I’m going to go ahead and say that this is Aspen’s prettiest book on the market. Ara is gorgeous and if I were ever to fall in love with a comic book character it would likely be her. Also, I will not lie and say that I’m a huge JT Krul fan, his work has never stuck with me and so I was hesitant going into this issue. Would it be a complete and rich experience that establishes the world or would it be a glorified zero issue that fell short of its own hype? Thankfully, it was a rich and entertaining read and if I hadn’t written or posted about the first issue being a dollar I would have completely forgotten that it was. As it is, you’re ripping Aspen off.
The issue opens with a woman and her father tied to a tree as some brutes called the Hrugites begin carving flesh from the girl’s father while he’s still alive. She screams out for help and Ara decides that she cannot ignore the screams. She leaps in with her blade and begins cutting down the cannibals. The woman screams still for help and Ara asks her what exactly it is that she thinks she’s doing. Soon enough Ara has killed all of the brutes and freed the girl and her dying father. The father tells his daughter which direction to go in order to find their people and then expires before her eyes. Ara lets the girl know that she’s free to travel with her since they’re heading in the same direction.
The next day the girl asks Ara what she is due to the fact that she can switch forms from the purplish beauty to a regular looking beautiful woman. Ara tells her that she doesn’t know, but that she’s on a quest to find her mother. We cut to a flash back of Ara as a child with her mother in their kingdom. The smaller princess Ara is beginning to receive gifts from people as her mother the Queen takes her around the market.
Elsewhere in the Sonari Desert, a group of ninja bandits raid a giant elephant. The driver of the elephant warns the men not to go into the chambers that sit upon the beasts back, but they’re ninja bandits and don’t really give a damn. Here we meet Ara’s mother who is the captive of Torinthal an evil sorcerer. There is plenty to be revealed in this section so I will leave the rest of the issue for you to discover.
Overall the writing was very good and the pacing was just right. I could have used a few more character names used here and there, but I’m assuming they’ll become more familiar as the story continues. The way the story bounces back and forth also worked very well with the narrative. What was very impressive was how large the world came across; Krul has done a fine job of creating a believable planet and giving both Ara and the reader a sense of how huge it really is. There were some cheesy moments with the dialog, especially with Torinthal, but also when the girl’s dad dies and she screams to the heavens, “Noooooo!” I get that she was upset, but I would have believed a muffled goodbye as she sobbed on her dead father, rather than the classic scream into the air. Minor nitpicks for sure as the rest of the story was very enjoyable.
The art is gorgeous. If the artist leaves the book I will be very hard pressed not to follow because Pantalena has given his breathe of life to this series. Ara is drop dead gorgeous, but she isn’t just a cheese cake babe to stare at. Both the writing and the art portray her as a power female character and I would not want to be caught at the other end of her sword. She still has her fair share of awkward typical comic book lady poses, but she kills so many people it’s hard not to overlook it. The line work is thick and perhaps even a bit too detailed for some people, but I loved it and thought that it fit the story and more importantly the character designs.
I’ve been looking forward to this series since the covers were revealed and I’m glad that it didn’t disappoint. I’m very curious to see how Ara’s Jirni plays out and the scope of the overall plot. Depending on the villains’ endgame this series could go on for quite a while as Ara explores the world and as long as it’s interesting I wouldn’t mind that at all… just don’t change the art.
Writer: JT Krul
Artist: Paolo Pantalena
Colorist: Brett Smith
Publisher: Aspen Comics
Release Date: 4/17/13