‘Prequel’ webcomic review
By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor
Everybody has days where they feel like they can’t do nothin’ right. On those days, just be thankful that you aren’t the star of webcomic wunderkind Kazerad’s multimedia fantasy epic, Prequel.
Prequel is a fan comic that acts as a non-canon prologue to the popular fantasy RPG The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It takes place in Tamriel, the setting of the Elder Scrolls universe, a land similar to—but still very different from—J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, distinguished by its rich internal mythology, and various atypical sub-races of humans, elves, orcs, and beast-folk.
The plot follows Katia, a Khajiit (cat-like humanoid) who emigrates from her homeland to escape a checkered past full of drinking, drugs, and risky sex, and is determined to change her ways and make something of herself. Her slow-burn personal transformation is the story’s focus, helped and hindered by a parade of kooky supporting characters along the way. The catch is that the readers play the role of Katia’s conscience and self-doubt by offering suggestions to the author on what to write next.
Given the internet’s love of drama and Katia’s own atrocious luck, the series’ bread and butter is the push-me-pull-you of hope and despair. Readers may recognize their own bad habits in Katia, which makes it more compelling to see her succeed against all odds—or more crushing to watch her fail. It has all the trappings of a classical Greek tragedy, offering the audience a chance to examine themselves through Katia’s follies, and have some belly laughs along the way.
Watching the comic’s presentation develop from simplistic MS Paint Adventures-fodder into dynamic, colorful illustrations replete with catchy Celtic tunes, .gif animations and SNES-like mini-games is a process as long and involved as Katia’s own character arc, which may turn off those who are simply looking for a gag-a-day strip. However, the quality of the writing may be enough to sustain the impatient, especially if you like unexpected use of Chekov’s Gun in your tragicomedies.
Those unfamiliar with the Elder Scrolls titles may think that Prequel occupies a niche beyond their interest, but knowledge of the lore is not a must. Readers may miss some of the more obscure inside humor, or puzzle at the presence of side characters from the video games, but it won’t be any more taxing to follow along than it might be for a first-time player getting into the games themselves, as all of the twists, turns, and humorous moments come from Katia’s evolution rather than fantasy minutiae.
This is an entirely novel approach to fantasy. Where most sword and sorcery epics focus on the grand exploits of escapist characters like Elric of Melnibone or Geralt the Riv, Prequel chooses to transplant everyday troubles like irrational phobias, alcoholism, and hobbling self-doubt into a world populated by outlandish fantasy characters, often with hilarious results. Ironically, this often makes the world seem more real, despite fan criticisms that Prequel takes too many liberties with the established lore.
Due to its multimedia presentation, those still reeling after the ending of Homestuck may find a suitable substitute in Prequel, even if the reader input causes the plot to plod along at a leisurely trot. Katia still has a long way to go yet, so now’s as good a time as any to join her on her quest to kick the drink, kick up a fuss, and kick fate’s ass.