Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Si Spurrier
Art: Matías Bergara
Colour Assists: Michael Doig
Lettering: Jim Campbell, Colin Bell
Release Date: September 19th 2018
In a rich fantasy world, an apocalyptic event called the “Quench” has wiped out almost every trace of new magic, leaving its inhabitants scavenging and scrambling to stockpile what little remains. CODA, a creator-owned BOOM! Studios series from writer Si Spurrier and artist Matias Bergara, introduces us to Hum, a weary former bard who is acutely aware of the sheer absurdity of the world he now inhabits, and who wants nothing more than to rescue his wife who is being held prisoner by demons.
While I’ve always been a massive fan of the genre, a lot of fantasy comics these days tend to fall a little flat, either drowning in tropes and clichés or trying so hard to be edgy and contemporary that they lose sight of the appeal of the genre in the first place. Thankfully, CODA manages to leapfrog both of these pitfalls with consummate ease, delivering a boundlessly inventive fantasy world with a fresh, wickedly subversive slant.
This is Spurrier’s well-documented gift for world-building at its absolute finest, heaping layer upon layer of detail and intrigue onto his central premise of a fantasy world where magic has ‘dried up’. Almost every peripheral character feels like they have a story to tell, and there’s a real-world weariness and sarcasm to a lot of the people Hum encounters during his attempt to rescue his wife (don’t call it a “quest”) that helps add a devilish charm to the proceedings.
Spurrier smoothly blends humour and high stakes alongside concise exposition, once again cementing his status as my personal favourite “dialogue guy” in comics today (or maybe co-favourite alongside Donny Cates). The funny moments are genuinely funny, the high fantasy is suitably dramatic and the storyline and character beats are nailed with gusto.
It also doesn’t hurt things that Bergara is clearly having an absolute blast on the visual side of the book, delivering some absolute bonkers visual designs, from opulent mermaids to grumpy skeletal dragons to a giant city being dragged around on wheels by a giant. Everything here is suitably overblown, as you might expect from a typical fantasy world, but tarnished with a sense of chaos and disrepair that comes hand-in-hand with all the magic being removed from the equation.
Bergara’s colours (ably assisted by Michael Doig) are also perfectly suited to the tone of Spurrier’s story, bright without being garish and crisp enough to keep the frequently packed pages and panels clear and easy to follow. Credit should also be paid to the lettering double-team of Jim Campbell and Colin Bell who manage to deliver the dialogue and exposition without getting in the way of Bergara’s beautiful artwork, and who employ a brilliant ‘lighter’ style of lettering to words and phrases that are whispered or muttered under a character’s breath – a great visual flourish that I don’t think I’ve ever seen used quite this well before.
As I mentioned, I struggle to stay invested in a lot of modern-day fantasy comics, but with a heady blend of humour, high fantasy and unflinching irreverence, CODA has managed to grab my attention from the very first page of the very first issue. Here’s to the next eight issues!