Is'Nana the Were-Spider Volume 1
Volume 1 of Is’Nana the Were-Spider is divided into two stories. First, “Forgotten Stories”, which begins in media res focuses on an episode of Is’Nana and his battles in our world against one of the horrors his travels to our world have loosed. Is’Nana, a part human/part spider hero, travels the world of humans, helping where he can with his father, Anansi the Spider God in tow. After rescuing a young woman from a mugger, Is’Nana and Anansi are alerted to the presence of Osebo the Leopard, an escaped ‘horror’ from the Mother Kingdom. Osebo has possessed a man, and in the ensuing battle we learn that Is’Nana is not a killer by nature, and prefers finding “another way.” Victorious, Is’Nana and Anansi stay behind to help the man recuperate, becoming friends with him in the process.
The second chapter, “Prologue”, takes us back to the Mother Kingdom to witness Is’Nana’s travel to our world. It is revealed that Anansi, the great trickster god, has gone missing, and the denizens of the Mother Kingdom debate whether or not to go looking for him. Meanwhile, Anansi’s rebellious and slightly out-of-step son, Is’Nana, visits an old foe of his father, Witch Mistress Five, who tells Is’Nana that Anansi has been trapped in another world. She offers to send Is’Nana to rescue his father by sending him on a journey via a connective web between worlds because, without Anansi, the Mother Kingdom will perish. Is’Nana goes, naturally, but in the process disrupts a number of portals and barriers, allowing creatures from his world to travel to ours as well. After freeing Anansi and the discovery of the Horrors, the two vow to stay in our world to repair the damage done.
Mythologies all the world over provide connective tissue to the culture for which they exist. That is to say that the mythos created in any society is not done so flippantly or without purpose. These myths serve to teach us something—sometimes less obvious than others—about who we are, who we came from, and who we could become. In many ways, that lies at the heart of Anderson-Elysee’s work. Is’nana is a story about stories. Not just stories, however, but dominantly forgotten stories. Anderson-Elysee dives into a world of African myths that have only recently been given much if any attention in the Western world. Thanks to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and the subsequent television adaption, Anansi has some footing in our world already, but there is a sense of isolation. “We have Anansi, so now we understand African mythos.” I cannot speak to the survivability of these texts in African culture but in the US, these certainly feel like forgotten stories that Anderson-Elysee is breathing new life into with his project.
The artistic center to Is’nana is certainly deeply rooted in stories and representation, but the stylistic mode migrates more towards the genre of horror comics. Ostlie’s art reflects this connection to horror in a number of profound moments throughout the chapter. In the initial moment of meeting Osebo, as he silently approaches his prey, we see the jagged, ragged panels and the broken bars of music that one can imagine as a screeching violin score. The distance and horror of the perspective seem beautifully fitting. We are running with this man, whom we do not know, from something we do not understand. All in all, an excellent example of how the visual narrative can fully drive a horror comic without resorting to gore. Milewski’s art in “Prologue”, by contrast, is a much softer tone for a very different type of story. Instead of harsh black lines, there is a dreamlike quality to the time spent in the Mother Kingdom with lighter outlines and brighter, more vibrant colors.
It feels like my time with Is’nana was far too short and I look forward to revisiting this world again soon. As a community, a fandom, it is important for us to seek out and support projects that foster a positive expression of art and life beyond the mere escapist fantasy sought by many.
Forgotten Stories: Reviving an African Mythos in a New World
Writing - 10/1010/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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