Verse Book One: A Forrest Review
I’ve found so many great webcomics over the years, thanks to websites like Hiveworks and WebToon. I'm pretty sure I found Verse on Hiveworks too, given that my physical copy from its Kickstarter has the Hiveworks logo on it, and it’s one of my top favorite comics to date!
Verse is a fantasy action/drama webcomic, written and illustrated by Sam Beck, from Toronto, Canada. The series is normally available entirely online, but after Beck’s successful Kickstarter campaign with the physical release of Book One, the webcomic is currently on hiatus and has been temporarily taken down while releasing Book One with Wonderbound Books.
I’m not sure when Verse will be back online from its hiatus, but I do know Book One will be available to buy in the fall of 2021.
Taken directly from Sam Beck’s website: Verse is a fantasy action/drama that follows Fife and Neitya, two kids who find themselves intertwined in mysteries and machinations much larger than themselves. A quest about navigating a dangerous and unpredictable world often means looking inwards to overcome the fears within.
Verse is absolutely gorgeous. The setting when Fife steps out of his home reminds me so much of Breath of the Wild and Ghibli aesthetic, but is entirely unique in Beck's own style. In this world, it was once full of magic, until little by little, magic suddenly disappeared. Only glimmers of magic are left, accessed as a skill through speaking, called Verse, a magic that is a far cry from what it once was.
Fife is a blacksmith in training, living in a small village with remnants of an old world still visible along the quiet farmland. Wanting to improve his skill, he sets out to the city to find a master who can teach him the ways of the Verse, to create even stronger weapons to fight against the Vel, the only creatures who still seem to have access to true magic, and who mindlessly kill humans.
The environments are engrossing in their style and detail, and even panels where there are no backgrounds, the colors and details in the characters are just sublime. You can tell that a lot of love went into the illustrations and characters.
On Fife’s journey to the city, he gets lost. A stranger he meets along the way gives him a spell to help him find his bearings and tells him the Verse to make it strong again once it
fades. But by the time Fife needs to use the spell on his own, he can’t remember it. As he’s speaking the Verse (more like stumbling through it), something strange happens to the amulet around his neck. The amulet snaps and
a girl suddenly appears, but is she even human? She has horns, like a Vel. She doesn’t know where she is, where she’s from, she only knows her name: Neitya. Fife decides to bring her along on his journey, to try and help her find these answers.
I love the worldbuilding in Verse: the runes used are unique and yet somehow familiar: in fact because they are based on the English alphabet. I’d love to learn more about the Verse itself, and what the Vel really are. These haven’t quite been answered yet in Book One, and it only leaves me wanting more.
Neitya is strong willed and, even without knowing about the world around her, isn’t afraid to trudge headfirst, only being held back by Fife as he tries to protect her from people who wouldn’t understand her condition.
Fife himself feels like a coward, and maybe he is: he’s a crafter, not a fighter, but he’s trying his best given the situation he’s in. I really love that Beck isn't afraid to show each character's flaws in full force, rather than make them out to be perfect heroes one so often sees in popular media. It feels very real and relatable.
There’s still so much to learn about the characters! Fife and Neitya wind up involved in a resistance group, introducing a slew of new characters, all of whom we only get glances into who they are as people so far, but each of them with interesting personalities and, of course, flaws! Book One ends on a massive cliffhanger, and as I’ve already said: I’m left wanting more!
If you can get your hands on a copy of the physical book, it has some fun, interesting extra pages about the world, and even shows the Verse alphabet. The picture above shows a bit about the Vel, which truly are terrifying creatures that seem to have no conscious mind or desire other than to kill whoever is in front of them. Humans are rightly horrified by them.
The softcover book is of great quality. At 6x9, it's a cute size, and surprisingly roomy, but to be honest I worry I'm going to damage the spine if I stretch it too far to view the pages closer to the center. This doesn't bother me too much, as I'm still able to see everything on the page without damaging the book itself. I suppose all softcover books are like that, though. :p
I always love getting my virtual hands on a webcomic, but Verse was truly meant to be in graphic novel form. Every panel shines on the page, and it's a treat to see the color palette Beck uses for pages side by side. Very cohesive and pleasing to the eye.
If you get the chance to read Verse, I highly recommend it. I'm very excited to see where the story goes. Book One is a splendid start into a unique fantasy adventure, with plenty of questions to answer in the future. I give it 4.8/5 stars.
You can find Sam Beck here: