Review: From Under Mountains #1

The newest entry in the 8house universe at Image is out this week, and it is a doozy. These books, including Arclight and Kiem have all been extremely great with their world-building and design, and From Under Mountains is no different--a real masterpiece of design. The plot of From Under Mountains is both spare and intricate. Churchland, Gibson and Leong spend plenty of time with each character in this part of the world, and they all have very clear directions to move in this story of political intrigue and witchcraft, but the real star of the book is the expansive nature of the illustrations. The book leaves you with plenty of questions, and while a book like The Spire does similar things while pointing you directly at what is going to come next, From Under Mountains is as mysterious as a summoning of blood. You don’t know what’s coming, the characters don’t know what’s coming, but it’s a world I’m happy to live in for forty pages.

From-Under-Mountains-#18house is a series of books that Image is putting out under the organization of Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland, all set in the same fantasy world where eight magical ruling houses oversee a land filled with magic, intrigue and politics. From what I’ve been able to read of their titles so far, it’s Game of Thrones with less focus on strong women who have to be humiliated to grow. There are a lot of badasses of all genders, and the artwork and pacing have been strong suits. The plots themselves at this point have existed mostly to forward an expansion of the world, to fill in the blank spaces and show you what’s happening in Akhar. It’s a bold project, and deserves the critical acclaim it’s been reaping. Graham and Churchland are taking the universal expansiveness that worked so well on the revamped Prophet series and porting that from sci-fi to fantasy.

I don’t know how long the 8house world is planned to go on--I know Graham has said that they have planned out about a year’s worth of storylines for the 8house line itself, but I don’t know if there will be other stories like From Under Mountains that take place in the universe without being under the publishing banner. I like where the whole thing is going, though; this creation of a new world amongst a group of artists, like a sandbox where they can all play. My biggest issue has been that there hasn’t been much in the way of traditional plot yet. There’s a lot of set-up in From Under Mountains, but the only thing that hits strongly enough to be a structural intrusion happens at the very end, and it only affects two of the several storylines. I trust this world, and I trust the artists involved, so maybe that gives me that extra bit of patience, but normally that kind of pacing would put me off, especially without any indicator for how many issues I’m in for. Is it five issue? Is it an ongoing? That affects the way it has to work structurally, and is a part of the reading experience that gets ignored somewhat--I go into an 8 issue limited series with much different expectations and thresholds for how long I’ll stick with the series than I do an ongoing, or a 4 issue mini.

From Under Mountains is a gorgeous tone poem of a comic, but if you’re looking for something plot-heavy and driving, this is not the book for you. It’s a beautiful side trip, a detour through a foreign land with no guide except a vague understanding of the map. It’s a trip worth taking, but not one that will give you a lot of easy answers.

Score: 4/5

From Under Mountains #1 Cover and Story: Marian Churchland Story and Script: Claire Gibson Art and Colors: Sloane Leong Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/30/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital