Aatmaja Pandya’s “Travelogue” Paints a Different Kind of Fantasy Landscape
We’re all familiar with the stereotypical fantasy quest. A group of adventurers go out to seek their fortune, slay a monster, and meet their destiny. Too often though these kinds of stories are anything but entertaining, favoring overdone tropes, unwieldy plots, and boring exposition over what initially drew us to fantasy in the first place: exploration of the world.
Which is why I’m head over heels for Aatmaja Pandya’s latest work, the sweet and subtle Travelogue: A Fantasy Diary Comic. Instead of a cast of aggro adventurers, we have a small band of travelers who get by doing odd jobs in what might be one of the loveliest settings I’ve seen in a comic.
The story is narrated by the humble but curious Nana, a diminutive kind of imp-mage, who travels with their companions Emerene and Adi in search of ways to earn money, all the while exploring the lush landscape and learning more about each other. The emphasis of Travelogue is not on some grand or complicated fate; our characters do not carry the weight of the world on their shoulders (as of yet). Instead, what we see is a world that is vastly larger than Nana’s group, the secrets of which Nana is still in the process of learning.
Pandya’s work is a symphony of color and feeling, setting mood and atmosphere with something so simple as a soft pink sky or the gentle orange warmth of a fire in a dark wood. Her characters, especially Nana, are charming and memorable, using conversation and sparse observation to acquaint us with them, rather than rely on lengthy exposition.
With each page we see a new scene from our trio’s travels, often en route to somewhere new and undiscovered. Best of all, Pandya’s storytelling communicates these scenes exactly for what they are: moments in a journey that we ourselves are taking along with Nana and their friends.