“The smaller the town, the bigger the secret…”
White Ash is set in a Pennsylvania blue-collar mining town, and recent graduate Aleck is desperate to leave and start his freshman year of college. But a mining accident in which his father is hurt badly puts his plans in jeopardy, and he is thrown together with the mine owner’s daughter Lillian who recently returned from boarding school. At first, it seems like a straightforward story of star-crossed lovers from different socioeconomic classes, but then a secret is revealed that puts a fantasy twist on the entire narrative.
Aleck is revealed to be half-dwarf and raven-haired Lillian an elf, with both their families having crossed a magical portal when battling an evil dragon, and getting trapped in the mortal world hundreds (maybe thousands) of years ago. But the dragon’s blood infected a nearby village, and an evil brood of creatures that can masquerade as humans was born, thus putting the dwarfs and elves in a constant battle against them. Aleck has a hard time comprehending all of this but is thrown into battle to save his town, no matter if he is ready or not.
Aleck and Lillian have the classic will they or won’t they chemistry, hindered by that the two groups don’t get along, and some catastrophe was hinted at regarding women with dwarfs. There is also a love triangle hinted at because mechanic Katlyn (who had a surprising resistance to brood member Seth) has been crushing on Aleck for awhile. While a battle is won, the war is just heating up and Aleck decides to stay in town now that he knows about the ancient evil that has now gotten worse.
The art is appealing with some anime-inspired panels to show great emotion. There are a few splash pages that typically close out a chapter, but most pages consist of many panels that can end up being quite busy. The quality of illustration occasionally shifts, with some faces not being precisely drawn. Coloring is subdued and shadowy.
For such a professional graphic novel, I was surprised it got a humble start thru Kickstarter, before being printed by Scout Comics. I’m a bit unclear on the future of this series, although it did have an additional one-off issue about Glarien, Lillian’s elf mother. If it continues, independently or through Scout Comics, I will want to pick up future volumes!