Review of Isola Issue #1
Isola: Welcome to the Jungle
The story opens with Captain Rook of the Maari Royal Guard escorting Queen Olwyn away from their home kingdom. After an evil spell was cast upon the queen, turning her into a lioness, Maari fell into ruin. Now it is up to Captain Rook to find the lost island of Isola, where the spell can be reversed.
After an animal stampede occurs midway through their journey, Rook and Olwyn come across a hostile hunting clan. The duo managed to avoid the hunters without being seen, however, Rook couldn't help but feel as though she and Olwyn were being watched...
Subtle World Building
At the end of the first issue, writer and co-creator Brenden Fletcher decided to include a map of the country that Rook and Olwyn traveled. I found it interesting that the map wasn't complete. It looked like it was part of a larger map. This may seem like a small detail, but I found it almost allegorical to the issue itself.
Much like most other comics, Isola #1 is only the first installment of a much larger story. Brenden Fletcher kept that in mind when writing this issue, as he didn't rely on any sort of direct address to tell his story. Before the adventure, there was no preamble discussing the state of the world, or a two page flashback scene that chronicled the Kingdom's vast history. There was only Rook and Olwyn, hiking towards Isola.
Much like the map at the end of the book, I think that there's a lot left to Isola that is yet to be seen.
Plot & Characters
Jumping right into the story, Fletcher made sure to treat his readers with respect. At no point did it feel as though the reader was being spoon fed information. The world building was done casually and all of the dialogue was organic given the story's circumstance. That said, there wasn't much dialogue to be had. It makes sense, there's only so much conversation a person can have with a lion. Moreover, that lion was royalty, so whenever Rook did speak to Olwyn, it was in a very formal manner.
This limited, formal dialogue didn't do a very good job developing the characters. Not much individuality was expressed in Rook's dialogue and Olwyn couldn't speak at all. All we really know about the characters is the function they serve to the story. Rook is meant to escort Olwyn to Isola and... well that's it. While there were some scenes meant to show Rook's fear of failure, those feelings weren't specific to her. Anyone entrusted with the safety of a kingdom would feel a bit nervous too.
What Fletcher did do a good job developing was the world of Isola. For example, at one point Rook mentioned how far of a walk she and Olwyn had in passing. A quick look at the map and I was able to find that a 4 day walk only took up a fraction of the atlas. Small nuggets of information like that are fun to keep track of and immerse the reader in Fletcher's epic fantasy. The action did a good job conveying the dangers of the wild, while brief mentions of rival factions kept me interested.
Art & Aesthetic
The art from co-creator Karl Kerschl is what originally drew me to this book. While his line art isn't anything crazy, Kerschl does the basics well. His characters were drawn consistently throughout the issue and he always made sure to add details to his backgrounds. This attention to detail made the backgrounds look lush, almost like something out of Avatar.
Where Kerschl really excels is his ability to convey emotion. At times, Olwyn felt more human than Rook, thanks to the wide array of expressions she was able to portray. The physical acting done by the characters did a good job compensating for the lack of meaningful dialogue.
The colors from Msassyk were very good for the most part. A lot of pages were filled with an array of vibrant, contrasting colors. However, some of the more monochrome scenes (such as pages that took place at night) looked like they were placed under a digital filter. Not to say that those pages were bad, they just lacked in comparison.
The letters from Aditya Bidikar were great! The island-style font helped make the book feel more cohesive and never distracted from the story.
The Verdict: Wait for the Trade
The art in this book is beautiful and Fletcher does a good job laying the foundation of what could become an amazing fantasy series. Sadly, he uses the art as a crutch to compensate for his lack of meaningful dialogue. As a result, the characters don't have much substance (yet) and the issue felt a bit too fast paced. I would recommend waiting for the trade paperback to be released.