Publisher: Madius Comics
Writer(s): Rob Jones, Gareth Sleightholme
Artist: Gareth Sleightholme
Release Date: 14th November, 2015 (Thought Bubble UK)
The latest release from those fine folks at Madius Comics, The King’s Leap tells the story of Viking King Gulbrand and his loyal Shield-Brothers as they ride out to meet a plague of monsters and demons-head on. Serving as a noticeable departure from the previous witty, humorous output of the quirky small press imprint, this is straight-laced fantasy storytelling in every sense of the word and, I have to say, it’s bloody marvellous.
The story is blissfully straightforward, and consists of pretty much exactly what I just said, albeit told from the point of view of a wizened old crone regaling the young future king with old stories. The characters are also fairly generic, and fall into typical swords and sorcery tropes, but in spite of this simplicity, it’s the impressive execution that really sells this book; Jones and Sleightholme give every exchange an epic sense of grandeur as our heroes quickly find themselves hideously outnumbered and outmatched, fighting for their lives in the shadows.
Sleightholme’s artwork is an absolute delight throughout, adopting a highly detailed greyscale approach, with a cinematic flow to his panels that keeps the story moving forward smoothly throughout. The combat is recreated in bone-crunching detail, and the choreography of the characters never feels awkward or muddled – an impressive achievement given the sheer number of creatures and warriors on page at any one time.
Sleightholme also does a fantastic job with the facial expressions of his characters; the cocky child king’s face betraying his hidden fear, the momentary grief of Gulbrand as one his brothers is cut down, before rapidly transforming to fury and rage. Simply put, this is a gorgeous looking book, folks, and the visuals do a fantastic job of enhancing the story by pouring in the emotion and ramping up the peril.
Interestingly, this one-shot also proves without a shadow of a doubt that Rob Jones actually has some pretty damn impressive ‘straight writing’ chops. The narration is bold and dramatic, the dialogue – while admittedly limited – is perfectly suited to the story. He also takes time to explain some of the Viking terminology and translate some of their terms along the way. Far from the quirky humour he displayed in the likes of Papercuts and Inkstains, this is the first time I’ve seen Jones displaying his skills as a quote-unqoute “proper writer”, and I have to say I was thoroughly impressed.
Bold, dramatic swords and sorcery with some truly memorable moments and a chilling twist, The King’s Leap serves as an eye-opening broadening of the Madius Comics horizon, and firmly cements Gareth Sleightholme as an absolute must-watch artist. Ever wonder what would happen if Zack Snyder’s 300 was set in the world of Lord of the Rings? Pick this one up and you’ll find out.
The King’s Leap will be available from November 14th at Thoughtbubble Sequential Arts Festival in Leeds, UK, then available from the Madius Site and available digitally to download from the Madius Payhip site.