Crucible # 1 by John Freeman and Smuzz (e-comic).

November 14, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

‘Crucible’ a new digital comic from the experienced hands of writer John Freeman (‘Doctor Who Magazine’, ‘Deaths Head’) and artist Smuzz (‘ABC Warriors’) has recently been released for iPad and via Scribd. It’s also being published in ‘STRIP: The Adventure Comics Magazine’. As independent creators work on the best channels to distribute their products, they also shouldn’t forget about how the story and artwork combine. Thankfully ‘Crucible’ has got both.


On the planet Shaarn, there was a huge war. Hundreds of years later, the inhabitants are still trying to pick up the pieces of that conflict. Enter Sylvana, a bad-ass, sword-swinging expeditioner who, despite recently having spent time inside for being a thief, is nonetheless hired by a priestess to undertake a dangerous quest. This will involve journeying into a Dwarven mine and little possibility of actually coming back…

The story feels more like a traditional sword and sorcery set-up, but it is clear that this is a society that has limited technology, that the huge war in the past wiped a lot of the futuristic devices out. In that way, the setting echoes one of Jack Vance or Gene Woolf’s ‘Dying Earth’ fantasies. Terms like ‘dwarf’ and ‘ork’ are used without anyone raising an eyebrow, but equally Shaarn has lots of new words that Freeman plays with, too, like ‘Shunks!’ It all adds up to a world that’s new and familiar at once, grounding the plot, but being surprising, too.

Smuzz’s artwork is great, defined by its thick black lines and organic curves, there a couple of panels that really help the ‘epic quest’ nature of the narrative stand out. The action scenes are also dynamic and the fights are fun. The look is bold and involving.

After reading this first issue, I hope that Freeman and Smuzz continue not only with a compelling story, but help to bring the characters out of their well-defined roles (cowardly mage, mysterious priestess, wise-cracking thief) and give us a fun take on some well-trodden subjects. I would argue though that there isn’t enough fantasy content in comics and mixtures of the genres such as ‘Saga’ have been well-received. It therefore feels like a great time for ‘Crucible’ to come along.

I would recommend giving ‘Crucible’ a try, it is involving, funny and different enough to warrant further investigation. I will be returning to Scribd to pick up the next issue soon. Comics, especially in Britain, could do with more projects like this, proving you don’t need to go the ‘2000AD’ route to get noticed and read. For that, Freeman and Smuzz should be applauded.

John Rivers

November 2013

(pub: Scribd. Digital 24 page comic. Price: £ 0.62 (UK), $ 0.99 (US))
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Category: Comics

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Comments (1)

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  1. John Freeman says:

    Thanks very much for the kind review. We’re working on Issue 2 now – day job means it will be out in December 2014. We’re hoping to publish four issues a year, depending on sales, of course.

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