“I didn’t realize our world was so beautiful. So loved.”
That certainly doesn’t sound like something that would come from a book titled She Said Destroy, now does it? That’s because She Said Destroy #1 is an issue that subverts expectations in the best of ways. We are given an opening premise that draws from countless inspirations across sci-fi, history, and pop culture but begs the question: can it be its own thing? Luckily, the answer is a million times yes. Joe Corallo, Liana Kangas, Rebecca Nalty, and Melanie Ujimori are able to capture the wonder of sci-fi, root it in historical truth, jazz it up with themes from current pop culture, and put it all onto the page.
The worlds depicted in this first issue can only be described as heavenly. Kangas’s sparse but thick line work combined with Nalty’s light colors in the first few pages are reminiscent of a children’s fairy tale. The first few pages look like they’re done with colored pencils, a beautiful style seldom scene in comics right now. There may be a war at hand, but this is a place you want to be. There’s a sense of inclusion in this conflict that spurs from the frequent use of words like “we” and “us” — this isn’t a “my people vs. your people” type of conflict, but rather a crusade born of faith. There are no doubters or nonbelievers and, so far, people are loyal to their respective sides. This a majority’s crusade against the final remnants of dissent, and it’s gripping from page one.
The conflict is not without its leaders, however, and Brigid and Morrigan definitely stand out as goddesses. Thanks to Melanie Ujimori’s versatile lettering, their captions spring from the page as though belief has already made their words real. Ujimori appears to come from the Piekos style of lettering, with little or no outlines around the balloons. It’s a more minimalist style that really works for this book, especially when it contrasts the more powerful or influential statements made by the leaders in this universe as it pops out of the page with the ordinary text that blends in with the rest of the issue. She also uses a lot of wispy, translucent onomatopoeia that’s breathtaking to look at and paints a picture of how this issue would sound.
This universe immediately draws you in, and it’s easy to wrap your head around the fight at hand, but we don’t know nearly as much about the people involved. We know that a strong and determined minority is fighting for their faith with low odds. We know that they refuse the idea of defeat, but who are these people as individuals and why should we care? The most obvious answer is to look at how carefree they often are even in the face of losing their beliefs. They may be painted as heathens and dissenters, but in this beautiful cosmic scene, they are also having fun and enjoying life. Despite being a matter of life and death, this isn’t an all-consuming conflict. Morrigan’s followers still have fun even if you might expect otherwise.
Brigid and her followers, the dominant opposition, are also not what you would expect. Does it feel slightly dictatorial and a little cultish? Absolutely, but you also don’t often see a creative team weaponizing the power of light for evil. Seriously, when have you seen the people you’re supposed to be rooting for fighting with destructive magic against evil knights of light reminiscent of holy crusaders or medieval templars? Maybe that’s because Brigid, cultish as she may be, doesn’t really feel evil. Could she be right? Here, people sure do seem happy. Maybe this is a utopia for the universe, but if it requires destroying other beliefs, can it really be the answer? Her knights don’t seem to kill, and life under her rule seems just as carefree and happy. Maybe there is no right answer here, and it’s almost disorienting.
The actual, physical conflict between the two sides is almost like a dance. The overlapping and inset panels provide a dynamic rhythm that quickly moves you along between wider, more open panels that invite you to linger and gaze at the natural landscapes. It feels like a Celtic shanty with staccato panels bridging together beautiful splash pages. It’s a perfect combination of soft and assertive, which is also a fitting description for the characters. The fight feels like a dance but looks like a tableaux with Nalty’s darker colors painting scenes that feel engraved into the page with a sense of permanence. No matter how you feel about either side, there is no doubt that this conflict matters.
Finally, we reach Morrigan herself. There have been countless interpretations of the goddess of death, but this ones still manages to leave an impression. She’s determined, but surprisingly soft and distant. We don’t even see her until the very end of the issue, but we feel her the entire time. We feel the love and respect people like Winona, Raul ad Jackelyn, have for her even if we don’t know why. We feel the love she reciprocates through her drive and when she utters the issue’s final word, you can’t help but stand up and cheer with newfound inspiration, even if it was right in front of you the whole time. She Said Destroy is a combination of many things, but still very much its own. Corallo, Kangas, Nalty, and Ujimori pull off an epic first issue with numerous influences that is still very much its own. It subverts all expectations and is definitely not one to miss.