In my quest to find more comics to read to keep myself busy during quarantine, I’ve been searching through the vast array of webcomic apps and sites to find some great stories I can really get into. WebToon has so far been my go-to for new comics to read and has so far been the most accessible app I’ve found to find and enjoy comics on. As someone who doesn’t have an unlimited amount of income to spend on coins, I like the system of timed exclusives that seem to be the norm among the series on the site. With so many series to go through, I spent some time over the last couple weeks trying to find and get back into some of the series I used to read. One of those is SubZero, a WebToon that just finished its first season this past November and will be coming back for another season soon. While the story and art isn’t perfect, I found the series entertaining for the most part, providing equal parts romance, action, and political intrigue within a fantastical Asian setting that includes mystical dragons. If any of these sounds interesting to you, I would highly encourage you to keep reading.
SubZero is set within an ancient Asian country split between two rival factions. In the North is the near-extinct Azure Dragon clan, led by the last Azure Dragon Princess Clove. In the South is the Crimson Dragon clan. For 300 years, the clans have been warring with each other non-stop until Clove is offered a proposal she can’t refuse: marry the Crimson Dragon Prince, Kyro, and put an end to the centuries long war for good. However, the hatred between their two clans runs deep and there are many people and advisors around them that do not agree with their marriage. Intrigue, assasination plots, bombings, spying. Clove and Kyro will have to deal with all these things all the while trying to build a stable and loving relationship from the ground up.
Junepurr does a pretty great job when it comes to the art of this comic. I think there were a few instances where I thought the characters looked a little stiff, but that is quickly overshadowed by her use of color and just general composition. The whole series centers around two conflicting elements, Water/Ice and Fire, and Junepurr uses this concept to its fullest potential when she’s adding values and choosing color palettes for the comic. The deep reds of the Crimson Dragon palace with the striking, ice-blues of the Azure clan’s colors makes for a great reinforcement of the kind of conflict at the center of the story. It’s reflected in their eyes too, with Clove’s bright blues versus Kyro’s deep golds as they either glare or stare lovingly at each other (depending on the situation).
Vertical comics are a little hard to display and discuss what makes the format great. The scrolling format allows for a lot of space between panels that spreads out the story and allows the creator to put as much emphasis on the passage of time, important moments, or up the emotional/ visual impact of a certain scene. I think Junepurr does a great job in this regard. The story holds a lot of emotional tension that she displays through body language, eye contact, expressions, and the color palette. The vertical scroll of the comic has allowed her to add specific emphasis where needed without the threat of running out of page space. With the addition of the dragons, and their subsequent transformations and powers, Junepurr has full rein to showcase their size and awe-inspiring nature. While sometimes the amount of white space can be a little annoying to scroll through, I do generally enjoy this format and how Junepurr in particular has taken advantage of it here.
One of the controversial story concepts in SubZero is the enemy-to-lover romance trope. This is definitely something that readers will either love or hate. I know a few people who find this kind of plot very annoying as these kinds of romances at the start can be very harsh on the female protagonist to the point of being toxic. It can be this way in this series, but I think the background and history the reader is dumped into makes this kind of animosity understandable. The story itself is about the heads of two warring clans who have been raised to hate each other coming to understand and even respect each other. It makes sense that Clove and Kyro would start off as scared, angry, and mistrustful of each other. It helps too that Clove isn’t a push-over of a character either. She may have been sheltered by her clan and starts out a little weak-willed, but she grows her spine and begins to kind of channel the strength of this mystical dragon living within her.
The first season of SubZero has 91 episodes, which is enough time for Junepurr to grow and explore the backgrounds of her characters. Kyro and Clove are given a lot of attention as the main characters and as such are given chances to grow and change. As we read through the episodes, we are given more and more information on the kind of backgrounds both grew up in, especially Kyro. What we learn of his childhood and the politics within his clan helps the reader understand why he acts like he does. Growing up in an environment where you feel you can’t trust the people who are there to advise you can make anyone mistrustful of someone trying to gain a close position to them, namely Clove. Seeing all the intricacies of the kinds of political intrigue he has to deal with, and now Clove has to deal with, creates a great dramatic backdrop to their growing romance.
The romance between Kyro and Clove is kind of rocky, but that is to be expected considering the nature of their relationship. I think Clove mentions at some point that she doesn’t particularly love him, but she trusts and feels comfortable with him for most of the series’ run. It’s only towards the end when the action picks up that we see Kyro and Clove grow closer both physically and emotionally. Their relationship is full of tension but both outside forces of their clans and internal forces from the dragon spirits they hold. In the quest to make their relationship work for the good of their clans, they have to overcome all of these different opposing forces to find some sort of common ground. I think that’s what makes this story so appealing to me. There is quite a bit of depth underneath the surface level enemy-to-lover plot line that has made me stick with it for longer than I might have otherwise.
I’d love to hear your opinions of this comic in the comments below or if I’ve convinced you to give it a try. I’m not sure when the next season will be coming out, but there are quite a few episodes of season one to keep you busy.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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