Wingbearer is a children’s fantasy graphic novel published by HarperCollins Publishers under the Quill Tree Books imprint, written by Marjorie Liu, with art by Teny Issakhanian. Meet Zuli. She has had a rather unique upbringing. She has grown up amidst the branches of a magical tree that serves as the spirit haven for birds when they die. All her life, she has been surrounded by love and compassion as she has seen countless bird spirits arrive and leave as they are reborn anew. But then, one day, no spirits arrive. Nor were there any on the next either. Soon it was clear something was wrong. So Zuli takes it upon herself to venture into the outside world, discover what has become of the bird spirits, and perhaps learn a bit about who she is along the way.
From the moment Zuli leaves her sheltered home amidst the branches, Wingbearer delivers on the classic fantastical journey readers have loved ever since Tolkien sent a notable hobbit on an adventure to a lonely mountain. Author Liu does a wonderful job of blending the adventurous nature of the main story with fantastic themes like self-discovery, acceptance, and overcoming fears—all the sorts of messaging one loves to see in an excellently crafted children’s narrative.
This charming story is told against the backdrop of a fun magical world. While all the classic fantasy creatures make appearances—griffins, dragons, goblins, and the like—each is given a bit of a twist to their physiology or social habits. This provides each race with a fresh coat of paint for experienced fantasy fans to enjoy. However, Liu never implements any changes that are so drastic that it feels like the creature should’ve just been named something else.
At the heart of Wingbearer‘s story is Zuli. Liu provides the tale with a lovable protagonist with equal parts, determination, innocence, and hope. With no knowledge of the world beyond her home, or even who she is or where she came from, Zuli goes into her adventure with a charming amount of enthusiasm. She knows something important is happening, and she never takes her eyes off of that, but she also is in near-constant wonder at the marvels she experiences along the way.
While the story lays the foundation for this incredible journey, the art is what truly brings it to life. Artist Issakhanian does an amazing job of bringing Zuli and her world to the reader vibrantly and energetically. Everything from creature designs and emotional expression to the various environments teeming with magic is all brought to life in dazzling style on every page. Topped off with a gorgeous color scheme that perfectly captures all the charm and energy of the story, and you have an art presentation that I can find no faults in.
The final piece to this book’s presentation is the lettering. The default lettering flows with the visual style of the book beautifully. Combine this with some alternate styles for the dialogue boxes for internal dialogues, and you have a lovely final piece to the story’s visuals.
When all is said and done, Wingbearer delivers the opening phase of a journey overflowing with adventure, emotion, and charm. If the rest of this story can maintain the quality and fun this opening brings, this will be a story every child will want to experience.
Wingbearer is available on March 1st.
Wingbearer delivers the opening phase of a journey overflowing with adventure, emotion, and charm. If the rest of this story can maintain the quality and fun this opening brings, this will be a story every child will want to experience.