I have previously documented Dutch publisher STRIP2000’s experiments with non-humour comics, and to that purpose they now have created the Gorilla imprint, dedicated to more serious comics work.
Most of them are seemingly translations from French albums. And with fantasy a genre that is particularly popular these days, due to TV series like Grimm, True Blood and Game of Thrones, it’s a good move from Gorilla to focus on this genre. Let’s take a look at the first three releases from their line of fantasy comics.
Chronicle of the Immortals: Vol.1 – At the Edge of the Abyss
Although Magic Moon is the only fantasy book by German writer Wolfgang Hohlbein to be translated into English, he is the author of more than 200 genre books, plus eight Indiana Jones novels, and is quite popular in the rest of the world. His series Die Chronik der Unsterblichen (Chronicle of the Immortals) now comes to life as a series of graphic albums.
The exiled Andrej Delany returns to his birthplace to find the village deserted, with only his son at the edge of life, tortured beyond belief. All of the villagers have fallen victim to the Inquisition, because the Delany family supposedly harbors supernatural powers.
Together with one other survivor, Andrej Delany sets out to rescue the villagers, finding himself ensnared in a web that spans the ages, in which immortals battle for each others’ life essence.
Although the premise reminds one on more than one occasion of the Highlander film and TV series, the execution and artwork come to the rescue of the generic plot. Artist Von Kummant is a real find, and his digitally painted backgrounds contrast beautifully with his rough and more delineated figure work. It looks and feels like a high-quality animation reel.
The comic is worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre, though I did enjoy the “realistic” aspects more than the fantasy elements.
The Tenth Tribe: Vol.1 – Aha
Alright, now – pay attention: there are nine tribes of human and humanoid creatures, living in harmony. But when the high priest of the human tribe renounces his God, a magical imbalance threatens to tear their world apart. It’s up to the human priest Aha to unite the other tribes so that the world isn’t ripped asunder.
The only trouble is: even though he’s invincible, due to a blessing he once received from his god, Aha is a promiscuous dwarf who’d rather sup from a cup of wine than travel the country uniting the tribes. And what is up with the tenth tribe of the title, which is nowhere to be seen in the book?
Despite the rather odd premise, the book thrives on a mix of seriousness and humor. It helps that writer and artist Emmanuel Despujol takes the premise at face value and just dives straight into the shenanigans that Aha is up to and just exactly how he goes about his quest. The good bits are the humorous in The Tenth Tribe because the serious bits tend to be too serious and turn out to be rather tedious.
The art is clear and bright and perfectly okay for this type of book. It’s nothing spectacular, but serves its function quite well.
The Tenth Tribe: Vol.1 – Aha by reads rather unevenly, mixing up an overtly serious and contrived premise with some good humorous bits, but it still has a long way to go to become a must-read fantasy book.
The Sword of Ardenois: Vol.1
Accompanied by exquisite art from Etienne Willem, we dive into the anthropomorphic medieval world of our young protagonist Garen.
When his friend and inspiration, the knight of Ardenois, is killed by a roving band of thugs, he tries to reach the capital of the kingdom to warn the king. Once there he meets the former companions of Ardenois, who will accompany him in his quest (yes another one) to try to stop the apparent rise of the Lord of the Black Harness, Nuhy.
Once more a rather familiar template, but (and I know I’m repeating myself here) the art and execution elevate the comic above the general fantasy tropes.
This one probably reads the most like a familiar “gathering the Knights of the Round Table” premise, but with animals instead of humans. The characters presented do act like the animals they’re depicted as, so that’s a plus, and it helps that The Sword of Ardenois reads in a really breezy way, with quite a few humorous touches.
The delicate lifework and moody coloring by Etienne Willem fit the story well and give it a slight painterly atmosphere, with a hint of animation. I rather enjoyed this one. The story is tight, the storytelling is clear and the drawings are fun. Again, not a major release but a solid fantasy comic. If you enjoy Mice Templar, you certainly will enjoy this.
Chronicle of the Immortals: Vol.1 – At the Edge of the Abyss by Wolfgang Hohlbein, Von Kummant and Von Eckartsberg is published in Dutch by Gorilla Comics, and in French by Paquet as La Chronique Des Immortels.
All three are full-colour hardcovers counting 56 pages, and retail for €14.95.
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