With the days having become shorter and the mornings colder, Winter is here in all it’s glory. And with this change to the harshest of seasons, we decided to take a look at a webcomic which is equally harsh and unforgiving in it’s setting. David Derrick Jr’s Ghost of the Gulag tells the story of a Tiger and the war of beliefs he becomes embroiled in, but will we warm to this anthropomorphic webcomic, or will it leave us as cold as the Siberian winter?
Writer: David Derrick Jr.
Artist: David Derrick Jr.
Set in the harsh Siberian landscape of the Taiga, Ghost of the Gulag follows the story of the Tsaravich, heir to the throne of his Wolf Pack after the passing of his father. While on the hunt for Elk with members of his pack, the Tsaravich is set upon by the sons of the Great Katorga, leader of the Boar Tribe, and their warriors as they continue their everlasting war with the Wolves. Abandoned by his pack and watching those loyal slain, Tsaravich makes his escape to an abandoned Gulag where he encounters the Shadow Walker; a Blind Tiger accompanied by his ‘eye’ who does not take kindly to trespassers. However, when the war between tribes reaches his territory, the Shadow Walker and the Tsaravich must begrudgingly join together to vanquish a common enemy, but can this ghost of the gulag really be trusted?
Ghost of the Gulag is an interesting series. A cross between classics like Watership Down and Animals of Farthing Wood but with a more House of Cards/Game of Thrones political-esque tone, this webcomic is a deeply engrossing one almost from the start. The Taiga, the part of the world this is set, feels incredibly real as do the characters who inhabit it. Chief among them is most definitely the Shadow Walker and titular Ghost who feels like the series’ main focus. This Tiger is unbelievably compelling from his first reveal, with the flashbacks filling his backstory with some great information while his dynamic with the Crow who acts as his eye equal parts humorous and unsettling. Then there is the Boar Clan’s enigmatic advisor, who is an intriguing foil for the two leads and whose hidden goals really help with this. Indeed, all the characters add many layers to this story, helping craft a tale of immense intrigue.
Meanwhile, the artwork for this series is fine, albeit containing some very rough pencils compared to other anamorphic comics like Mulp and Scurry. That said, this style does work well once you get used to it, helping to really capture the harsh Russian environment as well as the seemingly haunted Gulag. Of course, while the style itself has remained consistent, Derrick Jr’s art does appear to have improved, with later pages looking more confident in their depiction than the early prologue. A standout example of this is the depiction of the titular Tiger as Derrick Jr. pulls off something special in his facial look, something which is managed to imbue in both the characters images as the scarred adult and playful cub.
David Derrick Jr’s Ghost of the Gulag is very much a diamond in the rough. While maybe not as polished as many other (more famous) webcomics, this is one which contains a deeply immersive story as well as some truly atmospheric visuals, causing you to be hooked without even realising it.