BOOM Studios!, 2019, 3 volumes (128 pages each)
In the aftermath of an apocalypse which wiped out nearly all magic from a once-wondrous fantasy world, a former bard named Hum (a man of few words, so nicknamed because his standard reply is “hm”) seeks a way to save the soul of his wife with nothing but a foul-tempered mutant unicorn and his wits to protect him…but is unwillingly drawn into a brutal power struggle which will decide forever who rules the Weird Wasteland.
Coda starts with a familiar story: Witchlords broke the world, and their minions are now running about in the ruins while people try to survive in this crapsack fantasy post-apocalypse.
This was once a traditional high fantasy world, with elves ("Ylfs"), orcs ("Urken"), dragons, goblins, wizards, unicorns, all the usual shit.
The great war brought about The Quench, in which all the oceans vanished, magic became a scarce resource (collected in green liquid form called "Akker"), and the Ylfs, immortal beings who were once a source of magic, were completely wiped out.
The Urken, however, are not the usual mindless spear-fodder their trope would imply. They actually gathered in a great world-conquering army because they wanted a utopia — a utopia for Urken, anyway. When they found out the witchlords had lied to them, they became broken as a race. Most of them passively accepted the retribution delivered upon them by the world's survivors. The remainder are raiders or mercenaries, mostly resembling the stereotype.
Hum, the protagonist (let's not call him a "hero") was once a bard. He's a wanderer who will have no part of any heroics or trying to fix things or save people. The world is shite and he's just trying to survive like everyone else... even if it means lying, cheating, stealing, and betraying people who have relied on him. Post-Quench, he's a man on a mission to save his wife, who was (so he tells the folks who ask in the first few issues), "taken by the Urken."
His trusty steed is foul-mouthed five-horned mutant pentacorn who is possibly the second baddest critter in the post-apocalypse.
As it turns out, Hum is not being precisely honest. (Hum is never precisely honest.)
His wife, Serka, actually is an Urken.
She's pretty hot, too. When she isn't periodically running off into the wastelands to go on a berserk rampage because she was reminded of what she did, and what her people were tricked into doing.
When she's not berserk, she's sensible, compassionate, very (inexplicably) fond of Hum, and still a death-dealing combat machine who's the only thing scarier than Hum's pentacorn, or a reanimated dragon.
Coda was a 12-issue limited series, now collected in three trade paperback volumes, and I highly recommend it. Besides the spectacular (if sometimes eye-bleedingly garish) art, it's a complete story with endearing and despicable characters, Big Bads, big betrayals, grand quests (Hum hates the "Q" word), redemption arcs, and a genuinely touching finale.
Matias Bergara draws this epic fantasy world in a style reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi, and the entire series has much of that feel. For a story with thieves, bards, paladins, fighters, wizards, bandits, goblins, giants, mermaids, and more magical macguffins than you can shake a vial of Akker at, it turns every trope sideways at least a little, and makes each one fresh. It's one of my favorite comic series this year.
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