Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artwork: Rebekah Isaacs
Colours: Alex Guimaraes
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 10th July 2019
War is a horrible, bloody, and brutal affair. We’re also told that in the heat of battle it can be confusing and disorientating. Well, that’s exactly how I felt witnessing in the muted carnage of the opening pages of this new series from creators Rebekah Isaacs and Justin Jordan. I say muted, as, despite the blood and viscera, the characters we see are initially well groomed in their prim uniforms. We’ve no idea who these people are or why they’re fighting but the art still instantly grabs you and makes you want to read on.
I really enjoyed this opening for a new series, but have to admit that it was a struggle to start. Having previously enjoyed Jordan’s writing in Backways I was intrigued by the concept of a Dirty Dozen-style story in a fantasy setting. Take six varied characters with equally varied motivations and desires, throw them together in a desperate suicide mission and watch the action unfold. When you layer this over the top of a dark fantasy world riven by war, you’ve got a premise that will make a fair few folks take notice. So when I sat down to read this first issue I found myself seeing lots of world building boxes being ticked -something which usually hooks me straight away. Instead however, I got a little bamboozled by the names of characters and places, presented as if you’d be familiar, and I couldn’t get settled into the pacing until the second half. I’ll happily admit that I wasn’t prepared, but a well-deserved second reading won me over. Essentially we have a continent being fought over by various powers and factions. One such faction is harnessing ritual sacrifices and foul magics to swing the tide in their favour. To prevent a cataclysm, a group of disposable anti-heroes are coerced into a do or die mission – simple, really.
As I say, the visuals throughout are lovely. From the young square-jawed coward to the hulking berserker, or even diminutive, yet entirely scary, skin-eater; a four-stone murder machine. Each character is well developed in their own distinctive way and when we are introduced in the second half to the majority of the cast, Reaver really picks up. The time and focus is clearly on the individuals rather than the scenery here, but as a character driven story that’s entirely fitting. There is a danger however that this strays a little towards the cliché in the character design with the gathered ensemble resembling many a Dungeons and Dragons player’s go-to. That said, there’s a knowing nod to these tropes in this dirty half-dozen which means it passes its saving throw.
I almost feel that if this had started about a third of the way into the first issue, this series would have hit the ground running at some speed. The opening explanation of the disgrace of Sergeant Mahan, our de facto party lead, feels a little misplaced but I can understand the desire to build an empathetic link early. Perhaps a flashback explaining their back-story, which I presume we’ll get for the rest of the crew, wouldn’t have quite had the same effect.
Either way, Reaver looks set to be an enjoyable take on the misfit mobilisation idea, and, if it maintains the momentum built up to this point, will no doubt reward its addition to your pull list.
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster