Katherine picks up her chopsticks to tuck into a generous portion of Rice Boy
What can I say about Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy? I could say that it’s the best webcomic I’ve ever read. I could say that it’s a surreal epic on a scale very few creators even attempt to cover. I could say that it’s captivating, charming, beautiful, moving, and utterly unique. I could say that if you don’t read it, you’ll be missing out on a rich and joyful experience that will expand your imagination.
(a page from Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy with a character who looks like he would be at home in a Jean Pierre Jeunet fantasy; (c) Evan Dahm)
I could say all that, but it wouldn’t be enough. I would need to tell you about the story: how the machine-man The One Electronic (T.O.E. for short) goes seeking for the one who will fulfil an ancient prophecy, and finds Rice Boy, a little white person with no arms or legs, and no particular desire to have a grand destiny. How Rice Boy travels from his home in the Matchwoods and meets Gerund, a nervous individual who, like Rice Boy, has a quest to fulfil, although Gerund would really rather not fulfil his. How the king of the frog-people was chosen to be the fulfiller before Rice Boy, but did none of the things the prophecy foretold, and instead became a vicious tyrant and bequeathed his tyranny to his son.
(its a tale of woe, loss and revenge best served cold… er, well, maybe room temperature; (c) Evan Dahm)
I would need to tell you about the world of the Overside; about the Lonely Land and its cursed water, which separates all who drink it from their companions and turns their speech into gibberish. About the Dorlish Wood, whose fruits are delicious but poisonous if eaten after dark. About Memoar, the enclosed garden where the memoryflowers grow, and where only those who bear the mark of Seen may enter; and about Seen itself, the legendary kingdom hidden far underground, if indeed it still exists at all.
I would need to tell you about the people: about Golgo the mercenary, who was once Angel-Eyes the seeker and the companion of The One Electronic, but now follows a darker path. About Calabash, who sought the fulfiller with Angel-Eyes and T.O.E. until he lost hope and lost his life with it. About Dolly, whose pink boots talk to her when she is alone. About Bor the Very Large (see below), who is very large but not very helpful.
I would need to tell you about the skill and care Dahm brings to every page: about the character designs reduced to the barest minimum of lines and yet still distinct and brimming with personality; about the bright and vibrant colours that make the Overside seem more vivid than the real world; about the dialogue that’s simple and down to earth and yet heightened in such a way that we’re never lulled into the belief that these characters are humans like us.
(great to see a fantasy that doesn’t take itself and fabled prophecies so darned seriously! A scene from Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy, (c) Evan Dahm)
I could tell you all of that, and it still wouldn’t be enough, because Rice Boy has to be seen to be believed. Evan Dahm has created something truly extraordinary: an instant classic. Go read it, and tell your friends.
Katherine Farmar writes regularly on comics and culture from around the world, you can read more on her comics blog Whereof One Can Speak.