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Crossroads Comics #168 – Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure: The Silver Souls

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

This week we’re taking a look at Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure: The Silver Souls by TalaSeba (They/Them/Any Pronouns). Ever since she was a young child in the Kanto region, Tala has wanted to go on her own Pokémon adventure, but due to varying circumstances, she was never allowed that chance. Now years later, that chance has finally come her way as she receives her first League Certified Starter Pokemon in Johto. Joined by her new partner, Miyavi the Totodile, Tala embarks on a journey of self-discovery and uncover the deepest, darkest secrets that lie in the hearts of Johto and Kanto. Now faced with painful loss, ancient deities, and old friends, it is only through the strong bonds of her team that Tala can face her destiny.

Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure is a comic that is long overdue for a review and is probably one of the most interesting comics I’ve covered so far in terms of its development. It is one of the oldest and longest running nuzlocke comics in the community, officially starting back on February 26, 2011. Not only does this make the comic ten years old this year, but for reference, the Nuzlocke Challenge itself was originally created in November/December of 2010, making Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure among the first Nuzlocke fancomics created. That, in itself, is already a feat, because not only does it make this comic one of the foundational members of the Nuzlocke community, but it also shows TalaSeba‘s dedication to the project. Nuzlockes, and webcomics in general, get discontinued all the time, with a number of great stories remaining unfinished over the years, so for TalaSeba to have continued to work on this project on and off over a decade is truly admiration worthy. As the author says themself, “This comic has become a special project for me over the years since I have been working on since the early days of nuzlockes in 2011. Not too long after starting on this comic I attended college for Sequential Art and learned how to polish my art and storytelling. Not wanting to give up on the story I wanted to tell, I continued working on my comic on and off up until now. My hope is to take this mess of a comic that my younger self started and finish it with the story and quality I wish I could have started with.” I really admire that and just want to applaud TalaSeba for it. They could have easily just rebooted the story or tossed it aside, but instead they’ve decided to finish what they’ve started and not just that, but make it into something great. That is truly amazing and something I really hope they succeed in.

The fact that Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure is one of the earliest entries in the Nuzlocke comic community definitely shows in the early parts of the story. Much like the original Nuzlocke comic, from which all Nuzlocke challenges are derived, Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure has a very goofy tone throughout a lot of the earliest portions of its comic, including Monty Python references, anime jokes, and more. This isn’t a criticism by any means, because for me personally it was actually really enjoyable to see the sort of “old school” sillier tone that was very much of a hallmark of early nuzlocke comics. But it is something worth pointing out because, in general, it acts as a neat piece of history for readers who may never have really seen what older nuzlocke comics were like, making Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure a pseudo-time capsule in terms of the style, jokes, etc. that were common during those times.

Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure also shows off just how much TalaSeba has grown as an artist over the years, with the few colored and detailed panels interspersed throughout the early parts of the comic acting as markers of how they developed their style over the last decade. There is a reason this comic won second place in the “Most Improved” category during the 2020 Nuzlocke Extravaganza. TalaSeba‘s artistic growth is really put on display throughout this comic’s development and it is super neat to see. As the comic progresses, their style becomes less sketch-y and more refined, showing off a better understanding of line strength, coloring, shading, and more. Their character designs also improve a lot, with many of the characters undergoing changes that make their designs less in-line with official Pokémon artwork. This applies to both the human and Pokémon characters, by the way, and I’ll get into more specific examples down in the spoiler section below. This improvement also applies to TalaSeba‘s writing as well, with Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure progressively becoming more serious and deviating more from the original SoulSilver storyline as time goes on. Characters roles are changed, new subplots are added, and goofy moments that were likely meant to just be silly gags are actually turned into full blown character development moments. What started out as a very wacky and jest-based comic grows into an intense, action-packed, and well-written story with beautiful artwork to accompany it, and it is really really neat to see TalaSeba‘s growth on display in each strip.

Spoilers Ahead

So let’s get into some specifics and break down why I find this comic so interesting. Starting with the character designs, as previously mentioned, at the beginning of Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure, most of the designs are fairly standard and in-line with the official Pokémon artwork. However, as the comic progresses, TalaSeba starts to flex their artistic muscles a bit and gets a lot more creative with their designs, both for the Pokémon and human characters. There’s a lot of characters I could name as examples for this, with Miyavi and Noctus in particular being great ones because they’ve been on the team since the beginning of the comic so you really get to see their designs change over time, and Samara and Luna are also worth mentioning because they have some of the most “off-model” designs of the team, but I think my personal favorite examples are Astrid and Aiden. This is partially influenced by my inherent bias towards the Nidoran line. I love them a lot and cannot begin to convey how excited I was when I saw that Tala caught not one but TWO Nidorans. However, Astrid and Aiden are also a great example of TalaSeba‘s growth both as an artist and a writer.

The two start off fairly on-model in their initial appearances as Nidorans and then after they evolve, but eventually undergo some massive design overhauls that really make them distinctive from other members of their species. Aiden is very bulky, spiky, and angular, emphasizing the masculinity in his design, since sharp angles and boxier appearances are typical hallmarks for male character designs. By contrast, Astrid is very soft, circular, and cutesy, emphasizing the femininity of her design, since soft and round appearances are typical hallmarks of female character designs. Not only are these great executions and applications of those typical hallmarks onto non-human characters, something that can be really hard to pull off with more animalistic designs, but it also really emphasizes the sexual dimorphism of the Nidoran line that already existed in the base depictions. By default, Nidorino is already fairly sharp and angular, whereas Nidorina is much more round, so TalaSeba‘s depictions of that in Aiden and Astrid not only take it a step further, but do so in a way that looks natural and works very well for those characters. The additions of eyebrows and other features also allows them to be much more expressive than a more on-model design would allow. All in all, they’re just great designs that are distinctive and expressive without being hugely off-model, and I think that’s very neat.

Additionally, both of them get markings (diamonds and hearts) that actually relate to their backstories. Aiden and Astrid are members of the Southern and North Goldenrod Nidoran clans, with Aiden in particular being the firstborn royal of his particular clan. While it hasn’t been fully elaborated on yet, it’s clear that Aiden’s diamond markings are what qualify him as royalty, or at least play some part in it. However, because of his status as a royal, this also means that he’s been betrothed to a member of the Northern clan, preventing him from having a proper relationship with Astrid despite the obvious feelings the two have for each other. And suddenly what started as a silly little gag romance has grown into a full blown subplot for the two in part because of their design changes! Which is really neat! While it’s not uncommon for authors to integrate items or elements in a character’s design as it correlates to their backstory, the fact that TalaSeba does it so seamlessly and in a way that ties together two characters’ backstories with their current relationship really shows how skilled of a writer they had become by the time they decided to do that. It’s also left me very curious as to whether or not Astrid’s markings also have significance and how their character arcs will end up resolving, since it’s apparent that all is not well with the current hierarchy of the Goldenrod Nidoran clans.

Moving away from the subplots though, let’s take a look at the main story of the comic itself since, despite the comic’s goofy start, TalaSeba actually has established a very compelling storyline for the comic since deciding to take it in a more serious direction. While there’s no major sudden tonal shift in the comic itself, another element that is worth applauding TalaSeba‘s writing skills for, Ecruteak City definitely marks a turning point for the story. During her visit to the Burned Tower, we finally learn Tala’s motivation for wanting to go on a journey in the first place: Revenge. After losing her starter to a boy named Red, Tala now seeks some form of closure as she continues to process that loss. And it’s very obvious that this loss, as well as the other deaths she faces throughout the run, greatly impact her mental and emotional well being. She suffers from visions and sleep paralysis depicting not only the Pokémon she’s lost, but also the demons that haunt her, and the potential eventualities of future deaths. It’s to the point that she requests her Gengar, Spooky, to use Dream Eater on her, but not only does this cause her to miss on some major plot details, it also seems to affecting Tala’s mental state in other ways as well. For the most part we haven’t seen this majorly impacting Tala, but I have no doubt these little blips just the tip of the iceberg and the Titanic has yet to actually make impact with the bulk of this glacier.

Another notable part of Tala’s visit to Ecruteak City, and the Burned Tower, is the introduction of the legendary beasts and Morty as major characters to the story. Similar to the Dream Eater plotline, we have only seen the beginnings of these characters’ roles in Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure thus far. Raikou and Entei made their initial appearances in the Burned Tower where they reveal that they’ve been waiting for Tala and Silver’s arrival. They then later appear again in a dream where Raikou explains that Tala needs to return to Ecruteak City in order to hear an old legend. What exactly this old legend is has yet to be revealed, but based on pages 40 and 46, as well as the fact that this is a SoulSilver nuzlocke, I am willing to bet it has something to do with our dear friend, Lugia. Pages 40 and 46 are also significant because they mark the two appearances of Suicune thus far, who was notably absent during the aforementioned dream team meeting. Exactly why Suicune was absent and why they chose to speak to Morty using visions rather than words is unclear, but it likely has to do with how they’re seen protecting Lugia in 40. From the few appearances we’ve seen from Team Rocket thus far in the story, as well as a general knowledge of SoulSilver’s actual story, I’d surmise that they are currently developing a mind control device with the intent to use it on Lugia. This would fall in line with what we see with the radio signal in Mahogany Town plotline in the actual games, and is further backed up by the comic’s most recent update where we see a Rocket Grunt use a mysterious device on two Spearow causing them to evolve, something that is an established side effect of the Mahogany Town radio waves in the games. How exactly it all fits together though, I haven’t figured out yet, but we’ll likely get more light shed on it once the crew returns to Ecruteak City and reads the old legend that Raikou wants Tala and Morty to see.

Speaking of Morty, let’s briefly look at his role in the story. In addition to being a possible love interest to Tala, Morty appears set to play a very important role in our main character’s development as the comic progresses. Tala is haunted by nightmares of those that she has lost and it is very obviously impacting her psyche in ways that have been implied to potentially lead to her own death. The actions she’s taking to grant herself respite are not healthy, and those around her know it, but Tala refuses to listen because the burden of their memories is too much for her to bear. This is where Morty comes in. It’s established during the Ecruteak portion of the comic that Morty is able to see and speak with dead Pokémon. So far we’ve really only seen him use the ability once, and his attempt to comfort Tala afterwards doesn’t exactly go well, but I believe that this will come back to rectify itself in the future. Tala needs to make peace and it’s entirely possible that Morty’s ability will allow her to finally lay the guilt she feels around the deaths of her team to rest. The fact that Morty is also Suicune’s chosen one not only puts him in a position to interact a lot more with Tala in the future, but it also makes me wonder if his ability will eventually have some role in the quest of the legendary beasts as well. Exactly how, again, I am unsure, but I do believe it is something worth keeping in the back of our minds as Tala embarks on her journey towards eastern Johto.

Spoilers End

All in all, Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure is a great comic. Not only is it a pseudo-time capsule, allowing us to look at what many of the oldest original nuzlocke comics looked like back when the fandom was still young, but it’s also a great example of how far someone can come as an artist, writer, and creator in a decade. Progress isn’t always linear and as creators, many of us can get bogged down in how much or how quickly we improve. However, it’s cases like Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure where you really get to see that growth does happen, it just takes time. When TalaSeba began their comic, it was just a fun and goofy adventure about a girl and her Totodile journeying across Johto, but now over a decade later, it’s a story about love, loss, legends, and revenge. How exactly it ends is something we’ll have to wait and see, but whether it takes ten months or ten years, you can be sure that I’ll be there every step of the way.

If you’re interested in reading Tala’s Nuzlocke Adventure: The Silver Souls, you can find the comic on Deviantart, ComicFury, and the Nuzlocke forums. In addition, you can support the comic and the artist on Patreon, where you’ll get early access to pages as well as see other stuff that they have in development for the future. Or, if you’d prefer to support them financially some other way, they also have commissions open and a Ko-Fi. You can also follow TalaSeba on Deviantart, Twitter, Tumblr, and Twitch, for all their art and streaming content.

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

Crossroads Comics
Gible Bites What cute little costumes!
PMD: Explorers of Life Seems someone is getting a lecture already.
Pokémon X Adventures Cyllage City here we come!
Renegade’s Redemption They caught him!
Shinka: The Last Eevee Now where have I seen those runes before?
The Shaymin Café Space Shaymin, you say?

ComicFury Comics
Creeping Shadows An egg…
Devil Waltz At least he asked?
In Blood We Rise Ah yes, morning after struggles.
PMD: A Fractured Time The Time Gear!
PMD: Anamnesis A new story begins.
PMD: Boundless Adventures What are the odds?
PMD: Fragmented Memories A deal with the devil.
PMD: Gods’ Lament Wonder what that was all about.
The Hisui Gang Now who could this be?

Deviantart Comics
Broken Sword Nuzlocke Surely Kabu wouldn’t be that bad… right?
Milos from Home Strange that the search would take this long.
Penumbra Perhaps there is wisdom in his words.
Pixis Rocketlocke Listen up, maggots!
Soul Brothers I am not okay.
The Essence of Being No! Anything but that!
Undertow We do not tolerate Hau slander in this household.
Wanted! – PMD Outlaws He’s gotta decide quick!
When Little Emma Ran Away Looks like the realization just hit.

Off-site Comics
Ask an Rattata I’m sure it’s fine.
Ask Byul Now there’s a Shaymin I haven’t ever seen before.
Ask Capital Seems Capital did not appreciate that.
Daily Mewtwos It hurts a lot, I’m guessing.
Fault Lines Fusion ha!
Mewtwo and Me Hang in there, Mewtwo!
Psychic Duo Hello Joe!
Team Next-Gen It’s hard to know what to feel in these situations.
The Red Vaporeon Swimming in that area does seem like a lot of fun.

Ongoing Conversation