‘Compass’ #1 is a face-paced, treasure hunting, medieval adventure that brings the world of early Islamism to the barbaric shores of Wales. Not the most exotic of locations, but certainly one that offers plenty of mystery and a great juxtaposition of cultures.
When sitting down to read through Compass #1 by writers Dave Walker, Robert McKenzie and Justin Greenwood, I found it to be a rather strange affair, but maybe for different reasons than your average reader.
Lured in with the promise of period drama and high adventure, and met with a selection of Middle Eastern clad characters, it was the setting of medieval North Wales that threw me. You see, I grew up there and the minute I read that this 13th century series was set in Powys, I was immediately thrown. What were a group of Muslim treasure hunters from the Islam Golden Age doing in deepest, darkest Wales? Particularly as nearly half the first issue is taken up by action with little dialogue. But, I suspect this is all part of the mystery this creative team want to draw us into. A mystery that only gets deeper by the end of this first issue.
But, with it being such a light and fast read, I’m not sure it does a good enough job of luring readers in with enough juicy foreshadowing to encourage many to pick up subsequent issues. I mean, the setting and the cast of characters certainly make it a very niche read. Although, as it’s presented by Greg Rucka (whatever that means) it will appeal to fans of The Old Guard, I am sure.
The art is rich in period detail and fascinating to take in, with the slightest hint of an underdeveloped John McCrea running through it. And I really liked the lettering that changes to better reflect the different nationalities we meet on this issue, with the Welsh speakers given a more Old English style font.
What it does give us is an all-round adventurer, scholar, scientist and more in the central figure of the globe-trotting Shahidah El-Amin, who is clearly cast in the same vein as Indiana Jones. Just some 800 years earlier. She’s another kick-ass female character we’ve sen countless of times before from Rucka and this creative team, who worked on The Old Guard: Tales Through Time together. But, all-in-all it just didn’t land with this reviewer. Even though the action is set firmly in the country I called home on my youth, it was an issue that passed me by too quickly and with not enough substance to sustain my interest. So, sadly it’s a dim diolch* from me.
*No thank you in Welsh
The Compass #1 (of 5) is out Wednesday 16th June from Image Comics