The Belfry WebComics Index

Nightshade the Merry Widow

CID:19529 Subscriptions:16Readers this Week:8
Genres:Action-Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Furry, Science Fiction
Description*:The adventures of a middle-aged black widow spider and her friends.

Retcon of "The Widow".

Same universe as "Dreamwalk Journal". Takes place on the world of Cyeatea, inhabited by anthropomorphic insects and spiders, where war is unheard of and sexual predation takes on a literal meaning.

From the creator of The Stormrunners.
* Descriptions are user submitted and might not express the views of the admins of this site, or of the comics creators themselves.
Flags:A Adult Situations
L Adult Language
N Nudity
X Explicit (NC-17)
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Entry Added:Fri, Jan 20, 2012
Entry Modified:Tue, Dec 11, 2018

Reviews: 1   Average Rating:

02:16am 02/22/2015
An Everyday Tale of Predator-Prey Relationships
Nightshade the Merry Widow (and its predecessor Dreamwalk Journal) are CG webcomics created by Ed Kline (artist/writer) and Kishma Danielle (co-writer). Danielle passed away in January 2014, since when Kline has continued Nightshade solo. Which brings me to the...

I've been a big fan of these comics from the day I discovered them. I've recently put up entries for them on All the Tropes and Wikifur, and written a short fanfic which Ed seemed to like. Recently I've been assisting him on a future Nightshade storyline, basically as a script editor; tweaking a bit of dialogue here, suggesting a piece of business there, and so on. At the time of writing (February 2015) the strips featuring my contributions have not yet appeared on-line, and this review excludes them.

A story of arthropod-people and their predation games in a lovingly-rendered CG world where sex has replaced violence.

As we're all too aware, countless webcomics feature hybrid human-mammal characters. Human-avians and -reptiles aren't that uncommon either. But how about human-arthropods - insects and spiders? In fact, how about naked human-arthropods who have lots of erotic encounters? If, like many of us, you're squicked by bugs, you may well think that's an idea that could never (ahem) fly. But hold on, don't be too quick to squash it.

Cyeatea (pronounced say-TAH) is a world with a lush three-dimensional forest, many miles deep. It's inhabited by numerous intelligent, technologically-advanced species of human-arthropod hybrids, with humanoid eyes, arms, torsos and genitalia, and insectoid or arachnid everything else. Their lifestyles are largely based on their Earthly counterparts, so for instance bees pollinate flowers and drink nectar to make honey, spiders spin webs to catch insects, and many species prey on others for sustenance. Indeed, in many cases predators can't feed on anything but prey species.

However, there is one crucial difference between terrestrial and Cyeatean predation. On Cyeatea predators never intentionally harm, let alone kill, their prey. This is a world where there's plenty of sex but no deadly violence. Predators perform sexual acts upon captive prey and feed upon their internal juices, sometimes over the course of several hours... or days... Then the predators release them, offer them food and drink to replenish their reserves and sincerely wish them luck for next time. It's called the Great Game, and everybody understands the rules.

Now, please don't let this give you the idea that the comic is one long arthropod orgy (Fifty Shades of Prey, perhaps?). While it's true that there are explicit scenes, they are always relevant to the Game, and there's plenty of plot going on between them.

The original Dreamwalk Journal storyline (being reposted on the Nightshade site at the time of writing) uses the time-honored tradition of human observers on an alien world - in this case, two young women who find themselves on Cyeatea by means of the eponymous "dreamwalking", naked apart from sneakers and a few accessories. They soon meet some of the local inhabitants, who are happy to explain their customs and show them around while trying to keep them safe from carnivorous plants and other hazards.

When the comic was relaunched as Nightshade the Merry Widow, it mainly concentrated on the adventures of the Cyeateans themselves. For instance, one story involves a raid on a new outpost by a gang of Valkyrie-styled beewolves, who cheat at the Game by bending the rules to their advantage. When they capture some of the worker bees who are building the outpost, the eponymous black widow Nightshade allows herself to be captured as well so she can infiltrate their lair. Meanwhile her friends form a rag-tag rescue team and set off to help, acquiring more members en route. Along the way they accidentally discover a new non-lethal weapon which they hope will tip the odds in their favour - which it does, though not in quite the manner they expect, requiring a sudden deus ex machina to save the day.

In terms of writing, the characters are varied and memorable, the dialogue is believable and the stories are well-paced. As for the art, the human-arthropod characters have interesting and believable designs. The environments, both the many and varied realms that constitute Cyeatea's huge forest and the vistas of the huge hive-city Helianthus, are depicted with great attention to detail, although inevitably the more recent strips have better rendering than the original story from almost a decade ago.

Ultimately the thing that I as a reader was most struck by was that Kline and Danielle had succeeded in creating a believable fictional world in which war, murder and other forms of deadly violence simply don't exist. Yet Cyeatea is no hippy-trippy utopia. There's conflict, rivalry and struggle aplenty, it just never results in death or injury, and rivals can end up respecting, or even falling for, each other. In the end, I suspect the defining characteristic of Cyeatean society is not sex at all, but I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what it is.
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