There’s something about a good comic fantasy that really speaks to me. The high octane adventure, the bizarre creatures, the musclebound heroes, the world creation; the list goes on and on. With almost unlimited freedom to create and play within a world of the creator’s imagination, rules need not apply when it comes to magic and mayhem. Rose #1, named after its red-headed lead character, brings both of those elements head on in a land ravaged by an evil queen and the one person destined to stop her. Following in the footsteps of such comic greats as Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, and Berserk, Rose doesn’t stray too far from the tried-and-true formula, but what it does with it is pretty damn fun.
Once upon a time in a faraway land, magic ruled the world. Noble creatures known as Khatz (basically giant cats) would accompany magic users, known as guardians, to protect the kingdom and bring peace. One day, the Khatz began to disappear and with their disappearance came a great war that cleansed the land of all guardians and the magic that accompanied them. In the following years, an evil queen would rule with an iron fist and kill any child that showed the smallest signs of being a guardian. That is, until Rose was born. Secretly smuggled around the kingdom, Rose grew up struggling with her magic but didn’t think much of it, until her village was burned and her mother slayed. Picked up by a group of rebels, she must soon learn the true secret of her powers, but she better learn it quick. The future of the world is at stake.
If it seems like this comic is mish-mash of common fantasy tropes, well, you’re not too far off. It’s like a Willow-meets-Conan-meets-Sleeping Beauty kind of deal. There’s a good deal of good vs bad with good being strong and sweet, and bad not wearing a shirt and keeping slaves on a leash. There’s even a bit of a manga vibe with some of the costume designs having little pointed hats and well-endowed women. There’s not much in there in the way of “with a twist”-genre (like “fantasy with a twist” or “horror with a twist”); it’s a straight fantasy that understands that the fantasy genre has its own ways of playing with creativity and exploits that instead. I love the idea of these giant cat creatures that accompany the magic users. You just know that something big is coming its way even if the main character doesn’t. Also, having a main character that isn’t as up to speed about the war around her is a solid way to introduce the reader to an unknown world. It’s a fun romp for first time readers into fantasy or even for older readers looking to expand beyond standard super-hero fare. It’s very a straight shooter of a work.
This the author Meredith Finch’s first foray into creator-owned work. Her most notable work is a multiple issue run on Wonder Woman which has allowed her a high level of understanding of fantasy and action without isolating the audience. Rose is a well-rounded original character with a healthy spirit of adventure, and the speech isn’t too caught up in the formalities of high fantasy, creating a fast read that reveals a world that may be far away but is still easy to understand. The art by Ig Guara is finely detailed and works well in the elaborate possibilities of the comic. He’s got cinematic angles down and a solid vision of what he’s trying to show. The only complaint is that some of his mouth movements look like the character is releasing a wicked burp instead of actually saying words which make for pretty silly scenes. But that’s just nit-picking, he’s pretty good.
Check out Rose #1 on stands April 12th!