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The Raven Banner
A Tale of Asgard

By Kazim Ibn Sadique

Myths are awesome and don't let anyone tell you any different. Arguably the best part about mythologies is the appeal it makes to our imaginations. Try to picture the image of Honuman carrying a mountain around so he can cure his fellow combatants: a better canvas than the mind cannot be found.

So when you are making a myth-comic, there's a lot riding on your shoulders in terms of imagery. Fortunately, The Raven Banner has Charles Vess. You might know him from Sandman and Stardust.

The story is quite simple. It deals with the powerful Raven Banner of Norse Mythology, which guarantees victory in battle to the side that wields it. But it also ensures that the bearer will die in the fight. Obviously, such a banner has huge importance, both to the Asgardian Gods and their enemy, the Trolls. The role of banner-bearer is the hereditary responsibility of a certain family.

The book opens with images of a pitched battle, rendered in beautiful reddish orange, where the previous bearer of the standard, Grim Magnus, falls in battle. His son, Greyval, has been tricked away from the fight by the Trolls and he does not seek out the banner, as is his duty. He betrothed and eventual wife the valkyrie, Sygnet, urges him to retrieve the banner, which has been stolen by - surprise, surprise the Trolls.

The comic then follows the tale of Greyval's initial reluctance, cowardice and dawning redemption and courage. He is aided by Balder, brother of Thor, who himself has a couple of frames worth of cameos. There's also the contrasting plot of Greyval's cousin, Horskuld, who is also seeking the Raven Banner so that he can have the glory of banner-bearer. But while Greyval moves towards salvation, Horskuld heads for decadence.

Charles Vess is truly gifted in his rendering of backgrounds and sceneries. With shifting colour themes, you can catch on to the changing tones of the story almost instinctively. However, the characters are limited in their expressions and the story telling, while smooth, drags on for a while and is boring in places. The pace doesn't pick up till half-way through the comic. Alan Zelentz could have done a lot better with the given plot and premises.

All in all, it's a beautiful comic, a little tedious at places, but in the end, quite enjoyable. I bought my one at Jamil's Comics and Collectibles. There might be a copy or two lying around there.

Last week our topic was: Resign. Some very decent entries turned up, but the selected entry had a certain crude charm and humour to it, which we enjoyed. For next week, our topic will be: Renegade. Entries need to be sent in to ds.risingstars@gmail.com before Sunday noon. Word limit is 350-500 words. Good luck.


By Samiha Majid

For the convenience of the story we are going to call ourselves X and Y.
OK, you know what? X and Y are so overrated. We'll call ourselves Q and 4006. No one uses 4006. Yea, 4006 it is.
4006: once upon a time in 2012 in a land not so very far away, there lived a beautiful maiden.
Q: What beautiful maiden? You mean Rita aunty? She's as old as your grandma, perv!
4006: [awkward voice] No, I didn't mean her. I meant, er, you know, errr… [sweat pours down temple]
Q: Yeah alright. Don't wet yourself. Let me tell the story.
4006: No, but I wanna tell the story! I wanna! I wanna I wanna I wannnnaaaaaa!!!!
Q: [stares at 4006] … No. And acting like a little girl isn't helping.
4006: …
Q: If you whine, I'll tell Sarah you went through her diary last time.
4006: [gasp] I DID NOT!!
Q: Yeah of course, you didn't go through her diary, I'm Angelina Jolie, elephants are microwaves…
4006: Yeah, shut up. You made your point. [grumbles audibly]
Q: alright so the story. So we have this friend; let's call him #.
4006: Aww man, # is so much cooler than 4006! Why can't I be #? Or Q?!
Q: Cause I said so.
4006: What are you, my mom?
Q: No, but I sure as hell am gonna tell your mom you go through people's diaries. [evil grin]
4006: [narrow eyed glare] So what, you're gonna blackmail me with the same shit again?
Q: Yes. Yes I am. Now will you let me tell the darn story?
4006: I can't believe we're friends. [mutters incoherently]
Q: We're not. You just keep showing up everywhere I go.
4006: Oh what, so now you don't like my company? Is that it?
Q: Yes. Yes, that is it.
4006: [yells incredulously] Just for that - I'M STAYING!!
Q: [stares at a weirdly shaped freckle on 4006's face]
5 minutes later…
Q: Oh right. So # here is a friend of ours with an obsession for gossiping. No, he's not a girl, mind you. He likes his bodybuilding, but he luuurvs his gossip… What? WHAT? WHY are you staring at me??
4006: So we're sticking to # ,eh?
Q: … You know what you are? You're a wart. On my butt. You know, the ones that don't let you sit in peace because they're on your BUTT?!
[awkward silence]
Q: Right. So # here is good looking, see? So he's obviously got girl troubles. [read: crazy stalker ex]
4006: You mean, cheleta onek *wink* gorom?
[awkward moment of silence. Again]
4006: Mama dekh dekh, KAUWWA!!! [excitedly points at crow sitting innocently on roof railing. Crow gets heart attack]
Q: [blinks]
4006: … I resign!!!!
Q: You resign from WHAT, exactly???
4006: Nothing. Just nevermind.
Q: Oh right… you hungry?
4006: Yup.
[Q and 4006 walk away chatting]



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