Sean Maher's Quality Control

Monday, January 23, 2006

Blessing in Disguise

"At exactly which point do you start to realize
That life without knowledge is death in disguise?"

Talib Kweli, "K.O.S. (Determination)"

*****



Rex Mundi got a hell of a lot of buzz when it launched, with Arvid Nelson's dense genre-blending mystery epic period piece grabbing a lot of folks by the short and curlies and Eric J's awesomely detailed artwork driving 'em all up the wall.

Eric J left, and the book seemed to fall off the radar. I didn't hear much about it, anyway, and after reading the first two trade collections, I enjoyed the book but was having some trouble reading it - I had some trouble following the plot, for reasons I can't really explain. Just seemed a tad on the unapproachable side. Something pretty cool buried in there, but I was having trouble figuring it out.

Then it was announced that Juan Ferreyra, rising star artist on Small Gods (my favorite new series of the last couple years, which sadly came to a close after issue #12), was moving to Rex Mundi as the new regular series artist. I was so impressed with Ferreyra's work (which had consistently improved throughout the Small Gods run) and eager to see him play with color that I decided to jump onto the serials with issue #16 (Ferreyra's first) and give the book my support.

So, am I just doing Ferreyra a favor? Supporting him on a less-favorable project just because I want him to keep putting out work?

As it turns out, no. This book's just plain gotten a lot more enjoyable.

First, I'm not lost at all. Nelson writes a "Story So Far" page at the beginning that sums up the two trade collections and the issues inbetween that have led us here, and then does a "major characters" page that lets us know how Ferreyra's designed his take on all the big players and gives some brief character notes for those still needing some catch-up.

Then, Ferreyra kicks ass all over every page. Facial expressions, dynamic layouts, clever panel and page bordering (a la Mark Buckingham's work on Fables), and really beautiful colors. The book's just a splendor to see.

And finally, the writing is seriously amping up. All kinds of insane crazy shit is going on in the story, but this time around I'm keeping up with it and as a result the suspense is much more visceral and felt, rather than the more intellectual, appreciated suspense I felt in the earlier run of the book.

Do I have a new favorite Image series?

Could be.

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