Simon Wyatt mines at the rich vein of Welsh folklore to deliver a gripping coming-of-age tale of a boy caught up in the magical history of Wales. Life was same-old, same-old for orphaned boy Ben Ellis living in Bryn Boncath – a paternal fondness for his “bampi” (grandfather), a fear of his bullying uncle and a crush on the new girl in the street. The 13-year-old’s carefree head is filled with bampi’s stories of folklore – like how the Welsh dragon rose up to stop an invasion – but fantasy bleeds into reality when mythical creatures are spotted around the close-knit community.
The strangeness stems from the past and precedes the footsteps of the villain “Cracky” Caradog, who has his eye set on Ben, chosen to be the protector of nature.
Told in the past tense of an autobiographical letter, don’t expect all the answers – including the mystery of the eye-catching title – to be revealed in this first volume.
There are plenty of questions asked to grip you for the next instalment, but enough answered to further the plot. It comes across as a more innocent variant of Gary Spencer Millidge’s Strangehaven.
The black-and-white art is gorgeous, its charcoal quality perfectly suited to the subject matter and setting, feeling earthy and organic. Lettering duties by Nic Wilkinson are also due credit. Sound effects are shaped to match the art of spiralling crows or the tumble of a thrown dagger. Most importantly, it is all legible and clean – the biggest hurdle in stories told through the slant of handwritten letters which can sometimes be too much of a strain to read.
Wyatt’s work was last seen by Starburst as part of a collaboration anthology by Welsh comic creators called 10thology. The partnership continues, in part, with a brief cameo from Jamie Lambert and David Clifford’s Dexter’s Half Dozen during a dragon hunt.
Unbelievable is a rare, gorgeous find in the world of independent comics and clearly a labour of love for Wyatt who has sweated over every panel on top of crafting an engaging story before summoning the drive to see it published. At times whimsical and innocent, at others innovative in its art, Unbelievable is worth your money.
Unbelievable: The Man Who Ate Daffodils is out now from Markosia Enterprises Ltd