Review: The Water Spirit: Gamayun Tales Book 2 (Nobrow Press)

This follow up to last year’s the King of Birds, this sees Alexander Utkin continue to adapt Russian folk tales into the kind of sumptuous graphic novels you can only get from Nobrow Press.


Publisher: Nobrow Press
Writer: Alexander Utkin
Artist: Alexander Utkin
Price: £12.99 from Nobrow.net


Following on from the events of The King Of Birds, the merchant of that story continues his journey home carrying a golden box which he is told not to open – which he inevitably does and is greeted with a palace of luxury. But when he throws some rubbish out the window and into a nearby lake he incurs the wrath of the formidable water spirit and in doing so ends up making a deal with him which sees his life change forever.

Even if you haven’t read the previous volume you can dive head long into the world of The Water Spirit as it has that classic folk tale vibe to it, mixing morality tale and folklore into a perfect package. Utkin’s writing captures that lyrical quality of a classic folktale but without it getting muddled and feeling old fashioned, instead it has a very fresh and contemporary feel to it (but without it feeling modernised). In other words it feels almost timeless, which is surely the hallmark of a near perfect adaptation.

The artwork is truly sublime throughout and mixes a soft Studio Ghibli style with the lush painted colours of a bande desinée. The colours are warm and rich in the palace and then mixed with blues and greens for the aquatic world of the water spirit giving everything a very organic and textured feel to the pages – they feel like they could be printed on parchment, not just on the lovely paper stock you come to expect from a Nobrow release. His character designs for the water spirit are both terrifying and quirkily strange at the same time, making him look like a mixture between Swamp Thing and a Battletoad – our second Swamp Thing comparison of the week!

With it being a folk tale based story, it feels a little bit light in content, (especially if you compared it to something like Geis which feels much denser in terms of story and character) and with Utkin teasing out the story to make the most of his 72 page running order it can feel a little bit lightweight. But when the artwork is as good as this, then you don’t mind feeling a little short changed in terms of a dense and complex plot, as it just means you have an excuse to read it again and again and soak up every drop of aquatic brilliance on every page!

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Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.