Graduates of the Kubert School, Emma Kubert (also a third generation artist from that illustrious family name) and Rusty Gladd bring an appealing new fantasy world to comics in the pages of Inkblot #1. This debuting Image Comics series is rich with promise, immediately capturing the reader’s imagination with its intricately realised world.
On a plane of existence replete with multiple parallel realms, nine siblings (including King Xenthos Voidbreaker) discover that killing the magical creatures of the land in turn extends their own longevity. So begins a quest that sees the family hunting down their prey from dimension to dimension, wiping them out in the process.
With the fates of many of the clan left hanging we are introduced in this debut to the youngest of their number, the Seeker, who within the confines of their Living Castle chronicles the history of this world and studies its sorceries. In this first instalment in the pursuit of her duties she accidentally brings to life a magical cat, one that has the ability to traverse the boundaries between different realities. As she quickly finds out when she attempts to follow this strange feline interloper…
Plotted, pencilled and coloured by Kubert, and scripted and inked by Gladd, Inkblot #1 hints at multiple potential future plot threads in an opening section that charts the history of this society to date. It’s a set-up that establishes the duo’s vision for the book in terms of world-building and mysteries to be explored. Admittedly that’s also something of an immediate information dump early on which affects the pacing of this first issue to a degree. But in an age where the balance between the needs of the individual serial instalment and the eventual arc collection can be a difficult one to attain this is sometimes an inevitable consequence.
Kubert’s pages are the major delight here, not simply in the appealing visual characterisation and the explosion of imagination that brings Inkblot’s environs to life but also in the inventive, ever-changing panel structures and pacing, and the atmosphere-charging use of colour. The mystical near-slapstick of the second section of the book, when the troublesome cat first appears, has a frenetic panel to panel energy that shifts into something far more ominous when the action moves on to another arena entirely.
There’s so much going on in this first issue that characterisation is perhaps one thing to suffer. We’re given very little time to invest in or connect with the Seeker but that’s presumably something that will change as this arc develops. Crucially, there’s so much potential in the premise of this book, and on the evidence of this opening issue we have a fun fantasy romp in the making here. One to watch on the serial comics front for sure.
Emma Kubert (W,A,C), Rusty Gladd (W,I) • Image Comics, $3.99
Review by Andy Oliver