Gigi D.G.’s video-game-inspired adventure comic Cucumber Quest is one of my top favorite webcomics. It’s got tremendously beautiful and evocative art, it’s got terrific and very cute characters (including some queer ones) and it has a wonderful and exciting story with a lot of character growth and deep worldbuilding. So it came as no surprise to me when I read her new standalone comic Lady of the Shard and instantly fell in love. D.G. uses a lot of techniques that you’ll find familiar if you’ve read her other comics, but lays them out in a completely new way, using shapes and motion to get across emotion and meaning in ways that make even a page that’s made up of what look like simple, flowing lines of white and red over a black background feel like it’s communicating something 10,000 words couldn’t.
Lady of the Shard is about an acolyte who serves at a temple for the titular goddess, The Radiant One. She doesn’t just serve and worship her out of obligation; she loves her. She works extra hard to bring the best offerings she can (in the form of adorable breakfasts) and does her best to make sure the goddess knows how appreciated she is. However, when the Old God, the goddess the Radiant One deposed and is protecting the people from, returns, the truth about the Radiant One is revealed and the acolyte must decide how devoted she is to her beloved god. The tale becomes an epic romance and an epic battle for power that feels like it’s taking up a comic much larger than this one.
The struggle to feel like your love is acceptable or even just not sinful is one that will really resonate with a lot of readers. Throughout the comic, the acolyte is trying to convince herself that the love she has for the goddess is wrong, and that if she just tries hard enough, it will go away. She’s been taught that the relationship people should have with the Radiant One should be based purely on obedience and gratitude, not on love, and definitely not on the kind of romantic love that she’s clearly feeling for the goddess.
This comic won’t just tug at your heartstrings, it ties them up in every single knot in the Girl Scout Handbook. D.G. makes you fall in love with the acolyte on the very first page, and then because she loves the Goddess, you do too. The comic is adorable at parts, heartbreaking and terrifying at others, and endearing throughout. Whe you read it, you become a part of this world, you become a part of this faith, you become a part of this battle and you become a part of this romance. This is the gay space comic of our dreams.
Lady of the Shard follows in the grand tradition of Star Wars, John Carter of Mars and some of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stories (this story of a conference of stars and galaxies came to mind specifically) in setting an epic fantasy story in outer space. There’s beautiful lore, there’s history, there’s magic and power. This comic is able to get so much beauty and story into such a short, and to-the-point comic that it’s hard to believe. And the characters are so clear and distinct, whether it’s the endearingly gay and devoted acolyte, the protective and guarded Radiant One, or the manipulative and proud Old God. This is one of the best comics I’ve seen in a long, long time.
The art and formatting really set this comic apart, though. Here D.G. combines her usual art style, which would fit perfectly in a children’s book, with impressionist techniques to create a bold and moving comic that communicates huge ideas with what look like sketches and gestures. It’s stunning the way she does so much with so little, and it really helps the reader to feel like the entire story is taking place in the vast emptiness of space. It’s a genius technique. It’s going to take me a long, long time to get over this art.
I don’t want to ruin the comic, it really is something you need to read for yourself, and it’s definitely worth reading. D.G. does give a warning at the beginning that there is a depiction of a manipulative, abusive relationship and there is some body horror, so you might want to watch out for that. You can support Gigi D.G. by buying some of her absolutely stunningly gorgeous art or books from her shop, or you can support Lady of the Shard directly. You can also follow her on twitter or tumblr.