The appeal of fantasy is that we can escape from our worldly cares for a little while. But lizard-men and mages also have to find shelter and food, and in the world of Modern Fantasy, launching today from Dark Horse Comics, the world Sage of The Riverlands, our heroine, lives in, is suspiciously like our own. Sure, her best friend is a lizard and her roommate can do magic, but she has a work cube, a crap job, and her boss is a literal barbarian.
Rafer Roberts and Kristen Gudsnuk are fully aware this isn’t a new idea; the title literally refers to a genre that uses this trope all the time. What makes it work, though, is that it’s both a vehicle for wit and how carefully they navigate the fantasy genre. On one level, this is a classic fantasy story: A seeming nobody finds a mysterious object and goes on an adventure. It’s just that the evil wizards abduct people in windowless vans and trash your apartment instead of sending zombies after you. But on another level, her lizard sidekick is a gay weed dealer with a jerk of a boyfriend and her best friend is rapidly leaving her behind both economically and socially. Sage thinks she needs an adventure, but you can already tell it’s not going to go the way it usually does in a fantasy story.
Gudsnuk anchors it all with her cartooning. The book has a loose, indie-animation feel to it, but Gudsnuk loves mashing together stereotypical tropes and it emphasizes the comedy: Of course the seemingly imperious elves are hipsters. In all, in a week when a lot of great books are wrapping up, this is a nice entry into a new one worth reading.