The first issue of Arclight is bound to leave people confused. It’s not your typical comic book in which it wants to explain the entire world to you outright and hook you with some aspect of its design. For instance, I like a lot of Jonathan Hickman stories, but they all have the same kind of design and aesthetic to them and he makes sure to introduce whatever world shattering plot the story is going to cover, within the first issue. Arclight waits until the last page to give us a hint of what’s going on and nothing more. It’s not that creator Brandon Graham is wrong in his approach or that Hickman is repetitive in his, just that they have different approaches. Personally, I prefer Graham’s approach. It’s more organic to read, meaning that I feel eased into the world and story and because of that it becomes my world. Things like gender neutral identifiers aren’t “shocking” because I instead think, “why would that be shocking, this is our norm.” Which if you live in the real world you know it isn’t the norm, but here it’s just the way it is.
The story follows Sir Arclight and Lady. Sir Arclight is I believe a woman, but again gender neutral and really it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t do anything to the story by having Arclight’s gender be one way or the other so in a way you can just pick what makes you comfortable. Lady is a strange one because she is definitely supposed to be a woman, but instead looks like tree branches gathered in some clothing and walking around.
They’re out in the woods and far away from the city they dwell in tracking a creature that has entered their kingdom and is using magic. They find a Border Creature which is a blood looking animal that dwells on the border of the kingdom and the blood lands and Lady helps it survive with some magic in hope of revealing a clue to what has penetrated the kingdom.
They don’t solve the mystery. In fact, this scene does little more than introduce the world some and set the stage for something bigger, but you know what? I really enjoyed reading it. I don’t know a lot about either character. I know surface level things about the way the world works, but I want to know more. I want to explore more and see this world that Graham has created. It’s a strange mix of old and new and while I wouldn’t say it’s a steampunk type world I would say that it’s kind of a Final Fantasy esque world. There’s technology and magic. Traditions are upheld because they’ve always been upheld, but then society as a whole embraces the new. At least that’s the impression I took from this first issue.
The art is an entirely different beast (pun intended). Marian Churchland (creator of Beast (2009)) has a style built for this story. She creates a fantasy world that is both beautiful, captivating and here’s the important one, a world you’ll want to explore yourself. I’ve seen a lot of fantasy world’s in comics (I know they’re all fantasy, but I’m talking magic and stories that don’t resemble our world), but the key to a successful one is if you want to explore it and go on adventures. Churchland builds such a world.
The character designs are also very strong. There’s a hint of castle and dragons to the designs, but then there’s also a flair of “real world Matrix dance rave” to them as well. It’s again this blend of old and new that works because both aspects seem to play off of the other.
If you’re the average comic reader, meaning you grab for a superhero title before anything else, then you’ll probably dislike Arclight. I’d love to say that it could instantly penetrate any reader, but there are very few titles that can actually do that. If you’re the average Image reader and you’re always looking to check out more of their titles, then you’ll definitely dig this. It’s different from anything else they’re publishing at the moment and a welcomed addition to the world of comics. Look for it on June 24th when it releases.
8House: Arclight #1 Writer: Brandon Graham Artist: Marian Churchland Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 6/24/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital