Publisher: Card Shark Comics
Writer: Dave Cook
Artist: Rafael Desquitado Jr
Colours: Dennis Lehmann
Letters: Garrett Gunn
Release Date: 28th July 2017
Hot on the heels of a strong opening issue and yet another successful Kickstarter campaign (congrats guys!), the second issue of Vessels, an exciting new fantasy series from Card Shark Comics, is finally here.
Fresh from vanquishing the mysterious and all-powerful “Eye God” in the first issue, at least temporarily, reluctant saviour Wake makes the bold decision to try and destroy her nemesis once and for all, hopefully freeing the kingdom of Cairnthala from the perpetual threat of destruction in the process. To do so, she embarks on a journey alongside apprentice Mindkeeper G’Dala to the Memorata, where the pair intend to secure the Vessels and, all being well, obliterate the “Eye God” once and for all.
So far so “Fantasy 101”, right? But, as with the first issue, writer Dave Cook injects a subtle twist into the proceedings in the form of a growing rift between the realm of Cairnthala and our own world, with assorted everyday items (stop signs, teddy bears, school busses, etc.) randomly raining from the sky. It’s this juxtaposition that really provides the unique selling point of the series, and the gradually unfolding mystery surrounding Wake and just how she ended up in Cairnthala in the first place is more than enough to keep the pages turning here.
Cook’s writing can be a little overwrought in places, feeling at times like a cliché-heavy homage to the fantasy genre as a whole. That said, the straight-faced, earnest delivery really helps to emphasise the difference between the world of Cairnthala and our own, providing the essential contrast that the whole series seemingly hinges on. In a lot of fantasy comics, there can sometimes be a tendency for the writer to want their world to feel relatable and familiar for the reader, keeping it as close as possible to our own, but Cook boldly eschews that approach here, keeping Cairnthala as a truly unique fantasy world and only really breaking out of that mould when the ‘real world’ starts to creep in.
On the visual side of things, Rafael Desquitado’s artwork feels like a real step up this time around. That’s not to say there was necessarily anything lacking from his work on the first issue, but it definitely feels like he and colourist Dennis Lehmann are growing into the story here. There’s a decent amount of talking and exposition within these pages, but some inventive panel layouts and expressive characters manage to keep things flowing smoothly throughout. The pair also truly excel themselves in the issue’s opening, which introduces us to new face D’Saahl in a truly dynamic fashion.
The scenes featuring Marillon the thief add some much-needed energy to the proceedings, both from a narrative and visual point of view. And while the character’s arc takes a wholly unexpected diversion here, she’s still undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable aspects of this series, and looks set to focus prominently in the issues to come, alongside the wonderfully well-designed and sense-based “Vessels” themselves.
Another strong issue then, and while I admire Cook’s restraint in not giving us too much too soon, I’m also finding myself itching to find out more. Indeed, one particular scene featuring Wake in this issue has my mind working overdrive with all manner of speculation and crackpot theories. And ultimately, while it may ostensibly appear to be yet another cookie-cutter fantasy series, Vessels has an impressive amount of depth bubbling just beneath the surface, and I for one am planning on sticking around until the true nature of this series reveals itself.
You can (and should) buy a copy of Vessels #2 from Comichaus.com.