Days of Dark Fire Issues #1-3

Writer: Giovanni Smith
Penciller: Jintaiquan
Inker, Colorer, & Cover Artist: Mike Gaughran
Letterer & Editor: Kurt Hathaway
Publisher: Sinopia Comics

A review by Michael Hein

Days of Dark Fire is the maiden voyage of Sinopia Comics — a donation-based self-publishing platform for indie creators. The publisher was founded by Giovanni Smith, co-creator of this very book. Sinopia aims to empower both creators and readers to have a more direct relationship with one another, and to create and read exactly the kinds of comics they want. As the first book to come out of this platform, Days of Dark Fire serves as its poster child, to test the limits of what a donation-based book can accomplish.

The story is set in a unique world, comprised mainly of high fantasy and medieval elements, though with their own distinct twists. The first issue opens with a full page of prose, doing a bit of expositional heavy lifting and describing the creation myth that the entire story is centered around. Though the mythos is vast and encompasses an interplanetary war across the universe, the comic itself quickly takes readers to street level. We are endeared to a cast of rag-tag heroes, all unique in their own way yet familiar as the archetypes of high-fantasy fellowships. It’s clear that Smith has a lot of love for writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and David Eddings, yet his world-building is unique enough to be fresh to genre fanatics, while still familiar enough to draw them in.

The artwork is remarkably consistent across all three issues of Days of Dark Fire, which stands out in the world of self-published, self-funded indies. It’s clear that Jintaiquan and Mike Gaughran had a plan and a vision here from the very beginning. Where many indie comics trace the growth and development of fledgling creators, this series shows the work of practiced hands and lots of forethought. Though the genre is esoteric, the art has a contemporary feel that makes the book very accessible, even to readers who may steer clear of medieval fantasy style. The work with colors is particularly striking, and adds a sense of light and brightness that works well in a digital format.

The book has its fumbles as well, as any story does. In the first issue, it’s clear that Smith has a real passion for the cosmology he’s created here, but at times the world-building and exposition feel crammed in too tight. On the one hand, there are ways that things could have been spread out, and the background information could have been delivered more naturally. On the other hand, for independent creators with no big publishing house behind them, any issue could be their last, so it makes sense to get it all out while they can. After those few awkward interpositions in the first issue, the book really finds its pace, and it’s clear that the story is as vast as the world, and it’s heading somewhere big.

Buy it!
Through the Sinopia Comics website, Days of Dark Fire is available for any price you choose, including free. With this in mind, it’s hard not to recommend it. In addition, the platform they’ve created on their website should be of great interest to anyone in the indie comic sphere. It provides a space for open dialogue between creators and readers, which is invaluable in a medium that fosters the most innovative and outlandish stories being told today. It makes sense that Smith, Gaughran, and their creative team would spearhead this platform with a series as unique and uncompromising as Days of Dark Fire.

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Mike Hein

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