Like essentially every industry in the world, the comic world has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Conventions, including granddaddy San Diego Comic-Con, have been cancelled left, right and centre, and physical comic deliveries have been stalled, leading to a distribution controversy that could have major repercussions for already struggling comic book stores. Fortunately, even in places where strict lockdown measures are keeping retailers closed, digital comics are still available to provide a words-and-pictures fix.
Amazon’s ComiXology remains arguably the world’s biggest name in digitally distributed comics, and the site’s exclusive line of curated, creator owned comics and graphic novels, ComiXology Originals, is about to enter its second year. With a focus on diverse new content to appeal to jaded readers and attract new ones to the medium, Originals includes such titles as Teenage Wasteland, The Black Ghost, Goliath Girls, Savage Game, Elephantmen and The Pride, coming from such creators such as Sam Humphries, Jen Vaughn and Richard Starkings.
Also part of the Originals stable is Forgotten Home, a hybrid urban fantasy-family drama that launched last year. From writer Erica Schultz (Xena, Daredevil, M3) and artist Marika Cresta (Doctor Aphra, X-Men, Fearless), Forgotten Home centres on army veteran, sheriff’s deputy and single mother Lorraine Adalet, whose investigation of peculiar child disappearances in the Midwest forces her to examine her troubled past. Things are a little different for Lorraine, though. Her “dark secret”? She’s magically gifted royalty from Jannada, a Dune-lite world in another plane of existence.
Jannada should be a paradise but has been drenched in blood for decades by war between the human-looking Jannadans and hulking troglodytes, the Chilombon, over powerful crystals beneath the planet’s surface. Hoping to swing the conflict in her favour, Lorraine’s mother, Queen Rani, has been “recruiting” children to bolster her army, taking advantage of their unique ability to wield magic on Jannada before adulthood. Not even Joanna – Rani’s granddaughter and Lorraine’s teenage daughter – is exempt from enlistment. Then again, after an unmoored unbringing, Jo is hardly resistant to a promised life of power, privilege and belonging, which pits her against her mother, who fled to Earth to avoid the conflict.
Forgotten Home stands out for a couple of reasons. The first is its economical character and world development. Outside of slice-of-life titles, the action demands of contemporary comics typically mean very thin cuts of “meat.” Forgotten Home’s eight-issue first season may be slightly longer than a typical five-issue story arc, but its creators have managed to stuff in a lot by using a very strategic creative shorthand. It’s no mean feat to establish a whole unique universe and cast of characters over a handful of 27-page comics, and do so convincingly.
A lot boils down to Forgotten Home’s credibility, particular in terms of character voice. The interactions between Jo and her BFF Mika ring true and are especially delightful. There’s also a very enjoyable interplay between Korra-esque Jo, with her contemporary American way of speaking, and Queen Rani, a power-hungry bigot whose stiff, high-fantasy turn of phrase matches her archaic views.
From a reader’s perspective, it’s very easy to latch affections onto fiery, proactive Jo. This is harder to do for Lorraine, who is by far the most complex, and grey-shaded character in Forgotten Home. This also makes her the most realistic figure in the series, struggling as she does with a sense of inadequacy over her capabilities, and cowardice over her past actions.
The brisk world and character building even extends to the likeable supporting cast of ragtag rebels, whose personalities come through in only a few panels.
Speaking of panels, readers may find themselves pausing when they see certain Jannada royal outfits for the first time. This is because they’ve been conceived by real-world fashion designer Yissel Ayala. Intricate but practical, these costumes stand out with their consistent delivery by Cresta, and bring another layer of subtle, if hard to pin down, authenticity to Forgotten Home.
As for representation, this women-driven series – on the page, and behind it – isn’t short on diversity. As in Schultz’s Twelve Devils Dancing, characters of various sexual orientations and ethnicities appear with little to no comment, and are treated matter of factly. There is no ham-fisted inclusion or spotlighting of societal issues. They’re simply present, helping to add further richness to the comic’s world.
It’s debatable whether Forgotten Home, as a whole, is as strong as its exceptional first issue. Lorraine using magic to solve child abductions is a powerful hook, and although it’s a matter of personal preference, Forgotten Home’s first arc could have spent a bit more time in our world. Alternatively, there could’ve been more of an exploration of Jannada and Earth’s link, as characters on both sides seem remarkably unfazed by the meeting of universes.
This isn’t to say a further deepening of lore is out the question. Although the current series of Forgotten Home can stand on its self-contained own, it is clearly intended as Season 1 of a larger saga revolving around power struggles at both the level of a family and entire fantasy world. Having proven with the current arc how much they can establish economically, there are many places Forgotten Home’s creative team can take the book in future should the opportunity arise.
Issue 7 of 8 comes out for Forgotten Home tomorrow, 29 April, with the collected Volume 1 set for release on 10 June.
Last Updated: April 28, 2020