Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Artist/Colours: Brandon Dayton
Release Date: 26th September 2018
One stormy winter’s night in a mythical Russia, a dying woman staggers to the gates of a peaceful Order of Monks. In her arms she carries a small child and upon her death the Monks take the boy, Alexey, into their Order and raise him as one of their own. As Alexey grows towards manhood he starts to experience fantastical and terrifying dreams of monsters, cryptic messages and incredible powers. These dreams lead to him following a path at odds with the values and rules of the Order and to the discovery of a mystical weapon that will change his life forever.
“Blood of the Martyrs”, an original graphic novel on sale from Image Comics this September, reintroduces us to Brandon Dayton’s YALSA award-winning, self-published 2009 mini comic Green Monk. Dayton not only writes this story but illustrates and colours it as well. The fact that what he has produced is such a fantastic and visually stunning story is just the icing on the cake.
I thoroughly enjoyed Green Monk and I’m now desperately waiting for the next instalment. Dayton has a great talent for world building with a very tight and economical approach that really works well alongside his illustrations. The story has a great pace, too. There are quiet contemplative moments, tension, explosive action and they all flow together seamlessly. There weren’t any flat moments or jarring changes to take me out of the story and I was so absorbed that when I got to the end of this volume I just sat there uncomprehendingly for a minute or so because there were no more pages to turn.
There is so much to love in this story; a child with mysterious origins, mystical guides leading Alexey forward, mythical monsters and magic weapons. I thought the blurring of what’s a dream and what’s reality worked really well and this is particularly well supported by the artwork. I loved the dream sequences, giant mythical monsters and action scenes that, for me, were a blend of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and something out of the mind of Ray Harryhausen. As with the writing the artwork is very economical where it needs to be but there are some wonderfully detailed panels as well and there’s more than a couple of panels that I would quite happily frame and hang on my wall.
This is going to seem an odd thing to pick up on but there is a theme throughout this story of Alexey passing through portals (gates, doors, archways, caves) during the important events in his life and these particularly caught my attention. I have a bit of a thing about well-crafted sinister, forbidding and especially Cyclopean entrances (yes I am seeking help for this). I’ve read this book five times now and I’ve really enjoyed spending time appreciating the artwork in these panels particularly.
The way these stretches of dialogue-free panels are used remind me very much of Mike Mignola’s work, which is not to say that I think Brandon Dayton has copied Mignola’s style. Rather I think he’s come up with a distinctive way of allowing his art to tell as much of the story as the dialogue and is confident enough to allow it to do a large portion of the heavy lifting. I really admire Dayton’s confidence throughout this book and it’s clear that this is a story he’s passionate about bringing to life on a large scale.
If this volume is any indication of things to come then I’m all-in until the very end.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek