C. Spike Trotman should already be a familiar name to fans of independent comics. Trotman runs what has become the Midwest’s largest comics publisher, Iron Circus Comics. After years of wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns she became part of the Creators For Creators grant, and she managed to sign a distribution deal outside of the trap that comics distributor Diamond has become. And she’s continued to create content, both writing and illustrating. So seeing her name attached to one of the new Comixology Originals titles is almost as surprising as it is exciting.
Delver #1 (Comixology Originals) fits neatly into a lot of the subjects that Trotman has tackled, both as a creator and a publisher. The story raises questions of family legacy and examines the impact of outsiders and money on communities. It contains an extremely diverse cast of characters. Trotman is working on Delver with MK Reed, an Eisner-nominated writer with a history working on science-fiction and nonfiction; the rest of the team includes Clive Hawken illustrating, Maarta Laiho coloring, and Ed Dukeshire on letters. Hawken is new to the industry, but you wouldn’t know it from his adept, skilled work on this title. His designs for each character is distinct and fascinating, and they emote in ways big and small. His art is not at all like Trotman’s, adding the interest of seeing what her writing looks like with new visuals. Hawken’s style is textured and leaves an impression of people who are rooted and solid, sturdy in their sense of place and self. Laiho’s bright and vibrant colors are full of jewel tones and patches of watercolor texture where plant life abounds. It makes for a beautiful read that’s just as grounded in location as Hawken’s characters are.
The book opens on an isolated village, sleepy in the way all such small communities are, with families deep in each other’s business. Something in the world changes, however, and the locals are inundated with the arrival of countless treasure hunters and adventure seekers from far-away lands, their histories and appearances wild and often without context, but even more interesting for that (to both the villagers and readers). Though the new arrivals bring with them money and excitement, there’s a very real undercurrent of fear and frustration. The change that’s brought them to the village could be dangerous, and they are naive—or worse, dismissive—of the needs of the locals that are hosting and helping them.
The biggest draw of Delver, however, is the world-building. The book opens with a fantastical animal and adds to the mythos every day. Magic happens in an organic, living manner. The familiar is used in new and unexpected ways, with power given scope and agency of its own, outside of the people who are trying to use or manipulate it for their own gain. For lovers of fantasy and speculative fiction, it’s hard to understate how big of an impact this can have. Magic is most often depicted as a tool to be used by people, rather than a force unto itself, but Delver makes it a chaotic wildcard that can twist and shift the plot at will. It’s looking at Gaudi buildings after a lifetime of Gothic churches, a breath of fresh air and living, organic visuals. The pacing is a little strange, which could be a result a nonstandard 30 pages in length. The progress of time and story works well—it’s just different.
As a Comixology Original, Delver is available for purchase in individual issues or by subscription. But it’s also included free in Comixology’s Unlimited subscription. Between Delver and other Originals titles like Goliath Girls—not to mention the titles from other publishers available under the Unlimited umbrella—it’s becoming an even more compelling and cost-effective way to read a lot of comics.