Tag Archive for Image Comics

The White Trees 1&2

White Trees is a mini-series by Chip Zdarsky with Art by Kris Anka and Matt Wilson. I stumbled upon this book by accident. I saw the cover and had not read a fantasy comic in a very long time and thought I would give it a try.

I was not disappointed.

Zdarsky leans in to the monomyth of Campbell. There has been a great war. The lands are finally at peace and the heroes of the war have settle down to rebuild their lives. The Call comes to disrupt these pastoral lives ensconced in domesticity. The king has need of his greatest warriors and there is no time for them argue. I like that Zdarsky makes Krylos, our main character, a farmer. This tells you what to expect and sets you up for the surprises that are to come.

In the hall of the king, Krylos is brought back together with his fellow soldiers Dahvlan and Scotiar. He has brought them together to let them know that Krylos’ son and Dahvlan’s daughter have been captured by the enemy. They had been together when the raid happened but the soldiers nearby had not been able to rescue them. Sadly, the king can do nothing. The three must take up their weapons again if their children are to appreciate the future their father’s had fought to give them.

Zdarsky does an excellent job of playing with the tropes of the monomyth. He brings hardened warriors to the table and makes you watch as they work through what they lost in the war. He showcases the the trauma that is glossed over in the hero’s journey as these three work through the betrayals and hurt that have built up over the years. This co-opting of the tropes of the hero is seen best in the flashbacks of Krylos raising his son. They are on the farm and the boy is a wide-eyed innocent. His father’s scars form a barrier that makes it hard for them to bond. With his son’s journey not starting with the hero’s call, but a flight from heavy handed discipline and violence.

I love that this story presents the opposite side of this story as well. Dahvlan and Scotiar have built a life together. They care for Dahvlan’s daughter as much as her mother. They are accepted as a part of her life with not a bat of an eye. They are couple who have moved forward on from the darkness to enjoy this future.

The art of this book is good. Anka and Wilson have created a pallet that is both stark and gorgeous. The wilderness that the trio move through is haunting and yet begs closer inspection. Their character design is also solid. In particular, I appreciate how they have drawn Dahvlan. He is a barrel-chested bear/cat hybrid. .My favorite piece in this book are the panels where the three are confronted by spirits. They are offered carnal delights to sway them from their path. The colors and life in these creatures stand in stark contrast to the lands where the trio stand. Just wonderful!

Finally, Zdarsky provides some representation in this series. Dahvlan and Scotiar are a couple. They have a life together that is accepted as fact and there are no issues from this. Dahvlan had a wife and has a daughter. The only issues are that of a break up, nothing more. Both Scotiar and Dahvlan are a part of the daughter’s life. I should be so happy to see this in a comic book, but I am.

I know that this series has been out for a few months, But recommend that you pick it up and give it a read. It is hidden gem that seemed to be missed in everything that came out last year.

I bearly recommend this series!

God Country

What if you took Jack Kirby, Still Alice, and Ordinary People and threw them into a blender?

Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, and John Hill provide a cogent response to this question in their comic book God Country.

I picked up the last few issues of this book and fell in love with everything about it. The art was dynamic, the colors rich, and the story both quiet and madcap bonkers. I had to wait for the trade to come out to be able to read the story from beginning to end and it was well worth the wait.

God country was to me a story about two families trying to hold themselves together in the face of great disasters. The Quinlan family lives in west Texas. Roy is trying to raise his family which consists of his wife and young daughter. He is also trying to take care of his father who is deep in the grips of Alzheimer’s. We meet the Quinlans as a storm approaches their home both literally and figuratively. Roy is called home by the sheriff as his father was found wandering out by the road. The sheriff wants Roy to come inside to discuss the issue when his father, Emmett comes out in full rage.Emmett does not remember his son, daughter-in-law, or granddaughter. He is screaming epithets at them to get them off his property.

Everything comes together in these pages to show you the blind rage of a man lost in his own head, the fear of family members that do not know what he will do, and the sadness of a son trying to do his best for everyone involved.

Heart wrenching.

When the calm of the family storm subsides, the literal storm hits brings tornadoes that tear the house apart and pulling Emmett into its heart. From the chaos of the storm comes a true demon standing twenty feet tall. Roy, desperate to save what remains of his family, bravely steps between his daughter and the approaching demon. With thunderous fury, Emmett returns with a sword the likes seen in Final Fantasy 7 or Werewolf: The Apocalypse to destroy the demon.

Thus is the second family drawn into the story.

The sword, Valofax, is the god of Swords. They were created by God of Kings Attum who keeps the Kingdom of Always from slipping into oblivion through sheer will. Valofax left his previous wielder, Aristus, God of War to kill the demon that destroyed the Quinlan farm. The Kingdom of always is an empty place, populated now only by its King and his two sons. The other gods had been sacrificed by their king to retain old glories in the face of eventual oblivion. Aristus, much like Roy, strives to be his own person while serving the will of his father and sovereign. Valofax has no such compunction.

The story trips off the charts into Kirby Crackle territory without ever losing the humanity at its heart. Valofax restores Emmett to his mind prior to the erosion of his memory due to Alzheimer. The story explores what it means to be given your personality back and what you would be willing to do to keep it. It also delves into what it means to be a soon and when the line has to be crossed to be your own person and let your father’s madness take them to where they are going and not let it destroy you.

The creative team on this book have created something special. The story is both a quiet piece about families and an epic tale of hubris amongst the stars. Cates captures both of these ends of the spectrum and all points in between with his story. The humanity of the characters, even Valofax is never in question. Even though Valofax speaks in a stilted manner, their voice is clear in it’s motivations and emotions. It cares about things and understands the consequences of actions. Cates made me care about everyone involved, even Valofax.

Shaw’s art is evocative. They capture the emotions that Cates story holds and stretch them across the page. The worn look of Emmet and the sharp edges of Valofax all capture the essence of Cates words and echo them from the page into your head. Combine this with the palette brought by Wordie and the visual imagery of God Country is just phenomenal. The pages both carry the heat of a west Texas evening and the cold of the depths of oblivion that the Kingdom of always teeters on. There are so many single pages scattered throughout this book that will just capture and keep you from moving on in the story while you appreciate the power of each one.

I enjoyed God Country immensely and have read the trade several times. It would make and excellent addition to anyone’s library.

I bearly recommend it!

Rat Queens Vol 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth

RatQueensV2_CoverOne of the books I made sure to take with me on vacation was the second Volume of Rat Queens. The first volume was just so good I had to get caught up with the title through what was available in trade paperback. I propped my feet up on my resort room balcony and read the book as the tropical sun rose over the palm trees rustled in the breeze coming from the ocean.

It was rather idyllic.

In this volume of Rat Queens there is a slight change in the creative team. Roc Upchurch was the Artist on the first volume. Due to circumstances, he stopped working on the title and Wiebe was able to get stellar artistic talents of Stjepan Sejic. I love Sejic’s work and had no reservations about his ability to do Rat Queens justice.

The story picks up with the Queens ending their celebrations of the defeat of the Orc horde and saving the city of Palisade from certain destruction. As is their wont, the Queens celebrations are are destructive as normal and they are once again brought before the mayor of the city. A new mission is presented to the Rat Queens to recompense the city for destruction of priceless art. The story unfolds to show the audience that things unfinished never remain hidden for long.

In this volume of Rat Queens We get to learn more about each member of the group as they fight for their lives and the lives of every member of the city of Palisade. The puzzle pieces presented in Sass and Sorcery come together as Gerrig is finally able to execute the plan to get revenge for the loss of the only thing that he loved in the world that was taken from him. The hole that this loss left within in soul can only be filled with the death of that which he helped create and, maybe then, his own death will cause the pain to end.

Like the first volume, the story presented in volume two is stupendous. The character which were well realized are given even further depth in here. The audience is given glimpses into the past of almost every character which shows how they ended up being a part of the Rat Queens. The dysfunction of the group is not ignored either as this provides both a layer of tension and comedy that makes this books so good. But, instead of being one dimensional, it evolves with the characters so that even their squabbles are endearing. The art, as expected, is wonderful. There is a series of panels at the end of the book where Dee is faced with a choice. Time is running out and something must be done. Sejic creates such tension in these panels as she contemplates her next move. When the decision is made and the power flows, Sejic creates a sense of power that flows through Dee to the wider world that is just beautiful to see. The transition in artists is also handled well so that the change isn’t ever jarring in the story.

Rat Queens Vol 2 is another must have trade paperback for any fan of comic books. Great characters, wonderful art, and a story that is exciting but leaves plenty of questions to be answered in further stories.

4 bear paws out of 4!

Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery

Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery

Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery

Okay, I am a little late to the game. I just recently discovered the book Rat Queens by Wiebe and Upchurch and I have to say I am sad that I missed this book when it first started coming out.

Sass and Sorcery collects the first five issues of Rat Queens.  Rat Queens tells the story of an fantasy adventuring band composed of women from several different walks of life who’s life’s paths have led them to joining the group. Dee is an atheistic cleric that comes from a family cthulhu-like monster worshipers. Betty is a halfling thief with a penchant for recreational alchemy and candy. Hannah is an elven mage with an attitude and overprotective parents who also happen to be necromancers. The final member of the Rat Queens is Violet. Violet is a dwarf for whom hipster is an art form. She shaved her beard before it was cool and constantly works on her battle cries.

In Sass and Sorcery, the intrepid Rat Queens are settled in to celebrate another successful venture. The only down side is that their celebrates had deleterious side effects on the town in which the live. With the rising of the sun, the Queens and several other adventuring bands discover themselves in the town’s jail facing the consequences of their destructive debauchery. The Rat Queens, along with the other adventuring parties that they dragged into the celebrations, must either complete a service for the city or be forever banished. The assignments given all sound quite simple and something that none of the groups should have any difficulty handling. This assumption is far from the truth as several adventuring groups are met by assassins and traps that either kills the group out right or leave few survivors. It is up to Rat Queens to figure out what is going on and save the city from the darkness waiting to engulf it.

The main characters.

The main characters.

There is a lot to love about this book. The art is gorgeous. Upchurch does an excellent job oat creating characters and scenes that are a joy to behold. He has no difficulty switching from scenes of dialogue to full scale battles. Each are treated with love that shines from the page. Wiebe’s characters are also well crafted. My favorite being Dee. I particularly like her because of how Wiebe treats her. She is an atheist cleric that has left her family over her beliefs. Her family are staunch believers in their lovecraftian god but still love their daughter despite these differences. It is refreshing to see this type of connection in the fantasy genre and Wiebe handles it well. Rat Queens also provides a diverse cast of characters which is something that was exciting. An adventuring party composed of women is virtually unheard of and that they are well rounded characters that you want t o know more about is just icing on the cake. Both the main characters and supporting characters cover the spectrum to present diverse characters as just people that have stories that are worth telling.

I have to give Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery four bear paws out of four. The story is excellent, the characters are interesting, and there are plenty of threads that make me want to pick up the next volume of this book. If you like comics and the fantasy genre, this trade is a must have for your shelf.