Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Si Spurrier
Art: Matías Bergara
Colour Assists: Michael Doig
Lettering: Jim Campbell
Release Date: 26th June 2018
The first volume of CODA, Si Spurrier and Matías Bergara’s rich, expansive and gloriously irreverent fantasy series impressed me so much that I included it in my Top 5 Comics of 2018. Well, the second volume of the BOOM! Studios series goes on sale this week, and (spoiler alert!) I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll be seeing this series in my “Best Of” list once again at the end of 2019.
To bring you up to speed, CODA is set in a fantasy world where 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. The first volume was based around our “hero” Hum, a cynical and world-weary former Bard who was willing to cut and corners and break any rules in order to find and rescue his wife who had been taken by the fearsome Urken.
Following the siege of Ridgetown and Hum’s reunion with his wife Serka (who, it turns out wasn’t so much “taken” by the Urken but a part-demon Urken herself, cursed with an unpredictable and uncontrollable rage), volume 2 sees our heroes heading off on a brand new ques—uhh, “mission” – to take down the Whitlord who is piloting the giant responsible for dragging the city of Thundervale around on wheels. Y’see, Whitlords are the beings responsible for creating the Urken and inflicting the rage curse upon them in the first place, so this is rather personal for Serka as you might imagine. Oh, and Hum has the head of an Ylf – perhaps the last in existence – in his bag, which he’s using as a sort of ‘living diary’ before it inevitable dies.
Seriously, there’s a lot going on here, all of it brilliant.
Perhaps what impresses me most about this series is the way it manages to be a cynical deconstruction of a lot of the inherently silly tropes of the fantasy genre, while simultaneously serving as a love letter to those very same tropes. Spurrier and Bergara work together seamlessly to tell the story, with leading man “Hum’s” meditations on the state of the world and deep concern for the welfare of his wife above all else making him one of the most engaging and oddly likeable – at least until he isn’t – protagonists I’ve read in quite some time.
On the visual side of things, Bergara’s work continues to be jaw-droppingly sublime here, earning the Uruguayan artist every bit of his well-deserved Eisner Award nomination. Each panel is packed with gloriously exaggerated fantasy detail, with colourful backdrops, wonderfully over-the-top character designs and a sense of energy and emotion that courses through the book from start to finish. As I said in my review of issue one, every peripheral character here feels like they have a story to tell, and a lot of that comes down to Bergara’s boundlessly creative designs and knack for engaging details. Seriously, this is nothing less than one of the best-looking books of the last few years, without a shadow of a doubt.
While bad lettering sticks out like a sore thumb, and good lettering frequently goes unnoticed, it takes a remarkable amount of flair and creativity to create what a casual comic fan would call ‘great lettering’. Well, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Jim Campbell’s lettering here is truly great, and proves to be every bit as vital to the tone and flow of the story as Spurrier’s words and Bergara’s illustrations. From the choice of font for different characters to the use of a faded, lighter style of lettering to denote words and phrases that are whispered or muttered under a character’s breath, this is a perfect showcase for just how much of an impact good lettering can have on a book.
As I mentioned, there’s a heck of a lot going on here as Hum and Serka join up with the bandits of the Thundervale to get closer to the Whitlord that Serka desperately needs to kill, all while Hum frantically tries to find a way to “fix” his wife’s condition, leading to a shocking, unexpected and surprisingly moving conclusion to the arc.
A five-star rating isn’t something I hand out too regularly these days, but for a series like this, it almost feels like understating things. One of the best comics of the last few years, if not the best, and a book that gets my highest possible recommendation.