Advance Review: Isola From Fletcher, Kerschl, Myssasyk & Image Comics

by Oliver MacNamee

We all love DC Comics’ Gotham Academy right? I mean, what’s not to like? Well then, you’ll probably love Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl’s Isola that’s coming out this April from Image Comics.

A fantasy series that simply stunning to look at (something I feel Fletcher’s sparse dialogue, in places, forces you to do, and rightfully so) reminding me of the kind of classic American animation of the past with beautifully painted, lush backgrounds and deftly rendered characters dominating this book thanks to the winning team of Kerschl and colorist Myssasyk. It certainly has a real sense of being more European in style and not for the first time reviewing a book of this type I am left hoping one day a larger format collection may some day see light of day. Image have done ’em you know, so maybe they’ll read this and take me up on my wish.

Captain Rook is our focal point, a captain of the Royal Guards who’s mission it is to protect the Queen of Maar, Queen Olwyn, who is suffering somewhat from a spell that has transformed her into one of the most regal tigers I ever did see. But, as a result, she doesn’t make for the most chatty of travelling companions, hence the sparse dialogue from Fletcher which allows his lifelong friend, Kerschl to flex his artistic muscles and relate the story through expressions and emotive reactions, giving this book a real sense of living.

I say the dialogue is sparse in places, but that doesn’t stop Captain Rook from talking to herself, and Queen Olwyn, as they journey across this fantastical, mythic soaked landscape, which holds back on the magic in favour of some old fashioned questing and fighting. It’s enough to know magic exists – after all, Queen Olwyn is a tiger! – and the promise of more fantastical elements is teasing. But, this is an issue that sets the scene, the characters, and the inevitable cliffhanger. Not so much a literal cliffhanger, but rather a sense of foreboding that this first issue does well to build. A foreboding first flirted with when Captain Rook has a nightmarish dream, having followed a dream guide straight outta Medieval dream poetry tradition (and before that, pagan tradition); in this case not the favoured white hart of such works as Chaucer’s The Book of the Duchess, but a fox. Either I’ve read too much into it or, as I suspect, Fletcher’s done his homework, and is creating a mythically-tinged fantasy story with traditional, oft-forgotten, elements of ancient folklore, which only enriches the experience of this first issue. I mean, Olwyn is a name familiar to any scholars of Welsh Arthurian tales, The Mabinogion. Although this Olwyn is no princess that needs saving by the hands of a man. Heck, she seems to almost be disdainful of her guard and protector, Captain Rook.

A strong first issue that offers a glimpse of a world of magical monstrous animals, pastoral landscapes and foreboding forests too. With danger around every bend. A huge fan of such stories, I’ll be adding this to my pull list quick smart. It’s out April 4th but final cut off is this Monday, March 12th. Could this be one of the next hot books from Image? I dreamt it was.