8House is something special, and "Yorris" marks another unique but fitting entry into the 8House world. Last things first (that's how that goes, right?), the backmatter of this comic is fantastic and makes it really easy for the reader to connect with these creators. The creative team of Fil Barlow and Helen Maier have names which sort of seemed familiar, but all of the psuedo-familiarity of Googling people and muttering to yourself "oh yeah, them" is refreshingly superseded by back-matter which chronicles the team's journey through the world of animation, while also tugging on some interesting threads of their engagement with the broader 8House project.
The back-matter is the cherry on top of this one: the most engaging part of this comic is the comic itself.
The comic opens on a page that immediately makes you consider how thoughtful Barlow is with his layouts, all the way down to the lettering. Here, yet again, I'll be nitpicking (positively) on something I found to be really cool, but I insist that it's a nice visual narrative touch. The scene opens in a ceremonial hall of the Bound, where we're introduced to the protagonist flanked by her mother and aunt (with a toddler off to the side). They're sitting within a depression in the wall, inlaid with a large trident-like symbol.
So, we get introduced to three characters (and an adorable toddler) sitting in front of a backdrop with a tripartite symbol. Here's where I start to nerd out: the lettering in this panel fits neatly within the trident symbol when it's stream-of-thought captions, and even the spoken dialog falls within the trident's boundaries. So, the three characters, especially the main character in the middle, are given a lot of visual weight because of how balanced this panel is. Blocked captions don't sully scenes, necessarily, but it's a great move for Barlow to forego blocked captions while also taking the time to thoughtfully integrate the captions into the scene itself.
The next page follows, taking a cue in captioning from the previous page, and though not all captions throughout the comic function in this way, the palette and fluidity of the captions remains thoughtful throughout. It's a great first impression for a book to make, for me, when it's nailing little things like this so early on.
It helps, of course, that Barlow is as skilled at depicting grotesque city-covering emotional spirit monsters as he is at depicting the simplicity and elegance of the human form. Character designs all stand out, while melding into a uniform aesthetic. In other words, characters are unique enough where I know who's who (which is harder to achieve than you'd think), but they still clearly belong to certain cultures and ranks.
The ideas in this story and in this universe are just so damn cool. There is so much room for allegory here and yet even if you divorce yourself from the powerful metaphors, the quality of world-building here stands up to scrutiny. For instance, the Bound use a cursed stone to launch a wave of paranoia and hostile emotions at their enemies, the Un-Tied. The Un-Tied don't know about this, but the feelings overwhelm them.
We're in a world full of subversion and manipulation that cascades through time and always finds new ways to tempt those in power. This is a very literal, but very magical, take on something that makes up an important feature of our world. Most interestingly, of course, is that the people in charge of the Bound can't actually see the horrors of what they're doing, even if they might be happy with the results.
My only quibble with the comic is it drags just a tad since, pretty much, all of the important stuff happens in one spot because it's happening from one character’s stationary point of view. I think it functions as a lovely introduction to what a bunch of douches the Bound are, while also setting up this character's arc in the broader 8House universe. But it does give this particular issue a heavily episodic feel.
Whatever small overall nitpicks I might have, the craft within this comic and the richness of the ideas and the art make for a must-buy if you enjoy fantasy comics.
8House #4: Yorris - Part One Writers: Fil Barlow and Helen Maier Artist: Fil Barlow Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 10/7/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital