The science fiction fantasy many folks have greatly anticipated for some time has its second issue out this week. Can it explain some of the poetic vagaries of the last issue, or will it continue its dreamlike tone? Is it good?
8House: Arclight #2 (Image Comics)
I was hoping for a bit of an explanation on what is going on, but this issue doesn’t offer too much in that realm. In fact it continues down a path of least resistance, which is all fine and good, but at the same time I wonder if this series would be best read in one sitting. Of course, one of the major issues with serialized comic books these days is writers tend to write for the trade paperback. Gone are the days of done in one stories, partially because stories demand longer arcs due to their complexity, but also because sales are tied to the collected editions. Who wants to read a collected edition where every chapter is different? That’s what anthologies are for! All that said, this issue is still strong in its poetic nature, but when a plot tends to be vague there still needs to be something in its single issue to keep the readers coming back.
In a lot of ways this series feels like a magnum opus in real time. Writer Brandon Graham clearly has a very complex world prebuilt and wants to reveal it as slowly as possible. In a way it reminds me of a mythic tale, and like most of those tales the story requires a slower pace in order to tell the story in an effective way.
But why should I care about this place?
The issue opens on Cserce-Miasta, a great city, but I have no idea where it is in relation to anything, or if it’s important in the slightest. Graham leaves us in the dark in many ways, as if the story is unfolding not for our eyes but as a history. This is how it happened, it seems to be suggesting, which gives it an allure as if it were real. This enhances the dramatic effect and makes the read feel almost dreamlike. There is a fantastic sense that this work is original and important. At the same time though not a lot happens within. There’s an action sequence to get the pace going a bit, but how magic works, who the bad guys are, and why we should care all seem to be afterthoughts for Graham. That’s an issue. At the same time though I want to continue reading to figure this puzzle out. It’s a schizophrenic relationship I’m having with the book and that very much tells me it’s not for everyone.
I find it hard to believe the instant gratification culture we live in will give this book a chance. Those of you who love slow building fantasy may love this though.
The art by Marian Churchland serves the dreamlike quality very well. Many panels lack a background at all, as if the characters are in a cloud, and when there are backgrounds they tend to either highlight the illustriousness of the scene or the barren hopeless environment: the exact opposite. I really enjoy how she draws the palace in particular as it’s very organic. It’s like the characters are standing in an amazing seashell temple with sinew beams and beautiful glass ordaining it. The action sequence leaves a bit to be desired though, with the scant detail hurting the effectiveness in certain panels. Overall, however, her lines look gorgeous in their simplicity.
To think I thought the tree person was a male.
Is It Good?
This series feels very important and very different from most, but it most definitely requires patience from the reader. I can’t recommend it to anyone who wants to work for their entertainment, but I can’t deny there is something lying in wait here that will most assuredly pay off in the end.
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