June 15, 2021

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Get lost in the forest! Super! Magic Forest by Ansis Purins

Super! Magic Forest
By Ansis Purins
Published by Revival House Press

Are you looking for a fun, engaging story for kids and adults?  Do you want to dive into a weird new world that's rich but also accessible?  Do you enjoy underdog heroes?  And maybe cave ghosts and zombies?  Well then, I have wonderful new for you. Super! Magic Forest from Ansis Purins is here, and it's a real delight.*

Twig Leaf is a humble berry-collecting elf. His grandfather was a warrior, but Twig Leaf is aware that he's pretty far from that. Twig Leaf makes his way back home, and finds himself quickly swept up in preparing for a great banquet. Twig Leaf catches the eye of the Elf Commander. And, the next thing you know, Twig Leaf has a quest! He's been tasked with bringing a mysterious object to a great wizard, who will know what to do with it. Twig Leaf doesn't seem immediately up to the task. But like some of the best adventure tales, it's the unlikely hero that takes on great importance.

Super! Magic Forest is a book that can be read quickly or slowly. It flows at a zippy pace, but you will absolutely want to go back and pore over certain pages because they're bursting with wonderful detail. Purins has a style which is warm and inviting to new readers and veteran comics fans alike, and his linework and detail can run the gamut from "extremely minimalist" to "richly ornate". All of his characters have a highly stylized look (I wish I had a better word than "cartoony") that would work well in a comic strip setting. 
 
But Twig Leaf is, in particular, an interesting character. He's often drawn with maximum simplicity, and this can be in contrast to far more detailed, rendered characters and backgrounds around him. This very much feels like a deliberate choice to me. Twig Leaf is our protagonist, but he's also someone who feels like an outsider and like he's maybe destined for greater things even if they feel far away (like Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, etc.). So, he doesn't quite fit in, but he also stands out. He doesn't know it yet, but he's very much capable of fighting for his forest, and being the sort of hero that he dreams of being.
 
But honestly, I don't want to get overly bogged down in story. Super! Magic Forest is as much about the overall visual aesthetic of the story and the world (and the book itself as a work of art) as it is about the plot. For me, the sensation the book gives me is a sense of joy and wonder. Because a reader of the story can tell how much thought and love for these characters went into each page of the story. It's clear that Purins loves these characters and this world (which he has also explored in prior stories). That passion for storytelling comes across on every page, from the intricate background details, to the wonderfully weird and specific character design.
 
For the cover of the story, Purins uses a striking technique combining cartoon art with photography, placing his drawings in real constructed sets. It's a noteworthy, striking effect. And as I mentioned, part of the pleasure of reading Super! Magic Forest is that Purins will completely change his approach to color and to the rendering of detail. Often the color choices are atmospheric, depending on the location of the characters or the mood of that particular page of the story. And sometimes, they're just seemingly because.

While Twig Leaf isn't typically rendered with a lot of detail, many of the other characters are, and the background settings are often brought to life with lush, incredibly detailed linework. And while Twig Leaf has a cute, harmless appeal to him, don't think that extends to all of the characters in the story. This isn't a horror comic, but Purins has great skill in bringing to life some genuinely creepy characters and imagery. Particularly characters who on their face are ostensibly cute but are actually super weird and terrifying. You get the sense that if he wanted to, Purins could draw an incredibly good, gory, slasher comic.
 
While Purins creates a world that has some scary places, Super! Magic Forest is really a place of wonder and exploration. In a relatively brief story, Purins shows us glimpses of a fascinating world within the forest. There are pages full of characters where each one of them would make for a fascinating story. And I'll be happy to explore any other weird characters or locations that he chooses to highlight in future stories. Super! Magic Forest is a delightful, fun read, with a ton of heart and imagination.
 
[In the interests of full disclosure, Ansis and I have been friends since we were kids. In Junior High he started a comics zine in which I participated, the legendary Salamander Shack. And he's the designer of our fantastic banner.]