Now, I’m a little allergic to hard-line genre distinctions, but bear with me as I dip my toe into the topic of webcomics categories, since it’s particularly pertinent for this week’s Webcomics Wednesday pick. Of course there are exceptions, but generally, webcomics fall into one of the following: gag strips, journal comics, and cohesive fictional narratives. What makes Aatmaja Pandya’s Travelogue so delightful is her playful combination of journal comics and fiction, which come together beautifully in this peripatetic story of a trio of wizards traveling far from home.
Nana, a tiny, tousle-haired wizard is traveling the land with a pair of companions, Emerene and Adi (and Adi’s goat, Princess), solving magical problems from town to town. Pandya provides little glimpses into Nana’s journey with Emerene and Adi, and together those glimpses begin to shape a soft-focus vision of their world and the magic they use to protect it.
Insights about the nature of the world and the characters emerge sidelong from conversations about everyday topics, like clothes, food, and travel. The sense of timing is a bit muddled, but that only serves to emphasize the languorous, wandering pace of the story. Nana is powerful, with the ability to speak to elements of nature and compel them to do things, and as the wizards arrive in various towns during their travels, the villagers show their appreciation with gifts and gratitude.
As much as this story is about wizards performing magic in a fantasy world, however, it’s also about the joys and hardships of traveling. Nana, whose narrative appears as voiceovers in boxed text, revels in each new discovery of a beautiful place, as well as the incremental growth of friendship among the travelers.
Pandya cultivates this gently magical atmosphere with snapshot-like scenes, a warm, jewel-toned palette, and softly cartoonish, diverse characters. She regularly overlaps the edges of panels, which not only pleasantly jumbles the sense of timing but adds to the personal, confessional tone of Nana’s narrative. Documenting tiny moments as they arrive rather than a grandly-realized plot and action is both a serene storytelling gambit and a fascinating way to foster a deep sense of enchanting mystery, especially once Nana has a particularly confounding, and perhaps prophetic, dream.
With immersive world-building, a leisurely pace, and gaze-worthy artwork, this is a webcomic to sink into. Pandya has been updating a bit sporadically at the moment, but her inviting world and captivating images make being patience worth it.