The Untamed came to my attention thanks to social media. Even though Facebook adds can be annoying, I’m thankful in this instance because that is what led me to discover The Untamed. A passion project that has been 10 years in the making, The Untamed is a graphic novel composed of seven issues. Currently there is a Kickstarter campaign going on and not surprisingly, they have surpassed their initial goal. With Kickstarter projects seemingly everywhere these days the fact that their initial goal was surpassed so quickly speaks volumes about the great content. I can assure you that this is no amateur “project.” The Untamed is quite simply one of the best graphic novels I’ve come across.
I’m always a bit hesitant to crack open a comic book, purely for the reason that the story tends to come to a close all too soon. Just as soon as you begin to get invested in the story the pages come to an end. So I was beyond thrilled to discover that my PDF was composed of 248 pages of material. This was a graphic NOVEL in every sense of the word. This is one of the benefits of having a novel length title, the reader is allowed to bond with the characters, as well as having enough time to get truly immersed in the world.
The plot appears rather simple at first. Someone who was once close to The Stranger (our main character) eventually betrays him. This betrayal resulted in his death and banishment to Hell. The stranger is given a chance for vengeance and is allowed seven days out of Hell in exchange for seven souls. Although his memory appears foggy at first, the Stranger sets his sights on the town of Oasis to exact his vengeance. The Stranger’s return to Oasis was one of the highlights of the whole novel and there was a great genre blend of old school western meets classic revenge tale. There are several characters that team up with the Stranger along his way; most notable for me was Stutters. Niobe was also a refreshing female character that I wanted to know more about. This being a story of revenge, there is bound to be some bloodshed, and while the ominous cover does hint at the serious tone it should be noted that this novel is intended for mature audiences only. Never did I get the impression that the violence or sex (only briefly hinted at) was over the top, it was suiting for the world of Asunda. Sebastian A. Jones should be applauded for his creative writing skills. There is some very nice writing within this graphic novel, and while the writing can be one of the biggest pitfalls of a comic, in this instance it’s one of the strongest elements.
The art within was dark and gorgeous, I don’t know how else to put it. I’m a huge fantasy art fan with some of my favorites being Justin Sweet, Vance Kovacs, and Raymond Swanland. There were a slew of artists who contributed to The Untamed, and all of them have done a phenomenal job marrying the dark story with fantastic artwork. Artists Peter Berating and Hyoung Taek Nam both do splendid jobs bringing this dark fantasy world to life. Sebastian A. Jones isn’t afraid to step back and allow the artists moments to shine, several pages at a time have little to no dialogue.
I don’t claim to be a comic book expert, but as a huge fantasy fan I’m always on the hunt for that special fantasy comic. I’ve read quite a few Conan comics, Red Sonja, Sinbad, Spawn the Dark Ages, Death Dealer, Aladdin, (radical comics) Kull, and Northlanders, just to name a few. As I was reading The Untamed there was another title that I kept thinking of. Although it is somewhat obscure, there was a Watchmen Animated film that came out in 2009 called Tales of the Black Freighter. It was one of the darkest animated films I’ve ever seen, and a personal favorite. I found The Untamed to have a similar darkness to Tales of the Black Freighter, and if I could compare it to one other piece of fantasy out there, then it would be that. For the avid comic reader, I imagine Dark Horse fans will find a lot to like with The Untamed. The same can be said of traditional fantasy fans, but I imagine the grimdark literature fans will be especially pleased.
It would appear that something special is happening in terms of fantasy comics. Adrian Smith recently released his Chronicles of Hate hardcover, the Elric series is experiencing a solid revival, and even acclaimed director Alejandro Jodorowsky has released his own graphic novel entitled Royal Blood. If there is to be a frontrunner in this new comic scene, then hands down Sebastian A. Jones is going to be leading the way. While this series is still in its infancy, I have no doubt that this has the potential to be a longstanding series. Put down your Avengers comic and pick up The Untamed. Throw on a nice soundtrack (I went with Clint Mansell’s Noah OST) and you’ll find yourself getting easily transported to this dark menacing world.