Art And Story That Capture The Heart: ISOLA #1

by Richard Bruton

ISOLA could well be the most gorgeous looking comic you see this year. First announced back at the Image Expo in 2016, ISOLA: Island Of The Dead has been a long time coming, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, and Msassyk have created something truly magnificent.

This is a review that could simply end here–drop in a few pages of Karl Kerschl’s incredible artwork, absolutely the pinnacle of his career, and you’d have almost all you need to convince you. The artwork is simply that good, that beautiful, it’s almost all you need.

Here, have the first page to luxuriate in Kerschl’s art, Msassyk’s sumptuous colors. Enjoy.

That should really be enough to convince you of the beauty of ISOLA. But comics have always been more than the art, they are the complete and perfect synergy of words and pictures, story and art, a sequential narrative. As good as Kerschl and Msassyk’s art might be, it has to have a story that captures your heart. And thankfully, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl, friends since the age of ten, have created something that has the sense of epic fantasy about it.

The fantasy starts to unfold in this first issue, where the story is relatively dialogue-free, where the tale is told through the glorious artwork.

The issue begins with that page, that oh so beautiful page you’ve seen above. A warrior, on watch, careful to make certain the tiger she’s obviously caring for remains comfortable, warm, safe.

The woman is Rook, captain of the Royal Guard. The tiger, always referred to by Rook as “Your Majesty” is Queen Olwyn, spellbound, transformed into this tiger form. They are on a quest, to return the Queen to her true form, to her throne, and in doing so, save their Kingdom from a terrible war. They are on a quest that will take them across incredible lands, searching for the isle of Isola, land of the dead.

Through this first issue, we get a sense of the quest. Rook is alone, with just her Queen for company. Her Queen, who says nothing, much to Rook’s increasing frustration. Her Queen, transformed into this tiger form, who begins to show signs that the animal form is taking hold.

You can feel Rook’s fear, her increasing isolation, her frustration that her Queen is perhaps lost. You can feel it on every page, often wordless, Fletcher and Kerschl’s story told mostly through Kerschl’s artwork.

This is a tale that immediately creates a mythos through the artwork, worldbuilding through imagery. There’s no use of captions, and the dialogue is sparse to say the least, mostly Rook’s one-sided conversation with her Queen, increasingly despairing at their situation.

ISOLA is simply the most sumptuous, incredible tale. This first issue creates a world, fills the reader with wonder, and leaves me breathless, wanting more.

Isola #1 is published on the 4th April. story is by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl, art by Karl Kerschl, colors by Msassyk, letters by Aditya Bidikar. Cover and Variant cover (below) by Karl Kerschl, colors by Msassyk.