What ‘Estranged’ lacks in substance, it makes up in a strong visual style

PHOTO PROVIDED “Estranged” by writer/illustrator Ethan M. Aldridge, with lettering by Jim Tierney, can be found at your local comic shop.

For my annual back-to-school article, I’ve chosen the nifty little “Estranged” by writer/illustrator Ethan M. Aldridge, with lettering by Jim Tierney. This fun, quick read is superbly rendered in watercolor, which brings the depth of drama to the page. Fortunately, what it’s lacking in story is expertly achieved in the visual department.

Childe is the human child switched at birth to be raised as one of the fae. He is but a set piece, to be viewed in the high court as so much decoration. His swapped fae counterpart, Edmund, resides in a city raised by a family who doesn’t know him very well. Things are about to change.

Childe’s family is in the middle of some vicious familial upheaval, and Edmund’s, too, as he seems to have accidentally set his sister on fire. The trials of adolescence run deep, both above and below Earth’s surface, and they are about to collide.

While Childe and his page Whick are thrust into political subterfuge below ground, their only hope is in the fae parents’ real child above-ground Edmund. They know none else, and the fact that he is just now starting to manifest his powers makes him the right choice. Edmund himself is harassed by bullies (seemingly on the regular) for being different, though they don’t know the half of it.

Both boys are making a run for it when they stumble upon each other, and soon some interesting swapping of their own commences. It doesn’t take long before hordes of nasties from Childe’s realm sniff the boys out, forced to flee, now with Edmund’s older sister in tow. There is trouble afoot, and the four of them must make short work out of those willing to wreak havoc upon Childe’s world.

What follows is epic high fantasy, yet is lacking a little. Not that Estranged isn’t fantastic in it’s own right, maybe it’s enough for the 8-12 age group that it’s geared towards, but I’m thinking that kids these days are smarter than this. Or maybe the publishing machine is smarter than it knows.

Aldridge’s watercolor and line art are awe-inspiring at some points, and there’s so much to take in on each page. Tales could be spun about the briefest of scenes.

What worked well enough for a graphic novel (with more, to be sure — lots of foreshadowing) could have been golden as a limited comic book series. There is so much to be fleshed out as characters, story, and setting, one can only hope for more.

Estranged can be found at bookstores and your local comic shop.