After mysterious demons kill their respective families, Kazimir, Yeomi, and Iskel set out to discover the truth behind the monsters. However, the burdens of the past weigh heavily as they venture forth, and they must navigate not only the dangers of the wilds but also their place as outcasts from society. Follow their journey in the FIENDISH series.
Taking inspiration from classical fantasy and ancient history, and merging influences from both Eastern and Western comics, FIENDISH follows a group of young men and women as they seek the truth behind a demon infestation. The first book is a dramatic introduction to a tale about vengeance against an otherworldly threat.
It also serves as a dramatic introduction to this compelling narrative, setting the stage for a thrilling adventure that explores themes of revenge, resilience, and the battle against otherworldly threats. With its rich blend of genres and influences, FIENDISH promises readers a unique and captivating journey through a world teeming with both fantastical creatures and the complexities of human emotion.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
FIENDISH series was created, written, and drawn by Irene Strychalski with influences from manga such as Berserk, Vinland Saga, and Vagabond; and also, European comics such as Sigfried and Heavy Metal. Irene worked on layouts and inks for the Marvel comics “Deadpool Family” and “SILK”, background art for the FX show “Archer”, and layouts and background work for the Marvel show “Hit Monkey”. In 2018, Irene decided to pursue her lifelong goal of creating an original independent comic by crowdfunding her fantasy tale FIENDISH.
For FIENDISH 1, the cover art was done by Irene, the interior colors were done by colorist Carlos Nicolas Zamudio, with shading assistance provided by Duncan Burris. The project also counted on the collaboration of A.C. Zamudio.
For FIENDISH 2, the interior colors are being done by colorist Carlos Nicolas Zamudio, while the story is edited by Michael Oden. The front cover art was done by Irene (Cover A), Irene and Ivan Pineda (Cover B), Dan Plegel and Billy Bacsko (Cover C). The back cover art was done by Luka Brico (Cover A), Matt Bhar & Matt Yackey (Cover B), and Dan Lawlis (Cover C). The pin-up art was done by Carlos Nicolas Zamudio, Ivan Pineda, Matt Bahr, Matt Yackey, and Dan Lawlis.
The first chapter “Demons” is a 60-page dark fantasy action story filled with elements of manga, mystery, and horror. It contains a credit page (inner front cover), 45 pages of the main story, 5 pages with a sneak peek of the next chapter, 9 pages of bonus art, a thank you page, an info page on “Alstad”, a preface to the constructed language of Nunarsa, and a world map (inner back cover).
“Strangers” is the 66-page continuation of the first chapter in the FIENDISH saga. It contains a copyright page (inner front cover), a credit page, a recap page, 54 pages of the main story, a thank you page, 2 sneak peek pages of FIENDISH 2.5, 3 info pages on the species deav & ispoliyad and rune casting, 4 pages with art from the fanart contest finalists, the preface to the constructed language of Nunarsa, and the world map (inner back cover).
The books have chapter dividers and printed spines. The books are perfect bound printed in color, with 80lb satin text interiors, and 100lb matte laminated cardstock covers. They were published in 2023 by Hellion Arts.
ABOUT THE CHARACTERS
The main characters in FIENDISH thus far are Kazimir, Izkel, Yeomi, and Ragna.
After a demon attack on his hometown, Kazimir fled far away and tried to leave his nightmares behind, until the same demons resurfaced near the town of Alstad, prompting him to embark on a quest for vengeance and truth. Kazimir is Private, practical, and brusque.
He secretly blames himself for not being able to save his family and thus avoids forming new connections. He knows more than the average person about shamanism because of his relationship with the Shamans of Thalfrenn, but never formally trained in the craft.
Iskel was born with a curse that struck fear in the hearts of most people. After years of struggling with the difficulties of raising Iskel, including discrimination from the regular folk of Alstad, his mother finally abandoned him, leaving him in the care of their reclusive cousin, Kazimir.
Iskel is Kindhearted, loyal, and fair-minded; but his predilection for compassion sometimes causes him to be too trusting in people. Due to years of training with Kazimir, he is harder than he looks. Iskel yearns to reconnect with his mother, despite her abandonment.
Like most daev, Yeomi was born a slave to humans. As a girl, Yeomi was bought by a traveling theatre, and she grew up with a small band of performers who always treated her kindly. After years of traveling with the theatre, Yeomi came to see them as family. However, one day while on the road, the monster that Kazimir and Iskel were tracking kills almost all of Yeomi’s companions.
As a result, she joins Kaz and Iskel’s journey for vengeance. Yeomi is Inventive, adventurous, and determined, sometimes to the point of stubbornness. As Yeomi was not raised to be obedient and submissive like most days, she has a mind of her own, and acts on it; though her ideas may not always be the best.
Ragniera “Ragna” is the junior shaman of Thalfrenn, a hermitage that belongs to a long line of powerful Ispoliyad shamans. Ever since the deaths of her mother and uncle, Ragna has been the sole heir to Thalfrenn and grew up under the rigorous apprenticeship of her master shaman grandmother. She met Kazimir soon after he escaped Dorvo, and the two maintain a turbulent, on-and-off romantic relationship.
Ragna is the Lordess of Sass. Incessantly bossy, so blunt she could be a mallet, with the temper of a rhino. Massively arrogant over her heritage, but backs it up with exemplary shamanic skill. Though experienced and skillful, her condescending attitude keeps her from making meaningful connections.
ABOUT THE WORLD
The Great Conflux is the meeting point of the three known major continents- Arvos, Diskara, and Taiya. On all continents, humans have become the dominant species, but many other sentient mortals share their lands.
In Arvos, lumbering etun clans roam the mountainsides, while the violet-skinned daev serve as thralls to humans. The shadowy jinn, said to be distantly related to daev, lurk on the outskirts of society in Diskara. Many races of the shapeshifting yao cohabit with humans in Taiya. The formal spoken language is called Nunarsa.
The conjoined continents of Arvos and Diskara each have their own distinct cultures but have always been interconnected through trade and travel. Hailed as the land of pigments and spices, Diskara was blessed with a warm climate but cursed with a vast inland desert that devolves into a volcanic hellscape in the west.
Across all of Arvos and Diskara, tales of lost empires echo amidst its folktales, while mysterious catacombs weave through its rocky crust. Carved with sculptures and patterns that bear no resemblance to any known culture, many scholars have tried to unveil the origins of these catacombs.
Nunarsa is the formal, scholastic language of the continent of Arvos. It is learned by the upper class, healers, shamans, and other professionals who would usually be literate. Almost all recordkeeping, poetry, and official correspondence is written in Nunarsa.
Like Arvosa, the common tongue of Arvos, and Diskarsa, the common tongue of Diskara, it shares roots with the ancient Ispolin language of Vyrasa, but Nunarsa had much more accurately preserved its Vyrasa characteristics. Nunarsa has two writing systems- the basic phonetic alphabet, and the logographic writing system. The creator developed the writing systems for the language.
ABOUT THE SPECIES
In the world of FIENDISH, several species are living together including humans, ispoliyad, daev, etun, alukah, and the burmen.
Humans are the most numerous species of Syemar in most of the known world. They are also highly adaptable and can live in most climates. However, they do tend to live above ground, and prefer to build their custom dwellings near sources of water. The aura of every human has an innate connection to one of the elemental planes.
Although this connection is weak in most humans, about 1 in 100 humans can be trained to project their auras and thus manipulate the world around them. Though this means that effective supernatural ability in humans is rare, when it does manifest, it is considered one of the most powerful and versatile supernatural abilities among all Syemar.
The Ispoliyad are the hybrid descendants of Ispolin, also known as the High Ones which are a tall, long-lived, and advanced species who visited humanity thousands of years ago to impart knowledge. Ispoliyad tend to be 3-4 inches taller than the common humans of the same region and gender, have tanned red-tinted skin, and, most notably, have iridescent hair that ranges in hue from sapphire to emerald.
They are overrepresented in shamanic and scholastic orders, and take pride in their inborn talents, sometimes even to the point of arrogance. However, not all Ispoliyad are happy living a life of institutionalized scholarship. Some actively reject the rigid expectations that they were subjected to from birth, and instead choose to live as wanderers, using their magical instincts to guide them on their travels.
Daev are a species of purple-skinned humanoids native to Arvos. They stand between 4.5 and 6 feet tall, sport a thin hairless tail, and are generally slightly shorter than humans. Due to their apparent lack of all supernatural abilities, it is common belief that daev are inferior to other Syemar, and thus should serve as slaves.
Daev are sexually dimorphic. Males have oversized, claw-like hands, and thick dark fur that covers their shoulders, backs, and the sides of their heads. Females are slender, have small hands and feet, and have no hair except for head hair. Daev are naturally born with two horn-like growths on their foreheads. These horns are believed to cause behavioral problems, and thus the horns of slave daev are painfully cut away shortly after birth. Stories of the daev arising from caverns or living in underground forests long ago are especially common.
Etun are a hardy, simple, and large-bodied (7 to 9 feet tall) species that is native to the northern mountain ranges of the world. Appearance-wise, etun are muscular and covered with coarse, insulating fur, and have multiple horns which adorn their distinctly triangular skulls. Their arms are longer than their legs, and they walk much like gorillas.
Etun live simple lives as clan-based hunter-gatherers, and most are peaceful in temperament. Due to their size and strength, though, mountain travelers are still well advised to not anger them, and especially not to threaten their young. Etun have the ability to physically slip into any stone or earth material, allowing them to hide underground instantaneously and access cave systems unreachable by any other species. This ability is called stone slipping.
Alukah are slender and tall humanoids who are native to northern Diskara. They live for almost 200 years, but are only fertile for about 5 years of their lifetime; thus, their population numbers remain extremely low. Alukah drink blood for nourishment, and they can turn their own blood into any solid object they can visualize, such as a weapon to fight with or an improvised tool.
In the current era, the alukah consider it taboo to eat any other Syemar species. Alukah have dark red skin that is cracked with lighter red streaks, slanted eyes that are red on yellow, sharp teeth, slits for nostrils, almost no outer ear, and silver hair. The alukah are a highly cultured and intelligent people and have integrated into the societies of the much more populous humans. They lean towards professions that require close contact with blood, such as undertakers, butchers, cooks, healers, and midwives.
Burmen are theorized to be a baser and less intelligent form of humans who live in the untamed wilderness all over the world. They live to only around 40 years old. The females form clans and raise their young together, while males are kicked out as adolescents to fend for themselves. As a result, many young burmen males form raiding parties to attack travelers. Unlike other primitive syemar, such as etun, burmen do not have any complex art or culture.
Physically, burmen are usually a little shorter and stockier than common humans, with barrel-like chests, dense bones, sloped foreheads, and thickly ridged brow ridges that extend to a rippled nose ridge. Burmen are not known to have any supernatural abilities. However, they are not commonly enslaved like daev, as their aggressive nature makes them ill-suited for servitude. The only humans known for enslaving burmen are the Poroska of northern Arvos.
FIENDISH ARC 1: EPICENTER | CHAPTER 1: DEMONS
As a child, Kazimir was the sole survivor of a mysterious demon attack on his hometown of Dorvo. Nine years later, Kaz found a new life as a reclusive hunter near Alstad, after fleeing the massacre. He does his best to leave his nightmare behind. Unfortunately, the same monsters resurface and kill again.
Alongside his apprentice and friend Iskel they start to investigate a strange murder. As they track the monster the evidence, they find leads Kaz to believe that the demons of his past have returned. They came across a theater caravan that was suddenly ambushed by the monster.
In the ensuing battle, most members of the caravan are slain, leaving a deav girl named Yeomi as the only person standing. Realizing that he can no longer run away from his past, Kazimir vows to find the truth behind the demons and sets out to avenge his family.
FIENDISH ARC 1: EPICENTER | CHAPTER 2: STRANGERS
Kaz sets out to revisit his past, uncover the truth behind Dorvo’s downfall, and hopefully put an end to the fiendish infestation. To do that he needed better weapons so he traded strange artifacts for new sharp weapons. At her former master’s camp, Yeomi begs to attend their funeral but it is made clear that she will be sold to the highest bidder after the funeral.
Left with no other choice she went looking for the boys for help as she wants to avenge her family’s death but according to societal rules, she still needs a new master/owner being a daev. In the meantime, it is known that Iskel was cast out of society as a cursed boy and Kaz is also not wanted for some reason.
Kaz is apprehensive about taking Yeomi in but he eventually agrees with the condition that she must learn to defend herself. As they start their journey, they encounter more problems and run into Ragna, the junior shaman of Thalfrenn, an old acquaintance of Kaz.
The story is targeted at a young adult mature audience considering the language, nudity, and level of gore. Compared to the gore in Jack the Ripper the Vampire Hunter, Calico, and Star Noir it has been pretty tame so far.
The FIENDISH series delivers an engaging and immersive story set within a captivating and original fantasy world. The word-building work is utterly impressive and I love it. Irene skillfully weaves together influences from manga, classic fantasy, and Lovecraftian horror, creating a narrative that is entertaining and skillfully illustrated with a unique art style.
The first book is centered on the prelude to the attack, and the attack itself displaying the monsters. There is not much said about the world and the characters. In the second book, we learn more about the characters and the world. We learn that it has a caste system where the deav are the lowest and the humans and the Ispoliyad are among the highest. We see the cruelty of people in a society where the value of people is determined by their race not by their talent, principles, and morals.
It is a good reminder that most of the world used to be this way. But we have progressed so much to where people are valued based on their hard work and principles. Unfortunately, in this technologically advanced era, humans have regressed to where one’s value is based on race, gender, sexual orientation, generational wealth, and materialistic principles.
THE NOT SO GOOD
While the world-building and storytelling are strong, some aspects of the lettering work and the placement of balloons in book 1 could be refined for a more seamless reading experience. Occasionally, the placement of text balloons feels a bit crowded or could benefit from more strategic positioning to enhance visual clarity in some places. The scaling of the panels seems to be off because it leaves parts cut out of the panel. In some cases, the font size used seems to be too small in some places where there is plenty of space.
The story seems to take place in a medieval setting which makes it strange to have modern dialogue. That took me off for a minute because I’ve seen this in current medieval TV shows, but I had to remind myself that it’s not based on real history so the creator is free to do what she wants.
Despite these minor considerations, FIENDISH stands out as a promising and enjoyable addition to the fantasy comic genre, offering readers a unique blend of influences and a narrative that keeps them eagerly turning the pages. Looking forward to seeing the character development of Kazimir, Yeomi, and Izkel in the upcoming chapters.
THE FIENDISH 2 CAMPAIGN
The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for FIENDISH 2 offered many options to back including the catch-me-up tier that I chose consisting of a reprint of the first book with a new cover and the second book (Cover A). Along with the books the physical backers received free bonus items including trading cards, mini prints, stickers additional pages with art from the fanart contest, and additional world-building pages in book 2. The creator provided timely updates on the campaign on Indiegogo.
To my understanding, the packaging and delivery of the products were done by the fulfillment company Critical Blast who timely sent the tracking number of the package via email. The products arrived in good condition. However, the books were bagged but not boarded. In addition to the books, I received 2 mini prints, 4 trading cards, a “FIENDISH” logo sticker, and a “Ragna” sticker.
FIENDISH is a dark fantasy comic series about the mysteries that lurk between the dimensions. The series follows Kazimir and his companions on a quest for vengeance against a demonic threat, and the plot unfolds with a compelling blend of mystery and adventure.
I’m very impressed with the world-building that is further expanded on the Fiendish website in addition to what was printed in the book. Exploring the website before delving into the book proved beneficial for my reading experience. The information on the website provided answers to questions that I would have by only reading the book.
I wish more creators would have their website containing information about the lore and the world they’ve built and the characters they created, instead of only focusing so much on content other than their work. So far I’ve only seen a few websites similar to this such as Jetta Rae Adventures, Infinitale Chronicles, The Lucent, Achromatic Chronicles, Calico, Seeds of Wars, and Star Circuit.
The world of FIENDISH is so fascinating and there is still so much to explore. In the meantime, FIENDISH 2.5: SURVIVOR is already funded which tells the story of what happened to Kazimir after his hometown of Dorvo was destroyed. The campaign is on Fund My Comic, a relatively new crowdfunding platform, and on the FIENDISH website. Check it out!