Ugh!: Endings suck. Even if it’s a good one, you’re then left without the thing you loved. And if it’s a miserable ending, you’re left walking around feeling deeply annoyed and somehow betrayed. But it always has to happen, and thus we prepare ourselves accordingly.
After months of a deliberate but exhilarating build, we’ve reached the end of Dennis Culver and Justin Greenwood’s Crone, a modern fantasy series of revenge and second chances in the vein of Red Sonja. Am I sad it’s over? Oh boy, nearly gutted. Am I mostly happy with the ending? You better believe it. Because if this series has taught me nothing else, it’s that the best journeys are the ones we never intended to take.
All Hail Our Queen: When we left our hero Crone/Bloody Bliss at the end of issue #4, she’d leapt into a nearby river to end her journey and attain the finality she’d been seeking for so long. And as far as timing went, her exit was nearly perfect. She’d lost a battle to D’Kayde (a former ally), who was all but set to conquer the Three Kingdoms. And all that’s after uncovering the fate of her beloved, Ella, and experiencing some (not entirely unexpected) disloyalty from her oldest friend, Gaspar. Crone’s decision to end it all made sense in a million different ways, and it was the thing that both shocked and horrified even while readers silently nodded for the peace this warrior so deeply deserved.
Only, as you might guess, that wasn’t the end of Crone’s journey. I won’t spoil the bulk of issue #5, but I will say it’s a decidedly happy one for everyone on Team Crone. Are old demons slayed? Sure. Are heroes given the chance to prevail? Oh, you know it. But more than anything else, it’s less about the actual events and more about the lessons Crone’s learned.
It’s a happy ending in that we see a whole new side of Crone, one where she has fresh context and thus doesn’t see the world in such a binary manner. She grasps now, after all this time, the value of forgiving herself and how all of this pain and suffering stems from her own inability to understand that sense of personal power and responsibility. When she finally learns to forgive herself and accept what has happened, she finds a way to flourish. Not just on some random, fleeting battle field, but in a way that has some lasting impact on these kingdoms. Crone then becomes a symbol, the Bloody Bliss returned, and stands tall for the people seeking their own way out of the darkness. It’s the best kind of victory, and one that has more meaning than any sick sword fight.
Here’s What’s New: One of the many highlights of this series occurred in issue #2. Before her battle, Crone was set to take on a new mentee in Corinne (Gaspar’s daughter). While that storyline didn’t go anywhere right away (likely ’cause Corinne wasn’t battle ready), she returns just in time for the finale. It’s in Corinne that so much of Crone’s own narrative is reflected. Where she once thought the youngster needed much help before she could make a difference, the post-plunge Crone sees the value she always had: as a symbol and agent for healing and peace. Corinne’s youth and inexperience weren’t detriments, and it took a lot of time and loss for Crone to see that skill on the battlefield only went to far. It takes a certain grace and patience to fight on after the final decapitation, and Crone learned that Corinne has a grit and power she needed. When she finally accepts that lesson, big things happen for the resistance and the kingdoms themselves. They can build a world from all the bloodshed, one emphasizing freedom and individuality. Crone spent her life thinking there were always two sides, and through Corinne she understands the need not only for balance but also why we fight (both within ourselves and out in the big, scary world) and why that’s always a thing we must do.
Ripping At Your Heart: In the last 4 issues, Greenwood’s art (not to mention the dynamic inks of Brad Simpson) have had countless opportunities to shine. And while there’s just too many moments to list them all, issue #5 feels much like a victory lap for this book’s artistic achievements. From the intro of Crone in the land of the dead, to her re-ascension as Bloody Bliss, and the aftermath of her duel with D’Kayde, this issue was a never-ending series of emotional and narrative pay-offs. I’ve said before, on several occasions actually, that it’s the art driving home so much of the tension, emotional fundamentals, and general sense of grit and intensity. And while that remains true, it also feels like the art was more playful, finding ways to play with our assumptions and generally hint at ideas, stories, and emotions the main story couldn’t. In issue #5, for instance, there’s Crone’s interactions with this universe’s death deity (like a demonic cow mixed with Goro from Mortal Kombat). Though fleeting, these images elicit peace and violence in equal parts, and it’s that very uneven interplay that makes the reader engage the story in really fresh and interesting ways. The art and story always worked together in tandem while giving each other space to grow and lean their own way. That’s what made this universe and this story come to life in such a deeply vivid way.
Goodbye, Old Friends: I’m still firmly of the opinion that endings suck giant boulders. The one for Crone felt definitive and yet open-ended enough for new chapters (pleasegodyes?!?!) The narrative delivered emotionally (in so many nuanced and really thoughtful ways) without ever placating readers. And everyone learned valuable lessons about the nature of grief, the importance of self-love, and the effectiveness of broken swords.
While I’m mostly bummed that it’s all over (again, for now?), that sense is what I’ll hold on to the most. Because this story felt really real to me, and I experienced every tragedy and triumph alongside this dynamic cast. It’s rare to feel so deeply connected to a story (at least for me), and it’s no small feat to make the grief and glory feel so devastatingly real for five full issues. I want to carry that with me for some time, and even though the story’s ended, how I feel lives on and on and on.