In this week’s installment of Webcomics Wednesday, we’re taking to the sea! Marina Julia’s supernatural tale, The House on the Cliff, takes place in a picturesque oceanside town, sharply divided by the actions of one woman. Long ago, a witch emerged from the waves, bringing along her ample powers, as well as a team of golems—made out of sand and unable to speak—to do her bidding. With magic and these helpers, the witch quickly restored an old, ramshackle house on a cliff overlooking the sea and ensconced herself there, sending her golems to town to (clumsily) conduct business on her behalf.
Though a good arrangement for the witch, the townspeople are not as satisfied. The huge, hulking golems are a little scary, and they unwittingly leave messes (at best) and ruination (at worst) in their wake. Our two protagonists, Galo and Sunny—each with a smidgen of magical ability—are frustrated by the town’s golem-induced, simmering unrest. When the pair deescalates altercations with their magic, they gain the ire of their fellow citizens, who are hungry for a fight.
Daring Sunny is fed up with the conflicts, so she comes up with a plan: Surely the witch would be amenable to a conversation, and if it’s just the golems causing the problems, then keeping the golems at home would solve everything, right? Though talking it out sounds simple enough, they first have to get into the witch’s house—no easy feat, especially since she’s very cagey about visitors.
They sneak up to the house, get inside, and even escape a magical trap, but Sunny and Galo’s salvation comes in the unlikeliest of packages: a little girl, Pala, who lives with the witch, whose name, they learn, is Sonya. Since Sunny rescued Pala during a particularly violent tussle downtown, the amiable little girl is able to convince Sonya to listen to Sunny and Galo’s plan.
Pala, however, isn’t quite what she seems, and Sonya is incredibly protective of her. It’s clear from Pala’s appearance that she’s something not quite human. Further, swirling rumors of sea dragons who walk among humans suggest the true source Sonya’s power. Snippets of backstory appear every so often. In the most recent posts, the compelling story of Sonya’s childhood begins to emerge.
The story is currently moving at a nicely languorous pace, which is beautifully matched by Julia’s artwork. Her lush colors and exaggerated figures, recalling the work of both Miyazaki and Paul Pope, fill out fantastic atmospheric scenes with dynamic movement, expressive gestures, diverse skin tones and body shapes, and slight cartoonish touches that recall manga. The jewel-toned palette and muted, saturated hues are just lovely, and the pleasantly jumbled compositions, full of half-overheard conversations and onomatopoeic sound effects, beautifully establish the bustling seaside town.
With warm, captivating artwork; lovable, occasionally bumbling protagonists; and some intriguing secrets, this webcomic is one to watch. (I, for one, can’t take my eyes off the art). The House on the Cliff updates on Mondays.