By Ryan O’Connell
In a year, 2023 is probably best characterized by its colossal entertainment strikes, affecting writers and actors on a national scale.
But it could also be just as easily remembered as a great year for independent comic artists.
Haus of Decline, an X (formerly Twitter) user, first got my attention in 2022 when he posted the first page of a 240-page series titled “Together,” his first long-form project on the site.
“Together” was periodically posted one page at a time and was an excellent read the entire way through, telling a story about a marriage rekindled by an abstract body horror which bound them together at their index fingers.
Now, a few months after the end of “Together” in March, another instant classic has popped up - “DRUZY.”
“DRUZY” is a 47-page minicomic by Beetle Moses - an independent online artist most well known for his short-form comics, which often feature wildlife in humorous social situations, dynamic posing, and absurdist punchlines.
The minicomic - Moses’ first ever longform project - follows an alien lifeform made of diamond-like gemstones who crashlands deep in the Amazon jungle, surviving Earth’s harsh atmosphere only in a pressurized suit, after his spaceship and co-pilots explode.
Druzy, implied to be the alien’s name, is found by an uncontacted tribe, whose elders instantly accept him - the only hesitation and hostility coming from one younger man with a spear headed by a sharp purple gem.
The alien lives with the tribe for a few days, eating, sitting, and laughing with them, before rescuing a woman from a crocodile while she’s fishing. This prompts a celebration from the tribe, which irritates the defensive man from first contact.
It’s not easy to say any more about the storyline in “DRUZY” without giving it all away - but what can be said is that it’s a masterful representation of the human experience.
The minicomic forgoes some typical elements of Moses’ work - the biggest difference being no dialogue - but retains Moses’ feel through the familiarity of his thick, stylized brushstrokes, simple panel geometry, and signature flat shading technique.
Still exhibiting saturated colors in every frame and his trademark sense of dry humor, however, all aspects of Moses’ skillset remain present, allowing the project to run away with the page count.
“DRUZY” uses the time it has to its advantage, to put it simply.
The backgrounds of the Amazon are simplistic, but gorgeous, and the tribe’s community and acceptance of Druzy make his new life on Earth feel like it was destined all along.
Both of these aspects contribute to making the world feel incredibly vast, and paradoxically highlight just how small the tribe and their home is in the scope of the planet Druzy has landed on.
These worldbuilding elements are well paced as part of a longer story and feel unexplored in Moses’ other work, who is obviously restricted from this in the short-form style his comics demand.
Even with these strengths, the main draw is its emotional weight.
Moses has always been good at provoking emotion in his work, with even his comics providing a feeling of sentimentality, but “DRUZY” is unlike anything he’s done before in terms of storytelling.
Specifically, the protagonist’s relationship with one of the tribe’s women, who he first saw when he woke up from the crash, is touching.
They spend a lot of time together - and where there would typically be a romantic subtext between these characters, had they been human, Druzy and the woman exist in more of an innocent friendship due to their differences.
Part of this is due to a language barrier - of course these two cultures have no way of understanding each other outside of their emotions - happiness, anger, appreciation.
The limited interactions between the tribe and Druzy feel bittersweet - Druzy integrates so well into the new society, coaxing readers to imagine a future between the established characters that doesn’t come.
Moses’ comic has a somber ending, and an even sadder epilogue. Its length is long when compared to his other work, short when contrasted with his peers' projects like “Together.”
“DRUZY” is like a sunrise - beautiful, humbling, pure.
And because that fizzling length is what makes it sweet in the first place.
Take a chance on that independent artist