Publisher: Image Comics
Story by: Meredith Finch
Art by: Ig Guara
Colors by: Triona Farrell
Letters by: Cardinal Rae
Editor: Andy Schmidt
You know, as I’ve grown older I come to appreciate a wide range of sub-genres in comics. But to be quite honest, I never had an affinity for female lead characters. Of course, there have been a few exceptions to this mantra (i.e., Wonder Woman and Red Sonja). I’m not sexist. I have just grown weary of the over-sexualization of female characters within the medium. Something I feel detracts from both the story and, more importantly, character growth.
So, rewind to a wonderful “hump day” in early April of this year. When I took a slightly extended lunch break (shhh…don’t tell my boss) and decided to stop at my local comic shop to pick up my weekly “pulls”. As I browse the books on the wall, I see that Image, a publisher which I have a great deal of respect for, has welcomed Meredith Finch (whose work on New 52 Wonder Woman was amazing by the way) to the fold. And with it, her vision of a new kind of heroine, one whom embodies a unique strength in the tradition of my past favorites.
Although, I must admit, it was the gnarly looking panther on the cover that caught my attention, at first. Then after quick flip through, I was drawn to the artistic style of the interior panels as well. So, based on the comic geek tri-fecta (i.e., writer, artwork and cover), I decided to pick it up. However, as many fellow comic enthusiasts can attest, it can be very easy to fall behind on reading what you buy every Wednesday…and Saturday…uhhhh…and sometimes Sunday (shhhh…don’t tell my wife).
Fast forward to earlier this week, one of my editors asks me if I’d be interested in providing a review of the newest issue of Rose. I accept the assignment. But before I set out to fulfill it, I feel it would be in my best interest, and in respect to Rose’s development team, for me to take the time to properly immerse myself into the world they had built up to that point. Otherwise, I might risk looking at the work of the most recent issue through a keyhole and fail to appreciate it within the context of the story, as a whole.
That being said, I’d like to extend my sincerest apologies to Mrs. Finch and the rest of Rose’s team for not allowing myself to venture into Rose’s incredible world sooner. Never have I been so ashamed of not reading a book on the day I bought it. Everything about this series works extremely well. The writing is top notch, the art style matches the fantasy aesthetic, the color pallet (particularly, color shading and lighting) is very well done and the distinct lettering designs for each character type fits perfectly with what you would imagine, to the point where you can virtually “hear” them.
Meredith Finch brings her “A” game in this character driven story about a young girl who reluctantly discovers that she is was born to become a “Guardian”. That is, a magic wielding warrior, whom together with her “Khatz” (i.e. spirit animal and/or soul mate) is ultimately destined to save the world from a tyrannical Queen whom has usurped her father and enslaved her kin to seize the thrown in an effort to rid the world of all magic, save her own.
Beginning with issue 1, Finch sets a great tone within the story by providing just enough dialog to orient the reader. Additionally, she incorporates sudden cuts between characters which gives a very “Empire Stikes Back” sort of feel to it’s pacing. Which is perfect in terms of individualized character setup. “Break-away” scenes to Queen Drucilla’s throne room establish her role to play in the tale immediately, in much the same way that the cold pallet of Darth Vader’s starship stands starkly against the transitions to the rainbow hued beauty of Cloud City or the lush jungle of Yoda’s Degobah.
The initial arc provides the perfect amount of context and backstory to immerse the reader in the ongoing conflict within this realm of mysticism. During which, we meet the titular Rose, who at the Queen’s command, loses her village and her mother in one fell swoop. Thus, driving her into exile where over the course of issues 3-4 she discovers the nature of her powers, the extent of the conflict affecting her peoples and with the help of rebels, seeks to incur revenge upon the Queen. With the arc culminating in issue 5 where she is united with her Khatz, the aptly named “Thorne”. (…Man, I can almost hear Poison playing as I write this.)
Now, as I stated earlier, it was the artwork which initially drove me to purchase the first issue upon its release, as Ig Guara demonstrates masterful craftsmanship in his character designs, expressive gestures and facial movements in conversation. Which when coupled with Cardinal Rae’s lettering, provides the contextual design that helps the reader almost hear the dialog. There is also a great deal of depth within each panel that fortifies the world and gives size, scale and scope to the environments and battles observed throughout.
A perfect example of this is during the climax of issue 5, where our protagonist becomes engaged in a brawl with the Queen’s henchmen in what can be described as a withered forest. Dead trees inhabit the foreground and background with clear layers and textures upon the rocks, clothing and fauna. This level of detail is essential in building a believable world with immersive scenes and is welcomed in an era where excessive shadowing drowns out the complex nature of the world.
Lastly, the color work provided by Triona Farrell is expertly done. Which, when combined with Guara’s art direction, sets the ambiance for each scene perfectly. To be quite frank, these two are a match made in comic heaven. The melding of strong lines, subdued color, lighting orientation, physical expression, and movement, have come together seamlessly and to great effect in each issue thus far and have therefore, served to bolster an already strong story with visual context.
Take my word for it, Rose is a must-read series. Its focus is primarily in fantasy, but the characters are each unique and internally distinct. Everyone whom has been introduced thus far is interesting and displays layers within their personality and/or backstory which leaves significant room for exploration and growth. The team behind this title has managed to craft a very strong mythology in just 5 issues. I have already contacted my LCS to get it on my pull list and if you enjoy character driven story, sword play, magic and fantasy, I recommend you do the same today.
Series Rating: 4.5 Khatz out of 5