Book Review - "Tribes of Kai"

Nothing is more fun to read than a graphic novel with amazing art and a great storyline.

Which brings us to the upcoming books ‘Tribes of Kai’, which has found financing support on, achieving more than 300 per cent of the support they wanted.

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Artist Daren Bader and writer Lance HaunRogue bring the world of Kai to life with great detail.

HaunRogue has created a rich world for the storyline.

“The Mantakai prepare for a ritualistic rite of passage in which a new lord is to be chosen to rule over their five united tribes,” describes the book’s Kickstarter page. “The Tribes of Kai is a multi-layered graphic novel about honour, integrity and the trappings of war in which extreme circumstances call for unbridled decisions and finding the strength to cope with them. This is a barbaric and primitive world where the survival of the fittest is put to the test.”

The book introduces the Mantakai (Man of Kai), a race of six-limbed, feline/humanoid, anthropomorphic creatures. The dominance of the five individual tribes of Mantakai are threatened by a highly evolved race of reptilian creatures called the Tobognai.

I love the concept for the two major races, and Bader’s art brings the characters to life in stunning detail. His lavish art is absolutely perfect in creating a rich fantasy environ, and its denizens.

I was curious why they chose animal characters though, even though they work incredibly well to tell the story.

“That decision came about very organically because of the types of things that Daren tends to draw when he draws for himself and the pure joy of drawing or painting,” said HaunRogue in an interview for this review article.  “He is very inspired by animals and nature and those things are often the focus of his art, so I crafted the story to suit his artistic sensibilities.  

“But I have always enjoyed stories like Watership Down or Animal Farm with anthropomorphic characters.  

“There is also a strong influence of animation at work here too, being that we both come from an animation background. I think that having animal characters can be a very powerful writing tool that allows the writer to take the reader outside of their biases or their worldview and then provide them a narrative that can confront delicate issues or conflicts from a new perspective.”

The Kickstarter campaign funded a 60-page story, and it simply left me drooling for more, which is being planned.

“This story is pretty epic, and in fact I wrote an entire backstory about the previous generation of Mantakai initially, and that story would be really cool to address one day,” said HaunRogue.  “That story shows the rise of Fauqua, who is the aging Lord of the Mantakai when this story begins. I also wrote a videogame outline for the story, again, because Daren and I have worked pretty extensively in games as well. And that outline really extends the world and the ideas already at work in Tribes of Kai, but it also eludes to where they come from and also a potential human involvement as well.”

As a reader my mind also went immediately to wondering what other tribes might be in the nearby mountains or the forest across a river?

“Yes, there are more Mantakai, and really we only barely scratch the surface of the Tobognai characters in this book, but the reptiles are actually really cool and there are so many more species of them than we could spend time on for this book,” offered HaunRogue. “My favourites are a venomous clan similar to a gila monster, but there wasn’t enough room to have them in this story.”

In my case I am also an avid miniature gamer, so the cool tribes of Kai has me immediately thinking a skirmish game with great miniatures.

HaunRogue said that is not part of the plan at present though.

“No plans as of yet, but as I mentioned I have a video game outline and I think that would be amazing,” he said. “I envision a game where you can create and customize your own Mantakai character and weapons.  I’d love to experience an open world where you can hunt herds of flocking animals or compete with other players during the “Stance” which is one of their ritual competitions to become a tribe leader.  

“And then there can also be an entire storyline focusing on a war with the Tobognai.

“So yeah, we would be open to all things Tribes of Kai, I think these characters would make great sculpted pieces or toys, and I think that the story would make an awesome movie as well!  

“So for now I am just extremely pleased with the book and the way it turned out, and whatever comes our way in the future will be the icing on the cake.  I’m just living in the moment, I want to really take all of it in, because Daren and I worked really hard on this, and now we get to give it over to the readers.  It’s a really magical time for us right now.”

I asked the writer if he realized how good the story was once it was complete?

“You know, I try not to judge my ideas on a good or bad basis, I just write about things that are important to me, and I try to come up with stories that I would want to see or read,” said HaunRogue. “I’m a firm believer in trying to please yourself first when it comes to creating art. I think that is going to yield your best material and it is going to feel the most authentic to others.  

“The creator is the first audience for any new idea, so if it doesn’t grab me first then it usually falls by the wayside pretty quickly.  

“I will say that this story kept opening up and leading us in new directions, which is what I feel is a good test of when something is working or not, if the characters begin to tell you their own story, then you are on to something. This story did that quite a bit.”

The creative team of HaunRogue and Bader have been friends for years.

“Daren and I met back in 1990 when we both began our careers as animators and we quickly became close friends,” said HaunRogue. “We have been working on our own stories for about 20 years now.”

And Tribes of Kai was a collaborative creation.

“Well, I conceived of the story, but it was inspired by Daren’s artwork,” said HaunRogue. “Daren had done some drawings of the centaur cats as well as some humanoid reptiles, and so I built a world around those characters and created a backstory for them.  From there I came up with characters and a framework for their motivations and conflict, but the initial story ideas grew out of a vision of what a world designed and illustrated by Daren Bader would look like.”

Tribes of Kai is an oversized, full-color hardbound book boasting sixty pages.

“I believe the official release date is Aug. 11,” said HaunRogue. “But we are planning to have copies at the Flesk Publications booth at the San Diego Comic Convention in San Diego this July 9th through 12th.”

And what of a book two?

“We will have to see how TOK is received before we make any plans to do another one ourselves,” said HaunRogue. “Right now Daren and I have other story ideas that we are developing, but we would definitely be open to having TOK become an ongoing title based on our concepts.”

Check out this fine book through

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