REVIEW: THE PACK VOL.2- by Paul Louise Julie

First we had werewolves mixed with Ancient Egyptian mythology, centering around Nubian characters. Here, we get introduced to were crocodiles, Akhenatan, and a potential new female lead.

In my last review of the Pack (which is here), I said that the artwork was astounding, but the story was unnecessarily disjointed and it was extremely difficult to tell the characters apart due to them constantly being obscured by light and shadow. Well, I’m happy to report that the story has improved around the board.

The artwork is still achingly beautiful, and by God, some of the scenery. I mean check this out and tell me that’s not one of the most beautiful background images you’ve ever seen:

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This spread is dizzyingly beautiful and although this is by far the most impressive piece of artwork in the book, the rest of it looks great. Louise-Julie’s artwork is far better utilised than before. He’s lost his aversion to drawing faces and I can tell everyone apart now. Although the faces aren’t exactly beautiful to look at, they’re still very human and expressive, and really do fit in with the art work.

The panel organisation is a lot better now as there’s more rhyme and reason to their placement. Before, the placement was a bit chaotic and the action sequences felt cluttered. Here, the action sequences are more linear and you can tell what’s going on. Not only that, but we’ll also have the light and space used to the story’s advantage, like we can see below with the eerie unnatural blue being used to create a spooky, almost nightmarish atmosphere for our werewolf fight sequence.

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The story telling is also far more polished than it was in the last issue. Gone was the nonsensical jumping between beginning and end, and no longer is it defined by the ludicrous plot point that the brothers split up for no apparent reason. Now, we’re at a point where the brothers have met up, the younger brother Khenti, and they’re planning to escape to Nubia, but are attacked by Egyptians and Khenti is forced to go full werewolf on them, as can be seen above.

There’s actually some nice bonding going on between the brothers, and it’s good to see them developed more now that the story’s slowed down. Not only that, but we’re also introduced to what looks like is going to be our big bad: historical pharaoh Akhenatan, the man who was to Ancient Egyptian religion what Henry VIII was to Christianity. We get a bit about a pivotal moment in his life- when his father was a complete badass and saved him from a crocodile, telling him everything submits to the Pharoah. Considering that his only actions in this comic seem to be tyrannical, it looks like we might be heading for a chaotic evil villain with a God Complex, and an ‘even a God King can bleed’ 300 style take down, but it’s still too early to say.

We’re introduced to the idea of an Anubis Cult- which wasn’t surprising, considering we have human/ wolf monsters in ancient Egypt, and jackal headed Anubis is the closest yo get to a werewolf myth. Not only that, but we have another shifter- evil crocodile shifter, Gharis, who works for the Pharoah and may be ‘the dragon’ (basically a really powerful minion of the main villain- what Darth Vader is to The Emporor and what Princess Azula was to The Fire Lord in ATLA.)

The storytelling is still extremely straight forward and simple, but it works and it allows the art work to shine.

VERDICT: Second issue in and already Paul Louise-Julie has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of storytelling and the way he uses his layout and artwork to maximum effect. I look forward to seeing where this story will go.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Guardian Of The Spirit-

You’ve never read a fantasy novel like this one! The deep well of Japanese myth merges with the Western fantasy tradition for a novel that’s as rich in place and culture as it is hard to put down.

Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river — and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy — the Prince Chagum — on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies: the egg-eating monster Rarunga . . . and the prince’s own father.

Moribito: Guardian Of The Spirit is the first in a series of nine novels (and counting) that were extremely popular in Japan and adapted into an anime. The first two books were published and translated in the West, but unfortunately the series was cancelled after that. This is a shame, because Moribito is the most engaging YA series I’ve read since The Hunger Games. Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Guardian Of The Spirit-

SHORT STORY REVIEW: The Dragon of Borvoli- by Mark Lord

It takes a lot of bravery to fight a dragon. So imagine how brave the nine year old Boult is when he takes his father’s sword and enters the barrow near his home where tales say the dragon lives—the dragon that has been terrorising their village.

Yet not all is as it seems in this atmospheric historical fantasy short story. Boult meets Gustinus, a Christian priest, who promises to help him in his quest to slay the dragon. But Boult discovers that men can be worse monsters than creatures of legend.

The Dragon of a Borvoli does exactly what it says on the tin. Boy in Tolkein style medieval fantasy world goes on a quest to face a dragon, save a damsel and come of age (seriously, why is most of the fantasy genre set in ‘medieval Europe with dragons’ land? You can create any world you want- why always this one?). I have to admit, I was disappointed. The line ‘Yet not all is as it seems ‘implicated that there was going to be more to it and there was going to be some kind of twist. There really wasn’t. The closest thing this book had to a twist was that it had Vikings as well as dragons. Then it goes from rescuing the damsel to more abuse of the damsel so Boult can have some man pain.

Female comic book writer Gail Simone coined the term ‘fridging’ to highlight the sheer amount of women in fiction being tormented to forward a male character’s development or to give him a reason to angst. The Dragon of Borvoli is a typical example of this, as Boult’s mother exists as nothing more than a disposable tool who is humiliated and disposed of in order to forward his development.

The time period is not an excuse for this trope either. I know it’s the medieval period, but even in a time period which was not kind to females, women still did more than get kidnapped, raped and killed for the sole purpose of forwarding men’s development. Look at the women of The Cousin’s War (The Wars of the Roses), especially Margaret Beauford. She was a scared young girl who entered an arranged marriage at twelve but she became an important figure in the conflict, and her son’s later reign.

And as for the rest of medieval fantasy, look at A Song Of Ice And Fire; that’s set in a mysogynistic medieval world, but even the women who couldn’t fight or control dragons (the Tyrell women and Lady Stark for example) were treated as active, interesting and capable agents who were characters not tools. Honestly, I am sick of this tired, lazy trope and it did not endear me to this story.

But as much as I have criticised it for being derivative, and it’s terrible treatment of women, I have to review this story fairly and I cannot say it is bad by any stretch of the imagination. It managed to condense a whole quest into only 15 pages without leaving the story feeling lacking or rushed. It did rely on very, very convenient coincidences to move the plot forward, but considering its length this was understandable. The way it managed to tell a fully-fledged, self-contained story in that length was a very impressive feat.

Its success at world building also needs to be praised. It can be difficult to create a realised fantasy world in a short story, but the world building does not feel lacking here. This is partially to do with the fact that this is a world we’ve seen a hundred times before, but that’s not completely it. It also works because we’re viewing the world through the eyes of a child who is new to the world, and we learn as he learns. He is also so single minded in his quest to save his mother, so the focus is narrowed from the events of the wider world to just his mission, which was a good thing for the story.

The dialogue at the end did feel a bit choppy, as if Lord was reaching the end of his word count and was running out of steam, but as far as short stories go everything felt more wrapped up than they usually are.

In short, this is a decent quest story even if it is very, very derivative. If you just fancy a quick read with Vikings and Dragons, and can stomach its bad treatment of women, then it is an enjoyable, quick read.For its atmosphere alone and the fact that dragon attacks are cool, I award this book…

3 ‘Sons of a murdered mother, husbands of a murdered wife, who WILL have their revenge’/ 5