Graphic Novel Second Quest Is A Frightening, Zelda-Inspired Fable

Illustration for article titled Graphic Novel iSecond Quest/i Is A Frightening, iZelda/i-Inspired Fable

The young girl in Second Quest will seem familiar to most video game lovers. Azalea explores ruins, collects artifacts and tries to uncover the mysterious hidden history of her floating fantasy homeland. But, halfway through the story, she throws away the ocarina, boomerang and slingshot she’s found. She needs to save her world but gets told that it needs to happen without the adventuring her souls calls out for. It’s heartbreaking.

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Successfully crowdfunded in 2012, Second Quest is a new graphic novel out from games critic Tevis Thompson and artist David Hellman. Its existence comes, in part, from a dissatisfaction with the way that The Legend of Zelda series has changed but the hardcover carves out its own niche away from the famous NIntendo series while invoking familiar Zelda elements.

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Illustration for article titled Graphic Novel iSecond Quest/i Is A Frightening, iZelda/i-Inspired Fable

First discovered while venturing into the forbidden ruins at the outskirts of town, Azalea’s special gift lets her view echoes of her world’s past.

Illustration for article titled Graphic Novel iSecond Quest/i Is A Frightening, iZelda/i-Inspired Fable

However, those visions contradict the glorious history that she’s being taught about, which paints her people as celestially chosen defenders of a virtuous way of life.

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Illustration for article titled Graphic Novel iSecond Quest/i Is A Frightening, iZelda/i-Inspired Fable

The actual past is much darker, though, and Azalea’s big crisis is choosing to follow her heart or suppressing her desires and playing along for the greater good.

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Illustration for article titled Graphic Novel iSecond Quest/i Is A Frightening, iZelda/i-Inspired Fable

There’s a quiet irony in the scenes where she’s watching boys train to be pretend warriors when she’s already proven herself to be braver than most anyone in her social circle. The tension between propaganda and suppressed truths changes the relationship between Azalea and her best friend Cale in a poignant way, as he seizes a chance to go from mocked outsider to “one of the guys”.

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Illustration for article titled Graphic Novel iSecond Quest/i Is A Frightening, iZelda/i-Inspired Fable

Second Quest uses the familiarity of the Legend of Zelda series as a springboard for a leap into a world that feels more nuanced and mature, complicating matters by folding in xenophobia, sexism and the big-lie compromises that society tells itself it has to swallow. Azalea’s hunger for adventure is presented as tied to a thirst for meaning in a broken world whose intolerance, ethnic cleansing and jingoistic state rituals gets sold as the Age of Harmony. She knows something’s wrong deep down inside but is scared off by the idea that digging deeper may unravel the only world she’s ever known. It’s weighty stuff, a contemplation on how the sadness of, say, Majora’s Mask is made manifest in the real world by stereotypes, bullying and harassment.

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Hellman’s art—familiar to anyone who’s played Braid—is rendered in thick wavy lines that reminded me of medieval illumination drawings and 15th Century woodcuts. He also makes great use of contrast, splashing neon colors and jewel tones over inky panels to invoke a sort of video game aesthetic. The odd-sized, off-grid panels and unconventional balloon placement in Second Quest force readers to work a little harder than they should when it comes to finding its way across the page, but something about this idiosyncrasy gives Second Quest a rough-hewn charm. It feels like your eyes are going on an adventure. The setting’s familiar but the exact path to get to the next page is unknown. It ends on a beautiful double-page spread where Azalea reckons with the gap between what she’s been told and what she can feel. Hellman and Thompson’s work in Second Quest comes across as a smart allegory on where gaming culture has been and where it is now.

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DISCUSSION

swordbreaker
SwordBreaker

Gotta admit, it’s the first time I catch wind of this graphic novel. It looks unbelivablely cool and right up my alley s a huge Zelda fan. However, I really dislike the kind of Zelda fan Tevis Thompson is.

His Kotaku article from a few years back was on Zelda needing to be saved, and it’s one of the very few articles which got me cringing as I read through it. It’s well written, but unfair, narrow-minded and self-entitled. Basically, he’s one of those people who only finds the original NES LoZ appealing, while dismissing the rest, including A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time, as streamlined or flawed for one reason or another. Whatever flaws modern Zelda games have, I really get annoyed when fans dismiss the evolutions and progression of the series and inflate the flaws as if they’re game breaking. I also do not like the tunnel vision mentality of finding the original NES Zelda superior because it lacks hand holding. I respect a classic as much as the next guy, but if you’re going to nitpick on modern Zelda games, you might as well rip the original LoZ a new one because it has aged terribly.

He also had the gall in claiming that Zelda should be like Dark Souls since the original LoZ has similar traits. They are two completely different series as the NES LoZ has traditional old school difficulty that a lot of NES games shared back in the day. This shouldn’t neccessarily carry over to subsequent Zelda games. Wheras the Dark Souls series embraced the concept of difficulty and stuck with it.

So yeah, in short, I have an issue with Tevis’ unfair opinions, but that won’t stop me from checking out this novel.