can just ignore me?
"Or do you think I'm some sort of evil demon or something?
"Most people would kill to have the opportunity I'm offering you…
"Why can't you just wish for something already?"

I think perhaps the deer herdsman just wishes you would shut up, Mister motormouth woodland spirit! Yes, yes he did do you a good turn and you did offer to grant him a single wish of absolutely anything his heart desired in return. But stalking him, hounding him, perpetually pestering him to make said wish is all just a little bit needy, don't you think? I get it that no one has ever turned down a wish from you before, but maybe the herdsman is just a laid back sort of chap that doesn't need or want for anything…?

Which… isn't entirely true of course! It's just that one probably shouldn't use wishes or indeed any other sort of magic when it is true love you are after, I reckon… As does the herdsman.

For a chance encounter with a local lady, whilst in the undignified and instantly distressed state of being caught half-undressed washing in a stream, has set his heart-a-flutter. Her left behind scarf, carelessly snagged on a tree as she departed the scene with a hearty chuckle and a cheery wave, only serves as a continuous reminder to him of her all-too-brief sublime presence. But alas, the moment to pursue and woo elapsed, forever escaping our abluting shepherd, caught as he was in the catastrophic claws of all-consuming embarrassment…

Speaking of claws… there's a bear out there too… One that really ought to be hibernating along with all the others, but instead is tracking the herdsman, his faithful canine chum and his voyaging venison, bells-a-ringing as they make their way from his isolated island camp all the way over the mountain tops to market. This bear seems utterly obsessed with our deer drover to the extent that it makes you wonder if there isn't something… different… about this particular grizzly grouser.

Stuart Kolakovic's has certainly set the bar high with his first graphic novel! For to my mind, this is no work of a callow beginner finding their artistic feet Bambi-style, if you'll permit me a deer-based pun, but an immensely accomplished work, both visually and in terms of storytelling.

On that latter point, I found this as engrossing, enchanting and downright amusing as Isabella Greenberg's THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH. It just has that same slightly naughty, mischievous charm, particularly once the woodland spirit joins our trooping troupe which coupled with the faux fairy tale feel makes for a delightfully amusing yarn packed with hart (sic). I really will stop with the deer jokes now I promise.

Artistically, you'll be fawning (okay, okay, but that one seemed too good to miss) all over this if you are a fan of the likes of Jon KINGDOM McNaught. It is a different style, certainly, but it has that same attention to intricate detail liberally and seemingly effortlessly applied with beautifully muted, distinct colour palettes that just makes the panels feel like they are bursting with life and activity.

There is some superb design work going on throughout this tale which is apparently partly inspired by the creator's Serbian ancestry. Indeed, this is as beautifully designed and illustrated as many a Nobrow published book.

You can see some slight hints of Eastern Europe flavour actually, and thus two works which only sprang to mind for very spurious comparative reasons would be MISTER MORGEN by Igor Hofbauer and William Goldsmith's VIGNETTES OF YSTOV. But, as I say, they are a wee bit spurious.

So will the herdsman get his heart's most fervent desire, either with or without resorting to magical means, or will the big, bad bear ensure that there's no happy ending for anyone? Well, except the bear obviously. If you wish you could find out the antler, sorry answer, you know what to do, don't you?
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