Webcomic Trek: Saffron & Sage

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Welcome to Webcomic Trek, a review series that focuses on webcomics. My name is David Davis and I am the author of a couple of comics and published writer. I love webcomics and I love sharing my thoughts about them. So, what webcomic are we tackling this time around?

Saffron & Sage is a fantasy comedy written by Daniel Kelly. The comic has had a couple of artists thus far: Sofia “Sabu” Lopez handled chapters 1-3 (with flat colors by Threnody JG!) and Carlos Ruiz serves as the current artist.

The comic follows the quest of Saffron Saldarriaga as she seeks out her kidnapped crush, Prince Faunus, a figure of mystery. She is accompanied by Sage, a fox-like creature, and several other companions on her adventures.

Saffron & Sage is part of the SpiderForest webcomic network and updates just about each week. It’s a general audience sort of comic.

What works with Saffron & Sage?

The story of Saffron & Sage is not very revolutionary in that it is a quest to rescue a person of royale personage. It’s a trope that has been done many times before and will be done many times again. Tropes are not bad unless they are executed poorly, however, and Saffron & Sage is definitely not poorly executed. The comic uses this initially basic impetus to adventure to play to its true strength: character work and humor. The characters in Saffron & Sage, all very much named with puns, are what kept me reading. They are all well defined and over time they have developed appropriately across five episodes. It also helps that these characters are funny. Saffron‘s frustration is palpable and identifiable, Coriander is an arrogant but loveable figure, and Sage is a bit of a 4th wall-breaker. The standout, however, is Liri, the adventurous former priestess.

Structurally speaking, the comic is episodic in the purest sense. Each episode, while directly following the previous, stands as its own as a singular story. It’s nice and tidy and allows the reader to take a break between stories should they need to. Though the comic is easily bingeable, as it does not have a huge archive compared to some longer-running webcomics, it is a comic that can be rewarding to read week to week. It helps that each page, generally, ends with some form of a joke or a sense of progression. Things don’t seem to drag, which can be an unfortunate side effect of comics that have larger, overarching storylines. The comic is just a pleasure to read and the pacing feels pretty on point.

Saffron & Sage is a comic that has benefitted from having two distinct art styles in its run. Both styles contribute to the overall quality of the comic and the artists have differing strengths and weaknesses. What remains consistent, however, is the strength of the character designs. Even in a switch between artists, the characters are still visually true to their first appearances with a natural sort of evolution that comes with design adjusting and outfit changes. One strength seen in both artists is the willingness to engage in backgrounds. Backgrounds, for me at least, are one of the toughest parts of illustrating a comic and it is often tempting to just throw the fun bits, like characters, into a void. Saffron & Sage avoids this, however. The background work does a lot to polish an already solid presentation.

As a whole package, Saffron & Sage is a great example of what a basic webcomic experience should be. The site features all the important and relevant information needed. It also provides a good variety of extra content, and the creative team is within reach. Essentially, what I am getting at here is that, for me, webcomics live or die by the value that they generate. Webcomics need to provide an experience beyond stories and art to look at. Things like author personalities, little content experiments, and social media are important to the experience of a webcomic. So, as an experience, Saffron & Sage is a great example of the little things all webcomics should be doing.

What could use some work?

Sometimes the experience of the comic can feel a little meta and winks a little too much at the audience. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it is invitational and makes readers feel apart of the experience in a unique way. For me, it’s a personal preference where winks and nods do take me out of the story, even if the story is a bit silly on the outset. It is a situation where I feel the characters and setting are strong enough to where gags can build naturally, from the world, rather than tapping into the well of references.

That is not to say references are a no-go, on the contrary, a well-done reference can hit hard. It’s just my own preference that comics build gags around their world rather than references to our own.

The Verdict

Saffron & Sage is a webcomic that is well worth your time and is a great addition to any webcomic reading list. With some exceptions, each page generally has a gag or story moment and makes the comic a good week to week choice, rather than something to binge here and there.

Verdict: Add it to your bookmarks

Please be sure to give Saffron & Sage a look. If you have a webcomic that you would like reviewed, please contact me on twitter (@hpkomic) or you can drop a link in the comments on this review.