Akiko Volumes 1-7 & Flights of Fancy
By Mark Crilley
Akiko is a human girl who one day gets an invite to the planet Smoo, a slightly squished-looking planet. She’s sent to save the young Prince Froptoppit due to what seems like an administrative error but is actually an attempt to get the pair to meet as the prince fancies her.
On this journey, her companions include Spuckler Boach, a messy rogue, Gax, a loyal robot who keeps losing parts, Mr Beeba, a pompous academic and Poog, a floating orb with eyes and a mouth who few can understand. They’re a brilliant, messy cast, often clashing with each other but at their best when they’re working together.
Smoo and the other worlds are all brilliantly weird, illustrated gorgeously by Crilley and explained to Akiko who acts as our viewpoint for the stories. It feels like a precursor to things like Adventure Time, as a heroic, chaotic mess which works well for children and adults.
Volumes 1-3: The Menace of Alia Rellapor
Folks, I’ve done the bad thing and I have Akiko volumes from two different runs. Volume One is from the pocket book versions which are roughly manga-sized, then the rest is from the regular-sized run. This is because the pocket book version contained the original “On the Planet Smoo” comic as well.
Akiko’s returned to the planet Smoo as Prince Froptopit’s actually been kidnapped this time. The quest goes through all sorts of wonderful, strange places and a motorway service station in the middle of a bridge. This feels like the series proper, where the original strip was a proof of design. It’s the longest story, stretching over three volumes. There are a few twists which are guessable, such as the identity of the evil Alia Rellapor, but it still throws in some fun surprises and incredible visuals. If you had to only read one Akiko story, this is definitely the one to go with.
Volume 4: The Story Tree
The next volume is a series of short stories from the cast, including Beeba meeting some religious zealot fanboys of an old novel, potential romance for Spuckler, a congregation of weird robots with Gax and even a brief interlude from Poog which is as odd an nonverbal as you’d expect from the singing, floating head.
Volume 5: Bornstone’s Elixir
Beeba’s mentor is dying and only a mythical elixir could help him. The mentor doesn’t want this to happen, but Beeba gets the band back together regardless. There’s an upside down floating city in here, and that’s just the place they set off on their quest from.
Volume 6: Stranded in Kimura/Moonshopping
This volume’s split into a couple of shorter arcs. Stranded in Kimura takes us out of Akiko’s head and into a human who ends up looking after Akiko and the aliens as they land on Earth and don’t have a way back off. The change of perspective is really interesting and Akiko’s worldliness from her previous adventures makes her seem alien.
Moonshopping is back to the usual affairs as Smoo needs a new moon and the aliens are sent into another dimension to try and get one. It’s somehow weirder than the usual Smoovian stories, including this awesome-looking guy who has a pad for a head.
Volume 7: The Battle of Boach’s Keep
A curious end for the main stories, this one has Spuckler selling his family’s falling down farm to a corporation, then waging a one-man war against them when he realises what he’s done. Akiko’s story is separate from Spuckler’s for the majority, but both are dealing with GothTek, a giant corporations somewhat like if Amazon became The Empire from Star Wars. More so than they already have.
While GothTek are far from innocent here, a real focus is on Spuckler’s personal state as he loses more and more in order to grasp onto land which he did sell. It’s a sad story, but still manages to end in a satisfying manner.
Flights of Fancy
The final volume of Akiko contains small strips contained in the back matter of the individual Akiko issues, and a new one, as well. They vary in length and style, but there are some fun little tidbits including a few fourth wall breaks which work well with the sprawling chaos of the first few strips as they interweave with each other.
Is it any good?
Yes, very good. As a GM of roleplaying games I can see where I took some influences for the landscape as far back as the days of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Things like the upside down city and living castle are great visuals. During the ongoing unprecedented times, I finally got round to watching most of Adventure Time and it’s got that same kind of sensibility to it. Even though it’s very much an ‘all ages’ joint, it’s definitely worth the time of kids and adults alike.
Am I keeping it?
Yes, although I’ve made a note to see whether or not I can find any other version of it, given the mismatched copies I’ve got of the series. Despite the size difference, I might keep the smaller first volume on the shelf with the larger ones, as that might get me reading it more often.
Amelia Cole and The Unknown World
Written by Adam P Knave and DJ Kirkbride
Drawn by Nick Brokenshire
Lettered by Rachel Deering
I’m pretty sure I heard about this on the War Rocket Ajax podcast. It’s a Monkey Brain comic, which released digitally first. I read a few series that way, but I fell off pretty quickly when Apple stopped letting me buy comics directly through the ComiXology app. I’ve since got more used to using the browser to buy and app to read, but I basically just lost momentum.
Amelia Cole is a magician who lives between a world of magic and a world of mundanity, but she finds herself stuck in a world which does a bit of both. Normal humans are second class citizens, with the police and a hooded vigilante looking after anyone magical.
Amelia’s got ties to this world beyond just accidentally ending up here. She also makes a golem out of tools and replaces her wand with a hammer. The series is brightly made, fairly chill in its world despite the darker tones of it all. Even though stylistically it doesn’t look like a Ghibli movie, it has that tone of a beautiful world that’s kind of sad and dangerous, with a lot more going on under the hood.
Is it any good?
Yeah. The story’s fairly simple but the world’s great, even the supporting characters are fun, the art’s lively and engaging.
Am I keeping it?
Probably, yes. I like it, but I’m not in a massive rush to continue with the books yet. I think I’m a few volumes behind but I’ve no idea how long it went on for or whether it even ended.