The best webcomic you aren’t reading
Unsounded, by Ashley Cope is a long running fantasy webcomic that updates 3 times a week. It features full colour professional quality artwork and has a deep, engaging story and characters. And since it is only advertised by word of mouth, chances are you are completely unaware of it.
The artwork in webcomics in general is no longer as dire as it used to be in the early days, but even from the beginning the professionalism of the artwork quality in this title has stood head and shoulders above it’s peers, and like many webcomics the artwork has improved in the course of the telling, but already having started from a very high standard it has only grown more intricate and detailed.
The page you see above is not exceptional, all of the artwork in the story is on the level of a high quality European album.
Unsounded stars Duane Adelier and Sette Frumaggem. Sette is a young girl with a tail and a temper, a bratty thieving little goblin that many readers find hard to relate to. Duane is apparently a more engaging sort. A well spoken, civilized wizard tasked with protecting this little sharp toothed brat.
That is, until you find out he’s a zombie. A member of the living dead. A revenant. An ex-wizard, pining for the fjords. With an unfortunate hunger for the flesh of the living, that he mostly keeps under control.
How Duane came to find himself in this predicament is only one of the many plot threads that are eventually revealed in this unfolding story.
Aside from the two main protagonists, a varied cast of characters joins them as the story progresses.
Mathis and Matty Quigley and Uaid
Father and son, the Quigleys are fleeing from Duane’s mother country of Alderode. Silver haired “Plats” belonging to one of the castes of Alderode known for their magical talent and drastically shortened lifespan. Matty’s mother created Uaid, a giant golem made out of the corpse of a baby ogre from the old world.
Emil Toma and Elka
A couple of Crescian “FBI agents” working directly for the Queen of Cresce, Alderode’s big continental rival. Toma is a country boy married to a big city aristocrat after a heroic rescue. Elka is a no-nonsense battlemage.
Lady Ilganyag and Murkoph
From the ethereal realm of the Khert where the memories of the past and future dead are stored these two strange creatures observe our protagonists. Murkoph is a sadistic and violent zombie, perhaps something similar to Duane himself. Ilganyag is a mysterious senet beast, last of her kind or perhaps a unique creation.
Bastion Winalils and the Black Tongues
Bastion is a member of the Black Tongues, a brotherhood of mysterious mage-scientists dedicated to pursuing their scientific endeavors with no regard for laws or, in some cases, ethics. They worship and derive inspiration from Lady Ilganyag
The Frummagem family
Sette’s Da, Nary-a-care is the boss of the Frummagem crime family of Sharteshane, a Dickensian dog-eat-dog dystopia. Sette idolizes her Da but it’s not clear if he values her or not. Other members of the family include the two hitwomen Anadyne and Knock, enforcers for Stockyard Frummagem, Sette’s cousin.
Before time itself the gods created the Senet beasts. Immortal and unchanging, they are like living sketches of the life that would come later. Once the current world was started they slowly began to die off, some because they could no longer exist in the new world at all, others killed off by the new creatures that came to be – Humans.
The Khert and the First World
A kind of magical operating system that sorcerers “Wrights”, for “spellwrights” can access by speaking in formal language, allowing them to alter reality by swapping metadata of objects, such as heat or momentum
The Twin gods and Ssael
There are two main religions on the continent, The Gefendur religion believes in a double set of twin creator gods who are responsible for creating both the first world of the Senet beasts and the current human world that replaced it. By contrast, Duane’s religion believes Ssael, a human fought those same Gods after his death, killed them and replaced them in heaven. As can be imagined, this does not go down well with believers of the main religion on the continent.
Sharteshane Alderode and Cresce
The three main nations of the continent of Kassline where the story takes place
Cresce: A magitech matriarcal communist utopia that works, at least on the surface. The state provides for all and with zombie labour increasing productivity and vast deposits of primary materials powering magical appliances and an army of giant robot “constructs”
Sharteshane: Sette’s home is a dog-eat dog libertarian hellhole where might makes right and commerce is the only law. Strongest naval power on the continent.
Alderode: Duane’s nation of origin is a northern state divided in 6 castes and two main religions. A unique magical environment creates strains of humans with varied hair colours and pigmentations, whose lifespans and affinity to magic vary depending on which caste they belong to
The world of Kasslyne where Unsounded takes place is one of the most carefully put together examples of world-building you will find in modern fantasy. A product of decades of online role play and experimentation by it’s author, it holds together in a way almost no other fantasy world does. Fans can enjoy reading the accompanying wiki or bugging the author on social media for answers to their questions, or they can read the comic and piece clues together as more pieces of the puzzle are revealed.
Unsounded can be read in it’s entirety for free here, at the official site. There is also a patreon which gives access to higher resolution pages, extra art and occasionally special perks like including your own characters as extras in the story (They will most likely die horribly though). Print volumes with extras have also been released through kickstarter campaigns, although volume 2 is currently out of print.