Dragon Heir Reborn – Emma Vieceli’s epic quest taken from the top…..
By Emma Vieceli (additional script by Andrew Ruddick)
A couple of years ago I reviewed Emma Vieceli’s Dragon Heir Volume 1 (issues 1-6 of the series). It’s Emma’s labour of love, her first-born, her most personal series, the thing she comes back to whenever she’s time around the commercial work she’s getting (which, these days, given that she’s quite rightly, extremely popular and busy, is less and less).
And although I enjoyed it, I had qualms about it:
“I started reading Dragon Heir Volume 1 and found myself utterly lost in a too complicated plot and interchangeable characters. But I sat up with it late one night and just read on, having to really concentrate to keep up with it through the first couple of issues. But then something strange happened around the halfway point. Suddenly I was actually enjoying it….. Confusion was gone and in it’s place was a desire to get to the end, to see it through and to find out what happened to them all. I can safely say that Emma’s Dragon Heir won me over.”
“I really think that the main problem with those initial episodes is that they were done many years ago…. And as such, they should have been no more than try-outs, first attempts at the story that she would develop when she was old enough and skilled enough to make it work properly.”
Well, it seemed Emma had been thinking exactly the same:
“Dragon Heir was my first comic project, started back when I joined Sweatdrop. It is ongoing and currently runs up to 9 issues. …. However, the original pages had begun to show their age. I am currently working to smarten up and rework the first 5 issues to bring some cohesion to the series, and that’s what you’re seeing here. Dragon Heir: Reborn.”
And that’s the book we have here. And although I don’t have those original issues or that first collection to hand, I can safely say that any qualms I had on that fist reading are dispelled within the first few pages.
It’s so much more polished right from the off, the art is tight and stylish, in Emma’s beautiful Manga style, and the story flows quite effortlessly with characters who are instantly distinguishable (so much so that Emma’s sensibly left out the character bios that proves indispensable last time round). Doing a complete rework of those first 5 issues may have been a big job, but it’s definitely worth it.
(The Ritual of Transcendence and the origins of The Dragon Heirs revealed. From Dragon Heir Reborn by Emma Vieceli)
Dragon Heir Reborn includes all 9 issues (to date) of Dragon Heir, and once more I found myself plunged into the Manga saga of four White Dragons, four Black Dragons, of Key Bearers and Spirit Binders and much, much more. But this time I was straight into the excitement of this quest saga. This re-worked Dragon Heir Reborn does pretty much everything right – it’s thrilling, exciting, a page turner and full of immediately recognisable, beautifully drawn characters and scenes.
Dragon Heir Reborn features a small cast of characters on a classic quest to fulfill their destiny as the four human vessels chosen to take aspects of the dragon spirit; Wisdom, Protection, Fury and Empathy. These four should come together at the chosen time, their dragon spirits bound by the Spirit Binder, sent by Spiratu him/herself; who will transport the completed soul up to Spiratu and the ritual of transcendence can take place.
(Two of the Dragon Heirs; Protus and Furose, the spirits of Protection and Fury respectively. From Dragon Heir Reborn by Emma Vieceli)
But something has gone amiss, instead of four, there are eight Dragon Heirs, four form the white dragon, the others form the black dragon, a terrible mistake and one that threatens the ritual. Just as I said the first time round, how much you enjoy this probably depends on your willingness to simply go with it, although Emma’s reworked story and existing strength to tell a believable and grounded tale within this high fantasy setting, make it very, very easy to get deeply involved in the story, thriling to the ups and downs of the quest, sharing with the Dragon Heirs all of the dangers and unexpected diversions along the way.
Emma’s art in Dragon Heir Reborn is just simply classy. There’s barely a line out of place. It’s sparing, simply stylish work, full of emotion, great body language, exaggerated action and just plain pretty to look at. She’s developed so much as a storyteller in the years between the original Dragon Heir and this Dragon Heir Reborn and it’s a thrill to see her return to the story and rework those earlier pages with all the style and skill she has now.
(And Kalm makes a third Dragon Heir – he’s the spirit of Empathy. And Furose may just kill him before the end of the story if he keeps doing that. From Dragon Heir Reborn by Emma Vieceli)
My only real problem with Dragon Heir Reborn? Just the same as with Dragon Heir the first time around. At the end of this book, with the end of issue 9, we’re deep into the story, the Dragon Heirs are in terrible danger, the prophecy hangs desperately in the balance and everything seems lost. And that’s the end of book 1 – big cliffhanger. (Hopefully those tiny spoilers haven’t put you off).
And I have no idea when I’ll be seeing issue 10. Emma’s currently hard at work on Vampire Academy and The Avalon Chronicles and The Thrill Electric with Moore & Reppion. Her success is a measure of her skill as an artist and a great visual storyteller, something very apparant from this reworking of her earliest story. Yet the more successful she is, the more work she gets, the further away it pushes the conclusion to Dragon Heir.
It’s a frustration to think I may be waiting some time to find out how it all turns out, to work out how Emma resolves the mess Protus, Kalm, Lyntra, Furose and the rest find themselves in. I hope it’s soon, I really do, because Dragon Heir Reborn is a great adveture, and in this reworked form, Emma has given her first born work the polish and exquisite artwork it so richly deserved.