I have spent today sitting under a blanket eating bacon flavoured crisps, drinking tea and generally not doing much*, so I thought I should maybe try to achieve something**. Since I have now read a book, I feel like this has been done. Good job me.
I mean, actually good job, as it was really rather good.
I like going into books not knowing what I’m getting. Sometimes, it means you read a dud, and you wonder why on earth it even got published. But then, sometimes, you find something brilliant that you might not ever have read if you hadn’t gone, go on then. In this instance, it wasn’t me doing the blind picking, as I just borrowed it off Boyfriend, but he followed the same general principle. When I picked it up today, all I knew was that he’d liked it. Nothing about what it was about, the art style, nothing. And I really enjoyed that – no pre-conceived notions of what the book was supposed to be, just enjoying the thing presented in front of me. Especially as that thing turned out to be really cool.
But how to blurb it? It’s hard, because it’s very much the first volume of a series, and is doing a lot of setup work without any of the explanation stuff (mostly), so I have a lot of questions without really any of the answers. So my blurb will be heavy on speculation. Or vague. Let’s go with that.
Imagine a world where, for some reason, incursions of mythological stuff occur in the UK. Now imagine that the people best placed to fix this may be doing so out of vague guilt that they caused the issue in the first place. Back when they were some sort of government think-tank. Obviously.
So far, it’s really really interesting, and the setup it’s doing is really promising. And I am super hopeful it can build on that… but it’s all in the future. Which is kinda frustrating? Don’t get me wrong, what we have is really enjoyable, but this is the issue with graphic novels – you don’t get enough in the first trade of most things to get a secure idea of whether the story is going to be able to sustain. You don’t know if it’s only ever going to be good setup, or if the next three volumes are going to carry you through glorious storyline. Or if it’ll be cancelled, and you’ll never know if they had the ability to follow it through. And for all I love comics some of the time, this is why I’ll always prefer book-books. You have, most of the time, the guarantee that there’s enough space to answer that question.
But, such is the medium, and I can hardly hold one example responsible for the flaws of all.
From what we have… I think there’s a lot to be excited about. There are at least three characters that show real promise for being developed into sympathetic, real and enjoyable people. With magic! There are two who are currently quite… unknown. One of them seems to have a massive risk of just being a Sherlock Holmes duplicate, so I’m hoping the next volume does some work to mitigate that. There’s also not a lot done in tying the disparate threads together – it’s just several people’s stories that sort of relate because [shared past thing].
But… massive but… the world-building is tremendous. Properly excellent. And between that and the promise of the characters… I am definitely sold.
Fundamentally, I do just like magical realism and the such. It’s why I like Urban Fantasy so much, probably. And so this plays right into my preferences because the fundamental concept of the magic in it is bound to realism, and people using real things to fix it. Sure, it’s also totally improbable and silly. But that veneer of sensible is enough – it forces the narrative to ground itself in a lot of areas where less… realistic… genres don’t feel the need. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, because the need to keep an eye on realism forces a degree of self-analysis that I find endearing. That and the fact that when character dialogue reads like actual people talking to one another, it’s just so much better.
Alas, however, I did find the art another let down. There’s nothing wrong with it. It serves its purpose well. But it’s very competently functional rather than inspiring. It doesn’t step outside the bounds of what’s pretty normal, at any point. Yes, it conveys what it wants to convey, and is basically attractive and balanced. But it’s not special. And that’s kinda sad too.
Overall, I gave it 4/5. It’s got a huge amount of promise, and I am very keen to read the next volume, but there’s a lot riding on how that plays out, so I don’t feel like I can commit to full marks without knowing if the pay-off works. If it does, I will be really really pleased, because that promise is of things I love… but it needs that back up. We shall see. Hopefully the boyfriend will buy volume two soon… hint hint?
Next up – more Romans, probably. I got bored of things that weren’t Cicero.
*Sadly, this was now several days ago. Today, I went to work, got confused by things and did spreadsheets. It was a much less satisfying day.
**I mean, I did some laundry too but that mainly involved effort on the part of the washing machine rather than me.