The best part of being a fan of webcomics is that sense of discovery for something new. Sometimes you start reading a quirky comic about an imaginary traveling clown kingdom and find yourself completely invested in the interwoven intrigue of characters overcoming the worst parts of themselves. A perfect reflection of the isolation we experience with the wholesome knowledge of being in the thick of it together.

Despite the very grounded realistic issues each family member and the people around them face, there is always the air of a jovial playful tone between the characters. This provides an optimistic refreshing breath of air between the few but steady moments Cirque Royale tends to punch you in the gut.

The writing is fluid and elastic as the artwork, and the expression is lively and natural. You can feel their highest highs, lowest lows, and all the places in between. The growth in art, writing, and character of this series is subtle but so is the depth as the characters discover each other through the constantly shifting world for the lead characters of Cirque Royale.

Discovering oneself through very real insecurities in the daunting stigma of normalcy or tradition. The warmth of even the most minor inclusion when it feels like the entire world is against your very existence. This is a recurring theme experienced with many voices in many different ways throughout the comic.

Absolutely goddamn delightful.

Everything beyond this point discusses the plot and includes spoilers. I would highly recommend reading Cirque Royale yourself to form your own conclusions. Then come back. We’ll geek out.

You can tell Brittany really loves her characters as early on they feel out of place compared to the initial backgrounds and animals of the circus, these grievances are short lived as the world evolves and is treated as a character in its own right and the art becomes more expressive in setting and texture. Another delight of webcomics is witnessing the ongoing improvement page by page.

The story takes place with various lands and provinces with each their homogenous flavor of people. Clowny Island. The Flower Kingdom. Succulentville. Onion Kingdom. Cornicopia. Each has a princess and a royal family and it’s all very Pendalton Wardesque on the surface, but that’s where the similarities end. Labeled as a Slice-of-Life comic, perhaps this would be described as far-too-relatable for everyone suffering from the anxiety of imposter syndrome and living up to impossible expectations on the path of discovering their personal truth.

Quinten (nicknamed Quinn) is the new Queen of Clown Island (the name of the wandering caravan) who has recently inherited her duties from her recently deceased father. She has spent the last fifteen years raising her estranged family in seclusion with her half-mime husband Kingston. Quinten has an authoritarian air, but is quite meek and is burdened by the weight of the great debt her traditional-to-a-fault father has amassed. A debt made direr due to a broken promise of an arranged marriage. Most of the kingdom and those unfamiliar with family matters aren’t aware that Quinten’s father was anything but a pillar of clown virtue and success. Perhaps he was more open minded than stated, as he still chose Quinn despite any real or perceived slights. We live in a time where a lot of people are being introduced into a new era of civial rights, it’s possible he’s a reflection of everyone who has made the wrong choices thinking they were the correct one of its day. Perhaps the king was also a victim of toxic tradition and regretted the actions that pushed his daughter away. This has yet to be seen.

Referenced through the in-world slur as a Harlequin, Kingston’s family history is a means of contention between his parents and the rest of the Clown Kingdom, and the alienation of his wife and children. Perhaps this causes an overcompensation from guilt, which he dedicates every fiber of his being to helping his family – sometimes until there’s nothing left to give. He exhibits both the healthiest and unhealthiest aspects of perfectionism. The men in Quinn’s life are haunted by their own ideals. Even Leo, the man spurned by Quinn in arranged marriage is one of their only and closest allies, if you can overlook some of the nice guy vibes and the frequent hitting on a married woman.

The twins are both coming of age. That awkward time where you know you’re still a child but are going through the various crisis of identity of what kind of adult they’ll become. Though every character has their time to shine, Claudette is most often the main star of the show. She has a brighter than the sun sense of wonder and optimism for her family and making new friends. She has a difficult time getting people to like her however and perhaps suffers the most from not being able to grow roots at any particular place they visit.

Charlie, the twin brother, is overall a good kid who comes to terms with the fact that he lacks any romantic interest or attraction very early in the series. This is one of the very many small drama bombs sprinkled throughout the story. A story of acceptance and of figuring out the nuances of their complex lives. Each their nuance and potential cause of future conflict in personality and communication.

Retta is the youngest child and the baby of the family. She suffers from a strong imagination and great personal strength, both literal and figurative as a circus strongman.

Penelope is Quinn’s younger sister. She has become cold and hardened standing in the shadow of her phantom sister over the past 15 years. She holds many of the Clown Kingdom’s traditions and biases in high regard and feels betrayed being the one who stayed yet still getting bypassed for her absentee, yet favored, sister. Her pretentious nature and manners-as-an-insult persona could have easily made her one of the series’ main antagonists but she has a reason for her distant and aloof personality. She has her reasons for continued issues with trust. Penelope is a shining example that everyone has their reason that isn’t always two-dimensional.

This is only a short and incomplete summary of each member of the Klownikov family. Each chapter has a slew of supporting characters and arcs. Not to mention the political and cultural intrigue of the dynamics of clown-mime society.

I hope you found this introductory taste as a shining endorsement for a great new read for a comic series that will leave you wanting more. You don’t have any real excuses left, go read it now.

Brittany Granville & Cirque Royale

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