Episode 1: Hyleyn opens with Hyleyn and her grandfather, Asar, briefly recounting the events of the previous episode. Hyleyn states that a long time has passed since then, revealing that she died (in a sense) but was saved thanks to the efforts of the Sinkha (thus resolving Episode 0’s cliff-hanger ending). How or when Asar moved from Thalissar to Darcron isn’t addressed, but it’s quickly established that the pair’s life in the ruined city is now a thing of the past.
While talking, the pair ascend a staircase made of floating metal planks. The room they are in is lit with florescent white light, and numerous other floating platforms can be seen populating the empty space around them. Hyleyn wears a blue dress and curious looking hair accessory over the back of her head – a far cry from her peasant attire back on Thalissar. She struts about in her new clothes (and new body) with confidence, implying she has been on Darcron some time. Aser too looks in better shape than we last saw him; still an old man, but with a clean white robe adorned with an ornate red pattern.
Page 1 opens with a portrait view of Aser. Moving down to the right, a larger portrait of Hyleyn from a head-on view (and with a blank white background) follows, continued by a larger portrait frame of Aser, with the background once again in view; the arrangement of these portrait frames echoing the staircase planks portrayed in-frame.
For the next several frames, a blank white background accompanies Hyleyn (when framed in portrait), perhaps implying her angelic Sinkha demeanour. Or perhaps it alludes to the illusionary nature of Darcron, which can morph itself into any environment the inhabitants wish, being a blank canvas of sorts until summoned.
Page 2 moves to a flashback scene, with Hyleyn explaining how she came to live on Darcron. On page 3, we see Hyleyn’s head is fully formed (and textured), but her body is a translucent purple. Veins can be seen around her neck, attaching to the gelatin-like body. She runs her hands over herself with closed eyes, signifying a link exists between her mind and new body. In the following frame, she looks through her translucent hand with calm curiosity, conveying that the body is in fact new to her.
Dashine, another humanoid Sinkha, is helping fashion Hyleyn’s new body. The final frame of page 3 zooms out, showing Dashine and Hyleyn are in a large circular chamber with a medical table placed in the centre. The floors shine like glass, with an arrangement of mechanical arms hanging over the pair and surrounding the table.
In the frame where Hyleyn examines her hand, the translucent fluid that makes up Hyleyn’s body sports realistic detail, like fingernails and knuckle wrinkles. A purple shadow is cast over part of Hyleyn’s face from the light moving through the transparent hand, and looks like a genuine rendered lighting effect.
Page 4 opens with a stacked three-pane arrangement of Hyleyn lying down on the medical table while the mechanical arms descend from overhead, sending streams of floating skin-coloured globs into her naval, replacing the translucent purple with a more natural skin colour. In the top frame, Hyleyn closes her eyes and leans her head back while the liquid floats into her. Her flowing hair looks as though it was retouched, as it has an almost painterly effect, and is partially covered in the first two frames, perhaps to hide this retouching.
The floating globs of skin coloured goop almost look like something out of a body horror piece. However, as they move to retexture Hyleyn, the globs appear more erotic than horrifying. Hyleyn hovers above the table, her back arched, leg bent, and hair flowing while the liquid pumps into her, implying a feeling of euphoria (or at the very least ticklishness). The process is more than just a texturing of her form; it is an integral part of restoring her humanity, as emulated through Sinkha cell structure.
When the process is complete, Hyleyn steps off the table and looks down at her nude body. With her shoulders hunched, she appears uncomfortable in her new skin. This frame boarders the leftmost side of page 4, while the frame of Hyleyn running her hands over her translucent body boarders the rightmost side of the previous page, giving a nice contrast of the transformation.
Later, Hyleyn sits in her room, drinking a beverage from an obliquely shaped glass bottle while Darcron debriefs her on the Sinkha’s next mission. Hyleyn communicates with Darcron telepathically, continuing to drink from the straw while doing so. The conversation is communicated through not just speech bubbles, but Hyleyn’s tilted head and upward gaze, implying she is listening to the all-present entity.
Page 7 shows the Sinkha departing Darcron for the planet Shadoowm of the Kehita empire. The descent from space teases the ecumenopolis (the planet’s surface being mostly covered by the city), with buildings stretching far into the horizon (though oceans are seen from orbit). The following page depicts the Sinkha disembarking their craft the at the Royal House. Page 7 is entirely devoid of narration or speech, while page 8 contains only two renders, with narration boxes tucked to the righthand side as to not obstruct the grand entrance. The scale of the rendered landscapes in these frames introduce a world of staggering scale and detail.
Page 9 introduces several new creature models: Emperor Shadoowm and his robot underlings. One of the great advantages to render work is that you can simply copy and paste models to fill up a scene as needed. Yet, despite this ease of repetition, Patrito has gone out of his way to add numerous texture and colour variations to the robots.
Page 9 ends with the Sinkha surrounded by these robots while meeting the emperor, the claustrophobia of the tightly packed throne room contrasting harshly with the wide-open space of the previous several pages. Page 10 ends with a full frame shot of one of Shadoowm’s robots, showcasing the towering bot in a menacing studio light, with the boarding three frames of Hyleyn looking about nervously increase the tension. Surrounded, and seemingly overpowered, Hyleyn pleads (telepathically) with her comrades, suggesting they be more diplomatic in addressing the emperor. Though she is now a Sinkha, Hyleyn still carries a human head, and is thus susceptible to damage in a way the other Sinkha aren’t.
Shadoowm explains that he summoned the Sinkha because of a situation that has grown out of his control. Not wishing to utilize the help of the central government, he asks they move to the planet Gavimeha to show them the issue rather than try to explain it.
Page 12 ends with an armada of ships taking off into orbit, with Hyleyn commenting that Shadoowm must be terrified if he feels the need for such a large fleet. The following page opens with Dashine transforming into a ship, with Hyleyn riding in her bridge (Cockpit? Hood? There’s no real good way to say that she’s inside of her…). This marks the second transformation for Dashine in two pages, prompting Hyleyn to pop the obvious question as to whether Dashine feels more like a woman or a starship. Dashine explains that she was born to be a ship, but her human interface eventually became more dominant.
Arriving on Gavimeha, the Sinkha find that Shadoowm has led them to a metaport – like the one on Thalissar. This prompts Dashine and Aker to lash out at Shadoowm, scolding him for not only luring them to such a dangerous place, but for having tried to activate it. Aker explains that the metaport is not an archeological ruin; rather, the creatures that control these ports still exist. The page ends with the Sinkha watching on in horror as a holographic replay of the metaport launching a Khahaek ship replays before their eyes.
As the Sinkha and Shadoowm communicate via radio upon their descent to Gavimeha, Shadoowm appears as a pixelated holographic rendering. Though simple, this effect is a perfect touch to the scene. It not only communicates the interference in signal feed, but it leans into the medium of rendered imaging by incorporating an innately digital effect. Recreating this effect by hand, though not impossible, would lack the same impact, and goes to show the lengths Patrito took to establish a truly digital comic book.
Hyleyn winces in horror upon seeing the Khahaek ship, reminded of Kahaltar (whom killed her in Episode 0). The dramatic render on page 17 reveals the monstrous looking ship in its totality, with urchin-like spikes protruding upward and glowing red fluid flowing beneath its black shell making it look more akin to a living creature than a starship.
The colour contrast between ships is notable too, with the silver and red gradients lending the Sinkha ship an almost porpoise-like glimmer, while the Khaheak vessel looks more like an insect or crustation, with red eyes and veins adorning the shelled surface.
Aker comforts Hyleyn as they watch the ship take off, stating no harm will come to her this time. Just as they lean into kiss, the scene abruptly changes back to floating islands where Asar asks whether Hyleyn is in love with Aker. She avoids the question, stating that this is her island and she doesn’t have to tolerate interruptions to her story.
The room Aser and Hyleyn are in has evolved substantially since the first page. What was a single platform in a vast empty room has become a floating island hovering overtop a picturesque ocean shallow. The spiral staircase hover planks are still in view, letting the reader know this is the same place as before, though it has formed (or perhaps, rendered) into an entirely private paradise made just for Aser and Hyleyn.
Hyleyn’s narration resumes in the bottom frame of page 19, with Kahaltar’s ship (now in outer space) heading towards Shadoowm’s planet (which Hyleyn notes, is just called Shadoowm, as the emperor named it after himself).
In the background, Shadoowm (the planet) is set against the backdrop of space, with the curvature of the planet seen on the righthand side of the frame. Through the purple clouded atmosphere, the lights of the ecumenopolis can be seen. The Khahaek ship’s spines pierce the edge of the planet, signalling its imminent descent.
Back in the throne room, Shadoowm talks with Dashine, demanding the Sinkha protect his planet from the incoming invasion. Dashine explains that Khahaek weapons will pass right through a Sinkha, and though it won’t kill them, everyone else in Darcron would be in grave danger if they chose to intervene.
Meanwhile, Hyleyn talks with a young slave named Dagsy. He looks away in shame when Hyleyn tries to engage in conversation, stating that he is forbidden to speak with higher classes like the Sinkha. The sun setting in the background, the scene abruptly changes on the following page when the sky turns a deep red. The Khahaek ship descends from the atmosphere, partially cloaked in clouds. It begins firing on the city, and the emperor’s tower’s is quickly decimated. The three wide shots scoring the attack only show the throne room from afar, leaving Dashine and the emperor’s fate in question.
Dashine recognizes the apparent attack is nothing more than an Khahaek illusion, much like the one that captured Hyleyn near the end of Episode 0. Dashine’s hypothesis is confirmed shortly thereafter when Hyleyn leaves the throne room to go back to the landing pad, only to find a forest of thorned tentacles cloaked in a dark green mist have engulfed the city. Vantage is obscured more than a few hundred meters, and the destruction seen on the previous page has been replaced by this new illusion.
The Sinkha discuss the source of the illusion, with Dashine stating she can “smell” (sense his subatomic frequency) Kahaltar. Aker confers that what they are witnessing is a result of changing radiation wave lengths. The transmitter responsible for the illusion can’t be far, though where it is, and why Kahaltar has used this tactic instead on an outright attack, remains a mystery.
Panic has set in with the robots as well, with a group of them confessing their fears to the Sinkha. Aker hears their pleas, knowing that even though the Sinkha will survive, everyone else could perish in whatever attack Kahaltar has planned. It is then devised that Dashine will try to discreetly track the Khahaek transmitter by hiding in her own shadow. Dashine agrees that it could potentially allow her to pass by unnoticed, though if found out, the illusion could absorb her, and she would be lost to the abyss.
Dashine proceeds to launch into orbit and destroy the projector. On page 28, the page is split in two columns. On the left, a tiered stack of pictures depicts Dashine moving from her reflective silver skin back into her human form. On the right, the Khahaek ship uncloaks from the clouds above Shadoowm.
Dashine is first shown smiling with delight after confirming her hit on the projector. The Khahaek ship’s outline, warped by transparency effects on the backdrop of clouds, can be seen hovering above the city, cloaked in a wavering green film. Dashine then looks right, as if peering into the neighbouring frame, to see the partially uncloaked Khahaek ship get kit by several laser beams coming from the city. The ship then crashes to the planet surface, leaking orange fluid from its wound. Dashine struggles to reform herself while the ship falls from the atmosphere towards the city, and this dramatic turn is well choregraphed by the pacing and placement of frames.
On page 29 the ship hits the surface, exploding in a blaze of fire and plasma. The scale of this render, along with the smoke and fire effects, create a real sense of damage – even if relatively small compared to the sheer expanse of the city. This regular transition from up-close character scenes to sweeping landscapes gives the third act of the book a cinematic grandeur.
Dashine storms the throne room to confront Shadoowm about opening fire, with the grisly scene of the wreckage acting as a backdrop; the billowing smoke from the crash accenting Dashine’s rage. The Sinkha, Shadoowm and his army then move to the rooftops to better assess the damage. Words are exchanged, with Shadoowm declaring victory in the war, while the Sinkha argue that there are still thousands of Khahaek alive, and that they will soon arrive to continue the fight.
Shadoowm’s army mobilizes, with the robots’ heads opening to unleash small brain-shaped drones equipped with laser guns. These drones investigate a series of floating semi-translucent purple globs – not unlike the Sinkha materials used on Darcron. The drones open fire, only to be obliterated by pink bolts of electricity immediately thereafter. The final frame of page 32 shows Dashine and Hyleyn standing in the shadow of a towering beast. The following page opens with the Sinkha engaged in an all-out brawl with the newly formed Khahaek warriors.
Page 33 opens with Dashine motioning for Hyleyn to stay back before she leaps into an assault on the surrounding Khahaek. The narrative box explains, “The Sinkha… so incredibly swift that impossible actions become simple, as if time no longer exists. What occurs in a tenth of a second appears as a static image, where one can perceive neither the gravity nor the effort.”
Dashine somersault kicks two Khahaek, slitting one’s stomach and another’s head with the heel of her boot. Meanwhile, her right hand has transformed into a rifle, and fires rounds into the mouth of the alien behind her. The flow of the blood splatter – aptly captured as individual globs – along with Dashine’s flowing hair, give the radical motion in this frame a convincing, if slightly sprawled, sense of impact.
Hyleyn leaps into action shortly thereafter, coating her still vulnerable human head in a transparent helmet of Sinkha goo. She sprints forward, disarming a Khahaek before dragging the emperor out of harm’s way, escaping the battlefield.
The final frame of page 35 runs the whole length of the page, once again showing the incomprehensible size of the city, stressing the distance between the Sinkha warriors, and implying that Hyleyn is on her own, lost in a dark corner of this infinite sprawl.
Once reaching safety, Hyleyn puts the (unconscious) emperor down. She then hears Dagsy cry out for help, and leaps over a nearby barrier to find him trapped within a dark alcove. The room is a vault of sorts, with a large circular seal on one of the walls. Spanning the gap between the walls of the room are I-beams, with a discarded cable draped over them. Above, the stubs of I-beams are set into the wall; the fact that they no long span the gap implying these are ruins and not a construction site.
This is furthered by the pit in the centre of the room, with darkness obstructing view of how deep it runs. Finally, the walls of the room are made of perfectly fit identical stone blocks. These blocks are ornately decorated with relief carvings of Kehita beings. Though these ancient-looking carvings are at odds with the industrial infrastructure, and they do not show any signs of degradation, they still lend the room a forgotten aura, as if this is a perfectly preserved bit of the city’s history, making it a suitable place for Hyleyn to confront her own past.
Hyleyn tries to communicate with the others but finds herself unable to make a psychic link. Tentacles begin slithering out from the darkness. They pierce Dagsy’s body, holding him hostage. It’s then revealed that the tentacles belong to none other than Kahaltar, who leans out from the shadows to greet Hyleyn.
Meanwhile, Aker sneaks into the room, telepathically communicating with Hyleyn. Hyleyn responds, telling Aker not to move.
On page 38 Hyleyn and Kahaltar come face to face. Though he does not recognize her at first, Kahaltar soon realizes who stands before him. Hyleyn confirms her identity, triumphantly claiming that she is immortal; a bluff she hopes to use to fool Kahaltar.
The two characters stand face to face, with the top frame showing Kalatar’s massive skeletal head, multiple eyes, and mouth of razor teeth staring down Hyleyn’s comparatively small human head. Light returns to the scene – or rather, the pair happen to stand in the room’s sole beam of light — illuminating the standoff.
The second frame pulls out slightly to a bust shot. Kahaltar moves in closer, raising his finger to Hyleyn, pointing as he confirms his recognition of her. In the final frame, Hyleyn pushes off her back foot, leaning in to meet Kahaltar, forcing him off balance as he kneels back, his retreat evident by his curving tail.
Hyleyn telepathically queues Aker to fire at her from a distance to show Kahaltar that she is in fact invulnerable. Aker fires the Khahaek weapon at her torso. The bolt goes right through Hyleyn’s midsection, creating a hole which quickly closes in on itself.
Kahaltar seems to fall for the ruse, but when Hyleyn tries to convince him that Dagsy also contains a powerful essence which renders him immortal, Kahaltar calls her bluff. In the final three frames of page 40, Hyleyn and Kahaltar are first shown from afar, with the beam of light highlighting their standoff. The next frame closes into Dagsy, still entwined in the tentacles, with the final frame moving to a closeup of Hyleyn’s face as she shouts for Dagsy. Her eyes look to the right of the page, prompting the reader to flip to the next.
A shot firing out towards the mass of tentacles is cut across four frames, showing the gun, bolt, projectile, and finally the tentacles. It hits the mass, and Dagsy is dropped from its grasp. Hyleyn runs across the beam, catching Dagsy mid-air. A blurred background emphasizes the speed of her fall, as does a slight blurring of her legs and right hand.
Page 42 opens with a full-height frame of Hyleyn, smiling and holding Dagsy. Over the next two frames, a shot of the now empty platform is shown, with Aker cursing that Kahaltar got away during the action. Darcron then descends upon the city, signalling the end of the conflict – for now.
Back on board Darcron, Hyleyn explains the ordeal to Dashine and the others. Dagsy, now in a new outfit and cap, has tagged along, stating he hopes Hyleyn will buy him so he can stay with the Sinkha. Hyleyn explains they are not going to buy him because he is now free and will live like a prince on Darcron.
On the final page, Hyleyn and Aser conclude their conversation on the floating island, with Aser asking whether they know where Kahaltar has gone. Hyleyn explains they do not know, and that a dangerous Khahaek weapon had gone missing during the fight, but that story could wait for another time.
The shot moves from the floating island paradise to the exterior of Darcron in space, orbiting a large ringed gas giant. What could have been a delightful ending is quickly ruined by Aser asking his granddaughter what it’s like to have sex with a Sinkha. It seems the story of saving an entire planet from destruction, rescuing a slave, and the uncertainty of a future where the Khahaek race are plotting their revenge wasn’t exciting enough for the old man. What he’s really interested in is how that immortal, morphing, transparent goo dick fits into his granddaughter. Unbelievable.
The first volume of Sinkha is referred to as the “mythical episode zero”, perhaps because it is Hyleyn’s origin story, and at least partially separated from the trilogy started in Episode 1.
The more substantial separation between Episode 0 and Episodes 1–3, however, is the technology used to render them. Patrito switched from Strata Studio to Maya and 3ds max for Episodes 1–3 (Henault 2003). Episode 0 was published in 1995, after years of preparatory work (Patrito stated he created Hyleyn in 1991 [Henault 2003]). Episode 1 came seven years later, and with a whole new set of tools. While the specifics of what made these early commercial rendering programs better or worse than one and other is difficult to judge some thirty years out of context, it’s nevertheless a point worth exploring.
The outer space and ship sequences undoubtedly look much better in Episode 1 than Episode 0, though whether that’s due to an advancing of Patrito’s craft, the power of 3ds max over Strata, or some combination of the two is hard to say.
The render where Dashine and Shadoowm’s forces go into orbit, for example, looks great. A line of action mirroring the planet’s curvature creates a sense of speed. Furthermore, the variety of ships gives the eye something to move between. The blue glow of the atmosphere also keeps space from being completely black, and contrasts nicely with the reflective sheen of the ships. Patrito also incorporates close shots of planets, helping communicate the direction of travel as opposed to ships floating in deep space with distant planets unceremoniously decorating the flat backdrop like Christmas tree decorations.
Though more prominently displayed in Episode 2’s encyclopedia, Patrito does get to show off his affinity for spacecraft in Episode 1. Patrito populates his universe with a variety of character types, with their constructions and textures ranging between humanoid, insectoid, robotic, and the mouldable, shimmering, metallic Sinkha. These character traits are mirrored in the ship designs.
Darcron’s construction adheres to a chunky, a-symmetrical series of blocks, seemingly mounted atop of a core frame, allowing the ship to expand to house different life forms. The transforming Sinkha ships have a more harmonious porpoise-like design. Without the need for propulsion or control equipment, they are halfway between creature and machine.
In 1994, 3D Studios released R4. Below is a video showcasing the program’s rendering capabilities, making for an interesting comparison with the Strata-produced visuals Patrito was producing around the same time. By the late 1990s, 3D Studio Max R2 was being used for big-name productions like the movie Lost in Space and the video game Tomb Raider II (Failes 2020). This momentum continued into the new millennium with video game companies, movie studios, and artists looking to embrace increasingly powerful and accessible computer graphic technology.
In a 2003 interview, Patrito commented on his approach to graphic design for the Sinkha series, regarding how he used both Maya and 3ds max for different purposes. “I believe Maya is unbeatable for character animation and organic modeling, but whenever I have to work upon an architectural or technological structure, I choose Max, maybe because I’m in the habit of doing it (Henault 2003).”
Maya was born from Silicon Graphics’ purchase and merger of Alias and Wavefront (InspirationTuts 2020). Alias had come to prominence with Power Animator, which was used in movies including Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park.
InspirationTuts (2020) notes in their History of Maya article that the program was initially available in two feature tiers, priced at $16999.99 for the full version and $7500.00 for a version with reduced capabilities; The price dropped to $6999.99 and $1999.99 (respectively) a few years later. The more expensive version featured cloth and fur effects, for example, and was aimed at “high end” productions. (InspirationTuts 2020).
Autodesk, makers of AutoCAD (a drafting and architectural rendering software) acquired 3D Studios in the early 1990s for their media division (Failes 2020), and would acquire Maya in 2006 (InspirationTuts 2020). Patrito had studied architecture before switching to art full time (Henault 2003), so perhaps he had some familiarity with Autodesk, which could be what he was referring to when he stated he used 3ds max out of habit (though how closely those two program’s interface and capabilities would have resembled one and other, especially during the period before the merge, is something I’m not sure of). Whether 3ds max truly was better suited for environmental design than Maya or whether it was just preference on Patrito’s part is unclear, but the seamless transitions between the two in-book are evidence that Patrito’s setup worked quite well.
Another notable area of stylistic advancement from the previous volume is the characters’ hair. In Episode 0, hair was still dynamic and well textured, giving the illusion of many strands, though comparing Hyleyn’s portrait shot on page 35 to a similar shot from Episode 0, the advancement is obvious.
Some of the more dramatic moments in Episode 1, like when Dashine is engaged in battle on page 33, lack the dynamism of the hair seen on page 4 when Hyleyn is floating. I’d hazard to guess these instances are effects added in Photoshop and are not representative of Maya’s hair strand rendering, but I could be wrong (Poser 5 had incorporated dynamic hair and cloth by 2003, around the time of Episode 1, so I’d hazard to guess Maya had something similar [Willard 2020]).
Though reflective surfaces were seen in Episode 0 via water and metallic orbs, Patrito’s use of these renders are more ambitious in Episode 1. Two scenes in particular stand out, both of which involve Dashine shifting shape. Again, in the series of four panels on page 28, when Dashine destroys the Khahaek projector, Patrito opted not to add a reflective sheen to Dashine’s eyes or teeth while she transitions back into human form. I imagine this was done as an artistic choice for to better communicate Dashine’s emotional state, as he could have opted to render the inside of Dashine’s mouth as a reflective surface without issue, like he does on page 13.
Comparing the chrome surface used in Dashine’s composition with Terminator 2’s T-1000 (which was, as mentioned above, made with Maya’s predecessor, Power Animator), and the advancement in tech between Episode 0 and Episode 1 is once again evident. Given, Power Animator was nearly a decade removed from the version of Maya used by Patrito in 2003, but considering a whole team of artists ran a bill of nearly $46, 000 per minute to animate the T-1000 in 1993 (InspirationTuts 2020) compared to Dashine in 2003 by one man, Patrito’s grasp on rendering tools are none the less impressive.
Action is still relegated to individual frames (as it was in Episode 0). Sinkha is never hard to read or follow because of its segmented frames, but Patrito’s artistic arrangements feel bolder in Episode 1 than Episode 0. Patrito’s use of breaking single renders into multiple frames, like Aker firing the pulse gun on page 41, helps maintain a cinematic flow. One feels like they aren’t missing out on anything reading the story as static images as opposed to the multimedia format.
That said, some of the action sequences are slightly awkward. Dashine’s fight scene on page 33, for example, showcases several render and aftereffects, like blood splatter and the rifle’s pulse shot. Dashine’s movement, however, looks stilted, her positioning not exactly what you would expect of a lightning-fast immortal being. The action in this render is supposed to take place in a fraction of a second, which perhaps explains her sprawl, but none the less comes off as stiff, like action figures arranged in a diorama rather than digital actors in heat of action.
Yet, in other action renders, Patrito uses aftereffects and cinematography to great effect, like the motion blur added to Hyleyn as she leaps to catch Dagsy on page 41. A render of Hyleyn on page 23 uses focal length for dramatic effect too, with Hyleyn’s hand reaching out towards the viewer.
Patrito stated that he does not use motion capture or keyframing (Henault 2003). While his renders are still incredibly natural without them, some (like page 33) look as though they may have benefitted from having a fluid motion captured mid-way. That said, one of the innate strengths of render work is how easily you can intricately adjust characters. In this sense, Dashine’s somersault kick/upside-down marksmanship is a pose that is perhaps unique to the render medium, evocative of the digital realm’s malleability.
Episode 0 contained traces of fairy tale elements, with Hyleyn undergoing a transformation/makeover and undertaking a journey to reach her prince charming. These themes continue in Episode 1, though it feels more akin to a fairy tale/superhero comic hybrid this time around.
Hyleyn now lives a charmed life in Darcron’s virtual reality paradise, though that’s not to say there isn’t conflict. The Sinkha live on the outskirts of society, sometimes choosing to influence political affairs for the better (kind of). Not everyone is welcome to be a Sinkha, as is seen with Shadoowm and his robot underlings. Yet, those deemed virtuous, like Aser and Dagsy, are welcomed aboard the magical spaceship.
Darcron is paradise of infinite scale, morphable into any habitat imaginable. However, unlike the Sinkha, it is vulnerable. Darcron is an Eden that must be protected, along with the numerous beings living within it.
Though it is mentioned in Episode 0 that the ship houses a near infinite number of beings and realities, the only ones shown are the lush paradises housing the Sinkha. This is curious, as the ship (from the outside) looks quite conventional insofar as science fiction fare. Darcron is a machine, a rig, floating through space, more akin to Alien’s Nostromo than the sleek metallic shapes we see the Sinkha assume, suggesting the ship is perhaps not Sinkha in origin, but rather something they have modified. We’ll explore the ship design more in Episode 2, which contains an encyclopedia on Sinkha history.
The Sinkha’s endless construction and transformation of materials could be directly compared to the software rendering their universe into existence. In a way, the virtual plane is real-world equivalent of Sinkha’s space opera. Though a ship like Darcron could just as easily be conveyed and displayed via conventional pen and ink sketches, Patrito did not dub Sinkha a comic book, but rather a “computergraphic novel”.
Darcron is a machine capable of displaying and creating any number of things, never filling its seemingly infinite horizon. Though the hardware itself may be vulnerable, as well as the data contained within, the Sinkha are mouldable, adaptable, and capable of transitioning between hardware and software (as demonstrated by his jump from Strata to Maya). With their shapeshifting capabilities, the Sinkha embody render art. Though 3ds max and Maya were used to model numerous objects (in Episode 0, it’s stated that the book contained ninety 3D models, eighty backdrops, 350 locations, and 590 maps, if you’re counting [Sosio]), the Sinkha themselves are the personification of render software. They are an extension of the very artform Patrito utilizes. Aboard the vessel Darcron (a fig leaf for his rendering hardware), the Sinkha represent his exploration of a universe within a universe.
The Sinkha are a group of all-powerful problem solvers with exclusive genetic membership. Hyleyn bridges the gap to the reader, not being an all-powerful, all-knowing immortal, but rather someone who inherited the species. She is still learning how to use her power, as well as learning the grander workings of the universe’s conflicts, but is grounded by virtuous human emotions, like love.
Aker remains something of a side-character in Episode 1, whereas Dashine is more developed. Contrasted against Hyleyn, Dashine is a veteran of galactic conflict. She is decisive and opinionated, quick to act (and anger), but not without foresight. She bears the mental load of the 4D chess game the Sinkha are engaged in, though still manages to keep a smile despite the often-harrowing situations they find themselves in. She takes Hyleyn under her wing and bears the brunt of responsibility when it comes to action, though is still humble enough to realize that a one-woman/spaceship-army can only fight on one frontline at a time.
Even reading the print versions of the Sinkha books, it’s easy to note the cinematic influence. Sinkha isn’t just a comic book that happens to be composed of renders instead of drawings. In a 2003 interview, Patrito stated, “…And then there is the container of all this, the narrative technique that, consistently with the rest of the story, may be considered as a kind of ‘virtual reality’… a mixture of 3D and CG, graphic novel and a little bit of cinema (Henault 2003).”Sinkha truly is a comic without an era, both a product of its time and a timeless work. It is a style of rendered art that belongs to a very specific era of software, but it is also an honest embrace of the medium, not trying to hide what it is.
Many comic artists nowadays use render programs in one facet or another when producing their art, whether it be for reference, backdrops, or using sketch renders to create the illusion of hand drawn art. Because of the readymade assets available in render programs, some dismiss the medium as cheap, perhaps explaining why one rarely saw the style used in print. Sinkha remains even more admirable in this light, seeing how it not only made its way into print via the world’s (then) most avant-garde English comic book, but that Patrito stressed the uniqueness of this new medium by releasing them as multimedia CDs. It’s interesting to wonder what the comic book market could have become had it moved to the then blossoming CD-ROM market, being full productions of images, animations, and music.
There was a seven-year break between Episode 0 and Episode 1. Episodes 2 and 3 came out five years after Episode 1, in 2007. We’ll explore the continued adventures, stylistic changes, and much-anticipated ship gallery and Encyclopedia in the next article of Reading Sinkha.
You can purchase Sinkha: Episode 1 – Hyleyn, here.
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