Early Preview: A Haunting, Tragic Saga Unfolds In Isola #4

by Olly MacNamee

This Wednesday, the 11th of July sees another installment in the fantasy saga, Isola, on shelves from Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl and Msassyk, and I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear from me that it’s another epic issue and something of a revelatory issue, too.
With this fourth issue we get to see how Queen Olywn of Maara was transformed into a tiger (although I’m too sure I know why at this moment) and the familial feud tied to this magical moment. It doesn’t end well for Olwyn, as we know, nor for her brother, either. As well as this revelation we have the return of the dreamworld in which Captain Rook, and Olwyn’s partner – in every sense – seems to glimpse prophetic visions that, in one case from a previous issue, seems to have tragically come true. All the while, trouble is brewing, as it seems Olwyn and Rook will never reach their destination. Not even with their magical mentor in tow.
It’s a world in which we are increasingly introduced to human characters transformed in some way into hybrid creatures. If anything, Olwyn seems to be the exception to the rule, having been transformed completely into the beautiful big cat that would make He-Man’s own Battle Cat look scruffy by comparison. Even as an animal, she holds a majesty that oozes from every pore. And every paw.

This is a world of magic, political intrigue and a cunning fox thrown into the mix too who has, I have no doubt from this issue, more of a role to play than simply acting as some kind of spirit guide.
It’s another issue that is aesthetically informed by not one specific myth, legend or fairy tale, but a considerate mash-up of many, creating a cohesive familiarity to each scene that pulls you in and embraces you. I am reminded of the haunting scenes from Akira Kuroshawa’s Throne of Blood, or even his later work, Dreams, with the natural details of the environment only adding to this sense of ethereality.
In Kerschl’s art, and Msassyk’s colour work, this dominating sense of the ephemeral only adds to the sense of worry we share with Rook, a woman and soldier not much used to the ways of magic, one could surmise. I doubt that the twists and turns this journey have already taken were what she had in mind when taking up the challenge of protecting and guiding her queen. It all seems a bit too much for her to cope with. Not when her usual adversaries are tooled up with weapons, and not spells.

Fletcher is happy to pile up the trials and tribulations Rook and Olwyn are encountering on the road, and by the end of this issue, the sense of doom cannot be escaped. It’s not looking good except for the reader who is delivered up, once again, a well paced, dramatic book, illustrated so handsomely by Kerschl and Msassyk. Sometimes it’s darkest before the dawn. Maybe this issue is as dark as it gets? Please tell me it is, right?
Isola #4 is out on July 11th from Image Comics.

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