Review – Isola #2 (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics
Writers: Brendan Fletcher, Karl Kerschl
Artists: Karl Kerschl, Msassyk
Letterer: Aditya Bidika
Release Date: 9th May 2018

Isola’s first issue established itself as a strong beginning to a fantasy epic. Wearing its inspiration from greats like Miyazaki on its sleeve, it wove a tale of a Queen-turned-Tiger, her guard, a warring nation, and the spiritual forces that surrounded them at every turn.

But in crafting this first issue, its slower, more methodical pacing made me question as to whether this may be a series better suited for the trade paperback treatment.  However, issue #2’s brilliance and plethora of new ideas ensure that I’m definitely going to be needing my month to month fix of Isola.

In this chapter, we undertake the next leg of the journey. The Queen tires, and with the duo running out of food, her guard, Rook, tries for a desolated town nearby for any chance of resources they may just have.   But what else she finds in these ruins may be the start of a new path that will lead to where their destiny truly lies…

The brilliance of this issue actually works in much the same way as the first. Only better. A quiet and meditative atmosphere, natural dialogue and some strong visual storytelling once again draw you into a world full of history and stories. But with new locations and new characters, Isola #2 builds on the world and its people so expansively that in less than 30 pages of dialogue, makes this world feel more lived-in – and those stories more available and inviting – than ever.

The inhabitants of the ruins, and the way they engage with Rook, give us details of the warring world around us that we’ve not even seen yet.  In doing so they also give us glimpses at Rook’s own past, the events that lead to Queen’s turn and the general events that lead to the current state of the world.

We’re left on so many different threads here, each teased just enough through dialogue to make sure that we know they’re there, while simultaneously making us want to follow them with haste.   It establishes the framework of history and politics so vital to the success of the truly great fantasy stories, but does so through utterly believable and organic dialogue that is never expository or forceful in telling its story.

I can’t believe that I’ve managed to get so far into this review without mentioning at all the artwork, which can quite simply be described as masterful.   The credits of this book denote the connective work between writing and art that is key to this books success.   Never is this book afraid to completely rely on the brilliance of Karl Kerschl and Msassyk’s pencils and colors to tell its story and move the narrative along.   The opening moments of this issue bring a heavy feeling of dread and suspense, fear and shock, entirely conveyed through linework and color choices. Once again not wishing to spoil things, but duality and dichotomy of art and color becomes a key point of the emotional distress of this stellar issue.

It’s the unique visual style and atmospheric colors that immediately set this book apart, bringing so much depth to this ethereal tale. This approach is taken to the next level again this issue, particularly during the jaw dropping double page spreads of its opening locations.  Bright colors and attentive focus to lighting show the warmth of the forest, and the cold hues of the wasted town fraught from war and suffering. Every inch is filled with small details that cascade this world with history.

In truth, I can’t stop raving about this one. Whatever reservations I may have had following Isola’s first issue are long gone. And while the methodical pacing may not appeal to some readers, the incredible attention to dialogue, world-building and in this issue have become the driving force behind my desire to get another fix of the intensively atmospheric, fantastical frenzy that is Isola.

Rating: 4.5/5


The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP

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