The hero’s journey has a steady progression, and once they hit the road, destiny is just supposed to take over. So, what if you’re the hero -you’re packed, a wizard has thrust you out of your door - and you just head back? Like after one night on the road, you just don’t keep going, the lure of the Elves or the promise of a better world is not enough to push you through the discomfort and turn your eye away from the cozy, little shop that you know and love? This is where the premise of Potions, Inc. begins: Ran, the eldest child of two potion shop owners, has begun many adventures, but everyone knows that he’ll usually be back quickly. Soon enough, though, something arises that will finally push him out of that door.
From that point on, the hero’s journey does come in more forcefully, but having the much larger on-ramp pulls us out of anything cliché or tropey. Erik Burnham uses this unique beginning to take that journey apart, letting us see it from a different perspective. It’s a shift that renews the power of the story, where the expected is made special. Burnham also works a masterstroke with crafting superior world-building that takes a dramatic hook in the second issue and ties together a touch of the prologue that opens a wonderful door that I won’t spoil here, but is handled lovingly.
I am in love with the character design with this story, not just because of the featuring of a person with vitiligo but for the detail given within the three families that center in the story. The small details linking family members while carrying their own distinctiveness is a wonderful balancing act. The artwork of Stelladia has an evocative style, with broad and open strokes elevating the reality of the world. There’s a setup that works with the hook that I mentioned above, and the style subtly shifts in a way that reinforces the narrative beautifully. There are some clues in the styling of certain characters, as well, that make even more sense on reads two and three. The choices are made with incredible intention so that when it hits the reader, it opens the whole of the story on a different level.
This story hit me in a very specific spot, the playfulness of the fantasy and melding with the something special that I’ve been dancing around throughout this piece just opens the door to fun. As much as this is the hero’s journey, this is a joy ride, letting the reader sit back and simply enjoy the narrative. It still pushes some interesting topics, but it lets you come to it, rather than dragging you through it whether you’re ready or not. This is subtle storytelling at its best, allowing the reader to take the pace as they will and work with the story. It made me smile many times, and I think that fans of Taika Watiti, Dr. Suess, and anyone else who likes to turn a story on its side to see how things slide across the page will have an absolute blast with Potions, Inc.
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Creative Team: Erik Burnham (Writer), Stelladia (Artist), Natasha Alterici (Cover Artist), Micah Myers (Letterer)
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
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