Mend a broken heart? Deal with your bad habits? Make a deal with a demon — ahem — Succubus with the bite of a golden apple…
Fine Print Volume 1
Top Cow Productions
October 27, 2021
Stjepan Šejić’s Fine Print is a sexy tale of desire and love and lust and all the bad decisions that go with them. In the immortal realm of the gods, precious ambrosia is waning because humans no longer worship the gods as they once did. Now, ambrosia can only be gained through elaborate contracts, signed with blood and the bite of a golden apple. The Succubi who are able to administer these contracts are few, and to become a High Caller is a great honor. But we’ll find out more about that later.
First, there’s Lauren.
Actually, first, there’s Rachel, a mousy young woman in a bookstore who has the unusual ability of seeing through the store clerk’s disguise to reveal her demonic appearance. As there are so few mortals who can see a Cubi like Merryl Alaris in their true form, Merryl leaps on the opportunity to present Rachel with a contract to grant her deepest desires. Only, Rachel, reveals, her asexuality leaves her with little or no relevant sexual desires, creating a serious conundrum for the incubus assigned to this contract.
Then comes Lauren, whom, we see in the opening pages, dripping blood and surrounded by butterflies, seemingly at death’s door as Cubi conflict rages around her. The butterflies are a fitting motif, because, as Animal Crossing players have learned from Blathers, butterflies are actually monstrous death creatures who get by with good PR and pretty wings. Butterflies might mean good things to others, but I know they mean pending doom and filth! Still, it’s hard to believe the latter throughout the story when Šejić wraps his Cubi in stunning butterfly wings and scintillating magical imagery.
While Rachel is a passing anecdote, Lauren is at the center of the story, and Šejić takes his time defining her role, starting with a seemingly shy girl with braces deciding that she really wants a particular shy photographer. The two hit it off, but as Lauren grows into her beauty, she makes the wrong decision about her relationship with Matthew. And now she wants him back. Rachel didn’t seem to have a good reason to bite the apple, but Lauren certainly does.
There are also two Cubi vying for the position of High Caller, each with their own secrets that, if revealed, could ruin everything for them. And as the cover hints, Lauren fits neatly between them. None of the characters are particularly likable in all of their self-centered, desire-focused ways, but how they come together in the end makes up for the slower parts along the way.
If you’re familiar with Šejić’s work, then there are many design elements employed here that you will quickly recognize, such as wiggly word balloon tails and his penchant for big chunks of exposition. We’ll call these his creator quirks if you will. The exposition in this story foregoes narration boxes and comes instead through long pieces of dialogue, usually occurring between two characters who should already know the details of what is being explained. There is also the distinctive facial design of many of his female characters. The same face syndrome becomes a bit tedious, but at least he’s always got very unique hairstyles (and hornstyles) and attire to help differentiate the characters. The Cubi and Cupid, in particular, enjoy no shortage of intriguing variations on their signature stylistic themes, complete with elaborate wings.
As always, Šejić’s creator-owned stories are clearly passion projects for him, and his enjoyment in telling his own stories is evident on each page. Perhaps sometimes a little too indulgent here, but I wouldn’t complain too much if a sexy butterfly demon showed up at my door. Even though I ought to know better.