By Levi Remington
When you're dealing with an oversaturated genre such as Fantasy, it's easy for stories to feel repetitive. Creators grow up consuming a limited subset of material and then they write from what they know. This leads to a perpetual narrowing of scope and vision as tropes and cliches fester up. New ideas are risky because while they may occasionally prove successful, it's more likely that they will be rejected. That's why a common, safer approach is to take a well-worn concept and add one or two new elements to make it feel fresh. In the case of Image Comics' Rose, that element is cats.
Of course, to call them cats would be a bit on the nose, so the story settles on "khatz" to remain incognito. These overgrown felines possess magical abilities, allowing them to link with skilled warriors and maintain piece and prosperity across the lands. But as all good things must end, so too did the reign of the magic cats – I mean khatz. Darkness prevailed, potential guardians were sought after and killed, and the khatz were forgotten.
It's sad times for the people of this kingdom, but it's also Rose's birthday! And wouldn't you have guessed it? Her mother gifts her with a rose. But don't worry, this isn't some tired gag, just a genuine, sentimental offering to remind Rose of her dead father. There's something else about Rose: she's capable of magic. She has the potential to become a guardian and save the world from the tyrannical rule of Drucilla, a powerful sorceress with a lust for power. In order to stay safe, Rose must keep her powers hidden, but she's young and doesn't know any better. Tragedy strikes, Drucilla is on the hunt, and thus begins our tale. Caution: There is a distinct lack of khatz in this issue. You will in fact find more khatz per square inch on the cover than on the interiors. You have been warned.
I'm preaching to the choir here, but if I'm going to be stuck with a new #1 from any publisher, I'd rather it be from Image Comics. I was happy to give Rose a try, having never read anything from Meredith Finch, but it's going to take a few more issues to be sure if this is worth continuing. Almost everything about it feels trite, but it's not as though it's doing a bad job either. The setup is effective and clear, and the characters – as basic as they are – were established well. Nothing about the book is confusing or convoluted. It's just that the plot, world, and characters need to be fleshed out (maybe we need more khatz?). What's here initially is too familiar, making it difficult to feel anything for what's happening besides déjà vu.
The art is terrifically serene. A lot of attention is paid to the lighting, and it makes for some gorgeous forest scenes. The characters are all glamorously portrayed and beautifully dressed, the environment is lovingly detailed, and in total the colorful aesthetic is very alluring. Ig Guara and Triona Farrell have crafted a place that I want to stay in, and is the main reason why I'll be returning to Rose next month.
It's an enjoyable read, to be sure, and the art is excellent, but at this stage everything feels too familiar to give it a full recommendation. Only time will tell if this escalates beyond your run-of-the-mill fantasy. For now, it will do.
Written by Meredith Finch
Art by Ig Guara
Colors by Triona Farrell
Letters by Cardinal Rae
Published by Image Comics