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Crossroads Comics #167 – Shining Sea

It’s Wednesday which means it’s time for Crossroads Comics!

I apologize for being a bit late this week. This review took a little longer than I intended, but I hope you’ll believe me when I say it’s worth the wait. This week we’re taking a look at Shining Sea by WhimsicalWolfa. This comic is a Pokémon Black 2 Zombielocke that follows Marella, a young trainer on a quest to leave the Unova region. With her trusty partners, Bay the Oshawott and Faris the Patrat by her side, Marella believes leaving Unova will be easy compared to what she has faced in the past. But when Team Plasma starts to make a reappearance, she begins to realize things won’t be quite that simple. Will she and her team be able to successfully leave Unova or does fate have other plans? That’s something you can only find out by reading Shining Sea.

Before we get into the usual spoiler-filled analysis of Shining Sea, let’s first go over what a “zombielocke” is and specifically the ruleset that is being used for this particular comic, since it’s one of the traits that makes this story so interesting. A “zombielocke” is one of the many variants of the typical Nuzlocke ruleset, adding in an additional clause that allows for the revival of certain Pokémon. There’s actually several different versions of the “zombielocke” ruleset itself, so it’s important to note that Shining Sea is using the variant created by Skitea on Deviantart/GingaNinjaOwO on YouTube. This particular ruleset adds two possible means of revival for a dead Pokémon. The first method is through the use of a Revive. The player is allowed to use up to three during the run and they must be used immediately after the Pokémon has fainted. The second method is through sacrificing another Pokémon to save the fallen one. The sacrificed Pokémon is decided through the use of a six sided die. Notably, a sacrifice may only be attempted once, a Pokémon can only be revived once, and a revived Pokémon is only allowed to use two moves instead of the usual four. It’s unclear if the player is allowed to choose between the two methods or if all three revives have to be used first before opting for sacrifices. The rule of “a sacrifice may only be attempted once” implies that it’s possible for a sacrifice to fail, which would mean the revives are the only way to guarantee the revival of a certain Pokémon, making them much more valuable. Regardless of how the rules are implemented though, this is an extremely interesting ruleset and I am very eager to see how it plays out in the story as a whole. Without going into details, WhimsicalWolfa has done very well to integrate the zombielocke rules into the worldbuilding of Shining Sea so far and I can only imagine it will lead to some great pay-offs in the future.

Spoilers Ahead

Shining Sea has a lot of things that make it an interesting story right off the bat. As previously stated, the fact that this is a Nuzlocke variant already makes it very unique from other comics out there, since the author has the additional challenge of explaining why these additional rules exist within the confines of the comic’s worldbuilding. It’s easy enough to explain the existence of the typical Nuzlocke rules; enough stories have done that by now that it’s not a challenge to figure out a clean and easy way to outline why trainers are restricted on the number of Pokémon they can catch and why Pokémon die. You don’t have to alter your setting all that much to accommodate that. However, when you introduce something like zombies into the mix, that requires a bit of legwork on the side of the author to explain. I went over this to some degree when I covered Severance and its status as a Viruslocke earlier this year, and in the case of both that comic and Shining Sea, the authors appear to have essentially built their worlds in a way such that they revolve around the respective variant rulesets the authors played with. Shining Sea does it less so than Severance, but they also don’t have to explain the whole randomization thing that Severance has going on, allowing WhimsicalWolfa to more easily adapt Black 2’s world and setting to accommodate the zombielocke ruleset.

So okay, how does WhimsicalWolfa do this, you ask? Well, it’s established very early on that revives not only exist in this world but are incredibly valuable. Marella uses one to bargain for her life with a member of Neo Team Plasma at Floccesy Ranch, which is a great way to not only establish that Marella has them but also show off just how valuable they are in this world. The comic also goes on to state that the Champion and the professor of the region seem to be the only ones with access to revives, establishing why they are so rare and valuable at least from a limited supply side of things. Though this also does beg the question of how exactly Marella got the ones she did, but that’s something I’ll touch on a bit more later. Additionally, while we have yet to actually see how a revive works and what sort of effect it has on the Pokémon it is used on, there have certainly been implications that their use doesn’t necessarily yield the most positive results. The comic’s prologue is probably the strongest indication of this, with the single page implying that while a revive does bring a Pokémon back to life, it isn’t without some sort of cost. What that cost is has yet to be officially established of course but later pages have dropped some unsettling hints. In particular, I think the page that stands out the most to me is page 39 where we seen an interaction between Reshiram and the current Unovan Champion. In it, Reshiram claims that the champion is clouded by her own lies and that they “cling to the lives of those long gone”. The champion insists that they are not gone, causing Reshiram to essentially disown the champion as the Hero of Truth. This page is extremely significant for a lot of reasons. While the dialogue between these two is very vague due to the readers lacking all the context for it (though I have no doubt we’ll get that backstory further down the line), two main conclusions can be drawn from this interaction. Firstly, based on the fact that we know the champion has access to revives, it seems extremely likely that multiple members of the champion’s team have died and the champion used revives on them to bring them back to life. Other than Reshiram, we really haven’t seen much of the champion or their team, so we have no real way of knowing how many members of their team have been revived, but the fact that Reshiram says “lives” plural implies that it’s at least more than one. If I had to wager a guess, it might even be the majority if not the entire champion’s team other than Reshiram, given we have yet to see any of the champion’s other Pokémon (with one exception in an old photo but I’ll touch on that more later). Secondly, the dialogue here gives the interesting implication that while these Pokémon may have been brought back to life, whatever state they are in isn’t fully “whole”. This is further backed up by Marella’s explanation about revives back on page 5 where she says it gets the body working again but not the mind. This makes sense from a narrative standpoint for a lot of reasons, in particular because the general idea of bringing something back from the dead feels like there should be some sort of cost to it. Additionally, the fact that the title of the variant has the word “zombie” in it and one of the rules restricts a revived Pokémon to only two moves also sort of gives the implication that a revived Pokémon is never meant to be fully whole again. What form this’ll take exactly in the story has yet to be seen, as we have yet to seen a revive used on a Pokémon, but the implications certainly aren’t pretty.

Another thing that has made Shining Sea a really interesting story is Marella herself. It becomes increasingly clear throughout the story that she isn’t our typical protagonist and what little bits of her backstory we have seen leave some dark implications to them. Based on the prologue, the fact that Marella has some understanding of PokéSpeech, some other dialogue between N and Iris, and a few other pages here and there, it appears that Marella was raised by Pokémon in some capacity. Her love for the ocean, her close bond with her starter, Bay, and a silhouette we see on page 24 lead me to believe that she was likely raised by wild Samurott or some other water-type, but I can’t say that for sure as we have yet to actually see who it is that raised Marella. Additionally, we know that at some point along the line, Marella was taken out of this Pokémon’s care and was brought into human society, but the circumstances behind that remain unclear. Based on some dialogue from N, the implication seems to be that he may have been the reason for that, but we don’t have enough information yet to know that for sure, especially since it’s possible that dialogue is referencing another part of Marella’s backstory: her mentor.

While we have yet to actually see this mysterious mentor character, she has been brought up several times, as she is not only the source for Marella’s revives but also the reason she is desperate to leave Unova. This mentor character is the other possible missing link of how Marella got moved from Pokémon to human society, as we have seen a few flashbacks where a young Marella interacts with what is presumably this mentor’s team, but again, we don’t have enough information yet to know that for sure. This mentor is also quite the mystery in her own right, with the information we have on her just leaving more questions than answers. Based on dialogue from Hugh, Cheren, and several other characters, it sounds like she did not treat Marella very well. This is further substantiated not only by Marella’s desire to get the heck out of dodge in a way that doesn’t alert the mentor to her departure but also through the very clearly established fact that this mentor regularly hurt Marella’s Pokémon and even killed one of them. However, the flashbacks we’ve seen featuring what are presumably the mentor’s Pokémon tell a very different story, with them all being rather jovial and peaceful interactions. It’s quite the stark contrast, leaving the readers with a lot of questions as to what exactly happened to cause this turning point in the mentor’s behavior.

With all that said, based on what we’ve seen so far in the comic, I have formulated a couple theories around the identity of this mysterious mentor and what may have happened to cause the sharp inflection in her character. I believe that it is very likely that this mentor character is the current champion and former Hero of Truth. This is based on the fact that she would need access to revives, which it is established that the champion does have, as well as the fact that the only Pokémon we’ve seen of the champion’s other than Reshiram is a Servine in a photograph on page 8. This is particular notable because not only is it established several times that Bay has some sort of fear or trauma related to that evolutionary line, implying abuse at the hand of that species, but we also see a Serperior with similar markings to the champion’s Servine interacting with a young Marella and Bay. Notably, on this page in particular, we also see what we know is the mentor’s Braviary, which is very significant since we know this was the Pokémon that killed Marella’s Blitzle in the past. The fact that Cheren mentions the Braviary’s eyes were blank when notably they are not so when the Braviary appears on page 31 leads me to believe that at some point along the line the Braviary died and had a revive used on it, leaving it as a “zombie”, hence Reshiram’s dialogue on page 39. I think this event may have also been the inflection point for the champion/mentor’s behavior. Based on some dialogue from Professor Juniper and other characters, my theory is that one of the champion’s team died, whether it was this Braviary, another team member, or perhaps even the champion’s starter, and a revive was used on them, turning that Pokémon into a “zombie”. My guess is that the revives themselves were invented as part of an experiment on Professor Juniper’s part and that it’s possible the champion’s Pokémon became the test subject for it, creating a sort of Frankenstein’s monster situation. This ultimately led to the champion’s “corruption” in character, as her unlimited access to revives could potentially allow for her to effectively granted her team immortality (assuming that’s something revives are capable of in this world). As a result, she began to see Pokémon in general as more disposable because they could simply be brought back to life without regard to their soul or sanity, leading to her more cruel attitude towards them and Marella.

Of course this is just a theory and I could be completely off the mark, especially considering there’s a few pieces of the puzzle that I’m still missing or I’m not quite sure how they fit in yet. For example, I think N had some sort of role in this and Marella’s life as well, but where exactly he fits I haven’t quite discerned yet. I think it’s possible for him to be the missing connection for how Marella got from Pokémon to human society but it’s also possible that he is the one who removed Marella from her mentor’s care, since Marella’s backstory mirrors his own quite significantly in both cases. Additionally, we don’t know why Marella isn’t under her mentor’s supervision anymore, which is a huge puzzle piece to be missing, as any number of characters, like N, could be the reason for that. Given it’s clear Marella spent at least a few years in Accumula Town and studied at the trainer’s school while her Blitzle was still alive, that would mean that her mentor would probably know that she is in that area. So what exactly caused her mentor to “abandon” her for a long enough amount of time that Marella is able to attempt her escape from Unova? These are all things that were juggling through my mind as I binged this comic and I am very excited to see how they play out in story because even if I’m completely off the mark, I know the story will be interesting regardless because of well done the setup for everything has been so far.

Also, I haven’t touched on them yet, but the other thing that really makes Shining Sea a fun read is Team Neo Plasma itself. WhimsicalWolfa has done an excellent job really bringing them to life by giving a bunch of the grunts identities. We know the names, faces, Pokémon, and some of the backstories of several of the grunts that Marella has encountered so far, making the organization not only feel more alive but also less black and white. They’re not just faceless bad guys anymore, they’re “real” people with motivations and goals that at least in some cases are rather noble. The most recent pages of Shining Sea have been entirely focused on these grunts and giving them more depth, so I’m very excited to see how that plays out in the future since it seems entirely likely that they’ll be a hindrance to Marella in her quest to leave Unova.

Spoilers End

All in all, Shining Sea is a super interesting webcomic. The characters all have a lot of depth to them, the rules are well integrated into the worldbuilding of the story, and what we have seen of Marella’s backstory has laid a solid foundation for a very dark pathing in the future. It’s definitely building to something big and I have a feeling once we will get to see that pay off once to get into the history of revives and how that interacts with the death of a Pokémon. Additionally, it’s just really nice in general to see Black and White 2 get a bit more love, since I feel like we don’t see that many nuzlocke comics centered on them despite the story of those games being some of the most interesting to work with from a writing standpoint, at least in my opinion.If you’d like to check out Shining Sea for yourself, you can read the whole thing on Deviantart, where it updates every Monday.

And without further ado let’s check out the rest of this week’s lineup!

Crossroads Comics
Eldritchfell A world history lesson!
Land-Shaymin Look at this awesome Halloween get together!
PMD: Chanterelle Hopefully Zacian and the others are alright.
PMD: Explorers of Life Can’t say I’m surprised by that.
Pokemon RP: Lost Island Let’s not overwhelm the poor Poochyena.
Renegade’s Redemption I wonder what she has in mind.
Shinka: The Last Eevee I wonder if Allister will recognize Callie.
The Shaymin Café A pretty jewel for the hedgehog!
The Spaced Out Rangers Sque?

ComicFury Comics
A Fateful Nuzlocke Onward to Pewter City!
Evergreen Uh oh! Be careful, Kudzu!
Genesis: A Gijinka Story Jazz legs!
MK’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde And so the story finally ends.
Moonblast Who could this be?
Speechless What a cute little Jack-o-Lantern!
Sunlocke Poor Bramble probably isn’t taking this too well.
Synastry Loving the purple locks!
The Caretaker Come on, Lucifer, out with it!
The Long Way Heck yeah!! Revenge for the murder snek!

Deviantart Comics
Deadly Syns Imagine being so lost you end up on another continent.
Heroes of Hoenn New teammates yay!
Jet’s Black Nuzlocke With heavy hearts, we must move on.
PMD: Explorers of Shadows Poor Taelyr isn’t taking this too well.
PMD: Hanging in the Balance A plan has been set into motion.
PMD: The Rogue Team That Magikarp doesn’t look convinced.
Pure Light It appears there’s an observer.
Shining Sea Now who might this be?
Sona-Locke Sliding down the stairs like a cool kid.
Wanted! – Pokémon Colosseum Nuzlocke What is this guy yammering on about?

Off-site Comics
Ask Anxious Sylveon Anxiety buddies! Yay?
Ask Backpack Hypno Sudden changes can be unsettling.
Ask Exolutions You can never replace the bros!
Ask the Dark Types Take better care of your fur, sir!
Cain and Mabel Yeah, I don’t think this’ll end up like they think it will.
Illusion Siblings Seems the Zoroark is cautious of humans.
My Trainer is an Idiot You can never have too many Pokémon, silly.
The Glass Scientists His good friend Henry (TM)
The Tale of Two Rulers I’m sure this will only end well.
Team Next-Gen What cute little Halloween costumes

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