Mischief, Murder, and Mayhem Abound in Ashley Cope’s “Unsounded”

Mischief, Murder, and Mayhem Abound in Ashley Cope’s “Unsounded”

Sette Frummagem has a job to do.  Tasked by her crime boss father to find and demand payment from her mysterious cousin Stockyard, Sette must cross into a country on the brink of war, avoid confrontations with Peaceguards and bandits alike, and prove herself a worthy heir to her father, all while keeping a morose zombie companion in tow.  And that’s just the beginning of the strange and engrossing story that is Unsounded.

At the core of the plot is the ongoing war between the countries of Cresce and Alderode, a conflict that has left many of the comic’s characters scarred, vengeful, and corrupted.  Unbeknownst to Sette, events have already been set in motion that will drastically alter both her fate and that of her undead charge, the miraculous spellcaster Duane Adelier.  Along the way our heroes meet many strange and dangerous characters, including a fugitive father, son, and their pet giant; the kidnapped son of a pirate queen; and the ghost of a mad serial killer, just to name a few.  Worst of all, Sette’s mission may not be all that it seems. Sette will have to battle monsters, lawmen, and her own kin on her quest to discover which path is the right one and to whom her loyalty truly lies.

A gorgeous combination of high fantasy, steampunk, and RPG ingenuity, Ashley Cope’s fictional world of Kasslyne is bursting with world-building and imagination.  No detail has been overlooked, ranging between the socio-political and economic structures of multiple countries, the mechanics of the continent’s complex magic system, the subtleties of religious iconography, and even the significance of any given character’s wardrobe.  Deftly and brilliantly she includes visual cues and minutiae that will have you rereading a single page again and again, each time with new understanding.  In addition, she makes full use of the digital medium, using the comic’s webpage itself as a framing device, often denoting the shift between the material and spiritual, or echoing moments of intense destruction (the whole thing goes up in flames at one point).

Unsounded is a glorious work of fantasy sure to delight fans of the genre, but also carries with it a poignant and intense story about love, family, and loss.  Sette and Duane’s relationship is the true star of this show. Their bond is tested with each threat they face, but it’s one that will grip you by the heart and not let go.  Unsounded is currently nine chapters long and ongoing, with one printed volume and a second now in production.

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