Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Off-Topic: Review of SHAHRAZAD Volume 1

I recently finished the Big Dog Ink offering, Shahrazad Trade Paper Back Volume 1. I have to say it is simply fantastic. This is based on a figure from THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, a collection of stories I know very little about. But it includes some interesting additional fantasy, science fiction and steampunk elements that come together to create a visually stunning and captivating piece of art work.

The storytelling is very different from our average book or comic book. It utilizes a lot of piecemeal flash backs and flash forwards. This can be very dangerous with a comic book, even more than with film. And I would not have wanted to read this book in single issues because at the beginning it was hard to focus on the overall of what was happening. But over time the story became clearer. An immortal or near-immortal woman from ancient Arabia is fighting a Roman god and his various monstrous companions after a shipwreck of a pirate vessel on which she worked as first mate.

But the primary story is really a tool; a means to an end rather than an end in itself. This book's focus is on creative character development. It is like the various panels that flash forward and back are jigsaw puzzle pieces and the main story is the picture on the front of the puzzle box. As we read through the book, it all starts to fall into place and we realize who Shahrazad really is. This takes some risky and creative use of pacing, which is something a comic book writer has to be very careful with. It can lead to disaster, but here it all works out. This creative use of pacing is rare and I'm impressed by how well it is pulled off.

The dialogue is solid, too. While much of the writing is more monologue than dialogue, it really works here as it did in TIME LINCOLN. The story takes some twists and turns I didn't expect, too. But the real stand out in this book is the art. I mean the art in this trade paperback is simply off the hook. I haven't been this impressed with artwork since I picked up my first issue of LEGEND OF OZ: THE WICKED WEST (Big Dog Ink publishes that one too). The colors are almost hypnotic in their beauty, and the individual scenes just blew me away. All in all, this is a great comic from a great company and one you must check out.

Storyline: 4 Stars
Dialogue: 3.5 Stars
Pacing: 5 Stars
Art: 5 Stars
Overall: 4.5 Stars

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