By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Available to Purchase on Amazon USA
“The Hunt is On” for Nie Jun’s Seekers of the Aweto. This herb heals any ailment a human has. Rumours say it also grants immortality, but only one out of many has that celestial ability. This plant grows on the heads of a chadolo, multi-coloured earth elementals and to remove it can incurs the wrath of Buddha. Locals believe they contain the soul of the soil that makes up the land, and they will do everything they can to save them.
Xinyue is a seeker of this plant since it’s his family’s business, but he’s something of a bard. He can play the drums and insects will swarm to him to do his bidding. They help him find an Aweto, but when he sees its alive and as cute as The Child in The Mandalorian, he can’t kill it, and nor can he see it get harmed. The adventure he has with it is as wild as the said Star Wars television show and the Asian flavour lays in how exotic this locale is.
When considering this young lad makes a promise to protect it, to dishonour this land deity can mean bad things for his afterlife. His elder brother Qiliu doesn’t care; The family trade is to locate and sell it to the highest bidder. Volume one sets up the conflict still to come–it’s him and the plant, or him and his brother. The matriarch believes he’ll do what’s right, and it’s no surprise she passes on in this tale. Nobody can dictate what he can do.
The wait for the next volumes to arrive will be tough. In an interview to The Beat (a comic book news site), this writer/artist said this work took many years to prepare. The narrative is no doubt imbued with the folklore of his birthplace–Xining, in the province of Qinghai, China. The fact it’s located along the path of the Silk Road also leans heavily to this tale. In the same token, he’s also written about how the forests are dying, giving way to the expanding Gobi desert, and how that hurts local trade. I’m hoping this author doesn’t go Dune on readers, tho’.
He’s at his best when sticking with folklore. In this work, I’m reminded of Geo Jianfu’s painting Cotton Roses and Mandarin Ducks. Jun’s skillful technique with the pen, brush and watercolours makes the pages leap out like a DreamWorks film.
The English translation was released months after the French edition and honestly, a quarterly or half-yearly release schedule isn’t possible. I don’t want this artist rush further development and suspect we may get a yearly schedule. Four books are planned, and I’m hoping for a hardcover compendium in 2024.