The Savage Beard of She Dwarf Is a Colorful Adventure

A huge, canine-like beast, with sharp teeth, faces to the left of the frame towards two startled, smaller figures. It says, "I SMELL A DWARF."

Believing herself to be the last dwarf in existence, She Dwarf is determined to find the lost dwarven city of Dammerung. Many obstacles will interrupt this arduous journey, but She Dwarf is inspired by thoughts of her late mother’s heroism. Gaining both allies and enemies along the way, will finding Dammerung bring the answers she needs?

The Savage Beard of She Dwarf

Kyle Latino (writer & artist), Angus Hannigan (colorist), Ginger Dee (colorist)
June 17, 2020
Oni Press

Cover for 'The Savagebeard of She Dwarf'. A cast of colorful characters are huddled in a group, ranging from an assortment including a leperchaun, a shirtless, muscled figure with a bird head, and the titular, bearded dwarf being lifted in the center.

She Dwarf’s life was always rough. From the get go, The Savage Beard of She Dwarf begins with our titular character having to beat a local tough in beard-to-beard combat and is soon duped into a sob story to smite a whole dragon for gold—which nearly kills her.

Despite all these mishaps in her daily life, She Dwarf always overcomes and bests her foes, always citing that she is the daughter of a mighty dwarven warrior. Ultimately set out on a journey, her end goal is to find the truth and any glimmer of hope that there are other surviving dwarven people after a horrific ordeal wiped out much of their kingdom a long time ago—which included her late mother. Although many things along the way will try to stop her, She Dwarf will realize later on that her real goal is finding the closure she needs about herself.

The Savage Beard of She Dwarf has a world of its own representing many tropes we are familiar with in reimagined ways. It incorporates a lot of comedy to put a dent in otherwise serious or tight-laced tropes. She Dwarf herself has a fully grown beard, observing the canon that all dwarves are defined by their beards, whereas other fantasy works do not necessarily follow these rules. Anthropomorphic animals run about, such as the Shorcs, a hybrid between a shark and orc-like race. (A duo of them attempt to stalk and bully She Dwarf and friends after an earlier unfortunate encounter in which the two were embarrassingly thwarted.) Certain archetypes are turned upside down. For instance, the wise old sage isn’t always dependable and might actually be incompetent, while someone who appears to be an intimidating brute is more friendly than one realizes compared to a secretly cruel, small, and hapless leprechaun.

First panel: A primal monster hisses as blood drips from its bare, sharp teeth. A speech bubble peeks into it, reading, 'You got a lot of teeth there buddy...'. Second panel: A bearded dwarf swings her hammer, saying 'But if you come over here, I'm gonna knock 'em out'. Third panel: The creature lunges at the dwarf while she yells, 'Okay then!' Fourth panel: The dwarf bashes into the creature's head with her hammer while a few of its teeth even pop off.

She Dwarf’s art is eye popping, vibrant, and downright cute. Latino’s art portrays a fantasy world that soft, round, and welcoming and assisting colorists strengthen his lineworks’ cross-hatching quality. Although She Dwarf’s setting is still unapologetically violent and cruel where it needs to be, it still radiates charm with its bright colors and charming characters for much needed reprieve in other pages through cooler tones. She Dwarf doesn’t hold back its punches in depicting blood and the end result of what specific weapons can do. The palette detaches you from the reality of how violence usually is portrayed in gritty ways, instead honing in on the action to be more immersive and alluring through highly saturated pinks and reds. It looks like a fantasy world through and through, if not almost alien, making it a solid departure from reality even more so than other works that remain staunchly grounded in their presentation.

She Dwarf was initially conceived as a much different character, originally contrived to be a “fortune-hunting, tomb-plundering, barbarian type, like Conan or Xena.” Writer and artist Kyle Latino notes that she has since evolved into an ambitious-minded adventurer who is simply looking for her place in the world. The comic was “first inspired by The Legend of Zelda and Lord of the Rings” and other fantasy Latino admired. She Dwarf was originally a webcomic that started serializing in 2015, but due to lack of time, Latino had only ever sporadically updated since. The story’s totally completed, idealized form can now instead be found in this graphic novel adaptation. The entirety of what was published of the webcomic transferred over in this new format, and missing pages and loose ends have been filled in.

A towering jagged volcano bellows smoke and lava, surrounded by another range of jagged mountains. A giant skeleton of a reptilian-like creature and a tower stick out from underneath. Two small figures walk towards it from the foreground. One of them says, 'Heh heh'.

She Dwarf’s main issue is that it suffers symptoms that make it very indicative it was once a webcomic. There are many cuts in the middle of action, and sudden, jarring shifts would be paced and stretched out more in a longer, serialized work. Webcomics usually have these much quicker cuts of action between pages to commit to the necessary frequency of putting content out to the readers. Some plot threads and side characters are introduced but they unfortunately do not ever get fully developed screen time. These presumably would have resurfaced later on at some point during the webcomic’s run, but ultimately was scrapped after Latino’s decision to finally put a cap on She Dwarf’s story. The difference in this flow is apparent towards the end of the graphic novel, in which the narrative seemed to read at a more consistent pace, starting with the pages produced after the comic’s ended syndication as a webcomic.

A wide shot of stone wall and large, wooden, gated entrance into a town. A short, stumpy, bearded figure wearing a rucksack walks towards it from the foreground.

Latino cites numerous people in his life to have helped inspire and develop She Dwarf into the story it is now, noting that what was once an experiment to spite collaboration has reached completion thanks to his huge support system. He advises in the book’s closing notes to other creatives that frustration should inspire an open mind to seek help and second opinions to be successful.

Overall, The Savage Beard of She Dwarf is a solid tale about someone who wants to find the answers to who they are, and that certainly isn’t a specific fantasy trope. For anyone looking for a fun-fueled adventure that is a little more colorful than others, She Dwarf would be more than willing to have you tag along.

Elvie Mae Parian

Elvie Mae Parian

Elvie is an animator by day and tries too hard to be everything else by nightfall. Feel free to join her in screaming about anime and animals as she puts off what she should be really doing at @lvmaeparian.