By Laramie Martinez
I’m a sucker for fantasy comics. But I think the genre tends to be limited by the expectations placed upon it. Some of the best short stories I’ve read recently use fantasy as a tool to explore interesting ideas. From Under Mountains is a great example of this. More of a political thriller than a rip-roaring adventure, the book tells a quieter story where personal conflicts between parents, fathers and daughters set the stage for a larger narrative. This comic feels very much like an intro arch, giving characters’ personal reasons which will inform their future decisions.
The art, with pencils and colors by Slone Leong, is dripping with emotion. Leong’s faces, which remind me of some of Paul Pope’s work, are wrinkled with anguish, fear, or quiet contemplation. The backgrounds are often colored more to reflect the characters feeling in a particular panel rather than the reality of the situation. She uses this brilliantly sprinkling these in with other ethereal dream-like sequences. Layouts are fantastic, falling into a more experimental style than most fantasy books, you’ll often see mini-stories told between dialogue, hinting at larger themes throughout the book. My only critique, something which I see a lot of in comics these days, is the mid-range panels are somewhat inconsistent. There are a few where the details are blurred out in order to emphasize the character in the frame, while in others there seem to be added details that end up being distracting to the course of the story. A small complaint in a book which is succeeding at creating an ethereal and believable fantasy world.
As I said earlier, this book feels like an introduction. As if Claire Gibson and Marian Churchland just wanted to place their pieces where they wanted. There is one character’s story arc that is told pretty much from start to finish in this issue, but as for the rest of cast by then end, we only catch a glimpse of where they could possibly end up. This emphasis on setting up the plot comes at the cost of a satisfactory ending. By the end of it, you want more out of the arc. Again, this is a small complaint for a book which manages to create a lush world filled with a pantheon of its own unique mythic figures, legends, and history. The world building within this story is what really impressed me, each culture feels flushed out and different. It leaves you feeling like there are so much more of this world to explore.
From Under Mountains
Writer: Claire Gibson and Marian Churchland
Artist: Selone Leong
Publisher: Image Comics