Having read the first volume of Fantasy Sports and loving it I couldn’t wait to dive into no.2 The Bandit of Barbel Bay. Then a month went by. I’m not going to give you all my excuses since they all boil down to the same thing… life. I hate life for making me stare a glorious print version of this book for a month unable to find even a meager amount of time to read it. You bastard life. Speaking of the print copy, I read a digital review copy of the first volume of Fantasy Sports which was awesome. Seeing it in print though… even better. I really dig the fact Nobrow doesn’t focus on making their books all the same size and the same size as other graphic novels. They’re focused on the book market and not the comic shops and I’m glad. Comic Shop owners always complain about awkward size books and will intentionally pass on them. Don’t believe me? Ask them how much they love stocking Mouse Guard, they don’t. Anyway, the book is big and I loved it. It’s not Adventures of a Japanese Businessman big, but damn close.
The amazing thing that Sam Bosma has done with this volume is put a “2” on the cover, but then write as if it were the first book in the series. We actually start with a baseball game and some backstory on Wiz. It’s not exactly tragic, but I couldn’t help but feel a little sad for her.
The story then amazingly picks up right where we left Wiz and Mug, only the teleportation didn’t work and they’ve ended up in another city. A city that the Order of Mages have already visited. Unlike in the first volume where Wiz and Mug defeated a champion and took his riches to bring back, they’re now seeing the aftermath of the Order. But before that they have to play beach volleyball and learn teamwork and to trust their instincts!
There were hints of a deeper story in the first volume of Fantasy Sports, but nothing like what’s presented here. Bosma not only develops the story, he develops the world and the two main characters. Sure, Wiz gets a lot of the spotlight, but Mug goes through his stubborn development as well. This book is actually great for kids because Mug has every bad habit in the book and Wiz is breaking him of them one by one. In this volume she helps him with teamwork. Mug also helps Wiz though, he may be a hothead and stubborn, but he teaches Wiz to trust in herself and to not over think everything. It’s all of that on top of everything else that Bosma is developing in the story that makes it incredible. Most books would just take those last two and call it a day, but Bosma leaves no stone unturned.
The art continues to be fantastic. The coloring is better this time around, but I think that has more to do with the setting than the quality of the first volume. The sports action is easy to follow and really some of the best you’ll see in comics outside of manga. Bosma’s character designs continue to have this great balance of manga influence. It’s hard not to recognize the influence Osamu Tezuka has had on Bosma’s artwork. It’s a book with strong storytelling with both the writing and the visuals, but with the visuals you can go back through and just look at the book and grasp the story. That’s how strong the artwork is and how beautiful.
It was pleasing to see more of Fantasy Sports. It’s hard to say if there’s plans for a yearly installment, but that would make me personally happy. Bosma has continued to pick very interesting games for our two characters to play and there’s still may lessons to learn and mysterious to solve. Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait too long for more of this wonderful series.
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