Tag Archives: Fantasy comics

Xombi

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Xombi [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by John Rozum, Fraser Irving, & al.

Rozum Irving Xombi

For a book that collects a comic starting with issue #1, this really gets going in media res. It’s full of exotic supporting characters who get defined on the fly. While the Xombi’s powers are the result of hyper-technological “nanites,” his friends and foes seem to be mostly supernaturally religious/occult in their origins and orientations. They seem to have some larger background, because they shared in an earlier series, but they are all sort of quirky and enigmatic anyway: the tone is closer to Bob Burden than Jack Kirby. Superpowered nuns and rabbis are funny, right? Although the original Xombi from the 1990s became involved with the larger DC superhero milieu, this reboot sequence (by the original writer) is more contained. The origin story is not rehashed, but rather dribbled out through incidental allusion.

I was motivated to pick this up to read because the art looked good: Frazer Irving provides expressive painted panels throughout, and there are a generous number of full-page tableaux. The six issues of the new series conclude a distinct plot arc “The Ninth Stronghold,” and the 2009 re-debut of Xombi in The Brave and the Bold 26 is appended to these. Scott Hampton’s art in the latter is looser and more expressionistic.

A Study in Emerald

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Study in Emerald [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone, Dave Stewart, & al.

Gaiman Albuquerque Scavone Stewart A Study in Emerald

This graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story was pretty disappointing to me. The text is very faithful to the original, with only a few omissions to smooth the reading experience, and these are compensated in every case by the illustrations.

On its own terms, the art is passable, but I didn’t find it compelling. It was markedly inferior to my own visual imaginings when I read the text-only version. More importantly, it collapsed important ambiguities in the original telling, and sometimes in ways that were unhelpful to the cleverly disorienting effects of the tale. An important instance is the portrait of Queen Victoria on the coins in the panels at the bottom of the final page of part 2, “The Room.”

Reading this version is probably better than not reading the story at all. But the text-only version provides a superior experience, especially for those with the relevant background in Holmesiana and Yog-Sothothery. And that version is freely available online.

The Magic Order

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Magic Order, Book One [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Hoopla, Local Library] by Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel, & al., volume 1 of The Magic Order series.

Millar Coipel The Magic Order Book One

I borrowed this comics collection from the public library, having heard nothing of it previously. Apparently, the second volume has appeared in individual floppies, and the once-cancelled (during pandemic gyrations) Netflix series is back in active development. It’s ultra-violent and and not especially clever about supernatural magic or stage magic, both of which are central to the story. Thaumaturgy is hereditary, and the “Order” is a family concern.

I liked Olivier Coipel’s art very much. His compositions are dynamic, and the characters are expressive. The art benefits from the masterful colors by Dave Stewart, of course.

The book was just barely good enough that I’ll read Volume Two if I can borrow it from the library, and I’ll give the tv series a shot if it ever manifests.

The Sandman: Overture

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Sandman: Overture [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Neil Gaiman, J H Williams III, and Dave Stewart, with Todd Klein and Dave McKean.

Gaiman Williams et al The Sandman Overture

The six-issue Sandman: Overture comics series was the last to be created for the title character. It was published more than fifteen years after the seventy-fifth and last number of the original Sandman title, which had in its day been fantasy writer Neil Gaiman’s largest and highest-profile comics work. As “Overture” suggests, this later sequence supplies a story set immediately prior to the main series, anticipating its themes and forms.

Although I was an active comics reader during the heyday of the lauded former serial, and it certainly fit my general tastes, for whatever reason, I haven’t read it–even though it has remained in print in trade paperback collections ever since. It has new currency now with the release of the big-money-small-screen version from Netflix. So when I considered reading some of the comics this summer, I decided to start with Overture. After reading the copious creators’ notes and interviews in this volume, I realize that the intended audience for Overture were really longtime fans and knowledgeable readers of Sandman. Oh, well. I didn’t find it difficult to follow, although I suppose it would have been a richer read if I had been familiar with the other work.

The art in this book is outstanding, with the lines and shades by J.H. Williams III (of Promethea fame) and amazing colors by Dave Stewart. Another key contributor, who doesn’t appear on the cover but still features among the creative personnel interviewed in the end matter, is letterer Todd Klein. Perennial Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean also provided cover art for the series.

Among comics, I was most reminded of the Eternity story arc from 1970s Doctor Strange, although Williams and Gaiman in their remarks refer to Jim Steranko rather than Gene Colan as a visual comics influence. In literature generally, Gaiman’s “Endless” characters reminded me most of Tanith Lee’s “Lords of Darkness” in her Tales from the Flat Earth books. They are not mere personifications of abstract concepts. It might be more accurate to call them hypostases of cosmic principles–but ones that somehow elicit the reader’s human sympathy.