By Levi Remington
Rose, a high fantasy series that is teetering a bit too close to the familiar, releases its second issue this week. While my first impressions were favorable towards the art, I was left wanting when the story retread such mundane, overdone territory. Does the second issue expand upon the first in a memorable way? Not exactly, but the art is still excellent.
Hey! You kept reading. You must want to know why exactly this series has had such a rocky start. Well, let me explain. While Meredith Finch is clearly and passionately inspired by the fantasy genre, her work on the book thus far could best be described as uninspired. This isn't me trashing the book, really. It's not terrible. It's just so "inspired by" commonplace fantasy that there's hardly an ounce of originality to be found. What's left is suitable, but it could be so much more. Keep in mind we're just in the first two issues here, this may be a series better left for the trade.
In the first issue, we are introduced to the land of Ttereve. It used to be quite nice, you see, and it was protected by the Guardians and their Khatz (magic, oversized kitties who possess great power). Of course, as prosperous and peaceful times are wont to do, these times began to die out for no clear reason. The Khatz disappeared, and the magic began to fail. Evil arose. Evil conquered. Knowledge of the better time was lost. Anyone who has the qualities of a potential Guardian has since been sought after and destroyed. Etcetera.
Meet Rose. She's got the magic of a potential Guardian, or at least she's learning. She's the chosen one, but she doesn't know that yet. She's going to end up with a Khat of her own someday (see the cover of issue #1). In pursuit of a suspicion, baddies have set fire to Rose's village while she was away. They also killed her mother. This is the part where you feel bad for Rose, except you don't because you've been told this story countless times and nothing has been done to establish these characters as anything more than hollow archetypes. It's very familiar. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, and it can even lead to some enjoyably comfortable stories, but it's the last thing to make a book stand out or scream quality. And for the amount of comics being released each week, that's kind of a problem.
The second issue features Rose putting herself in danger due to reckless stupidity, continuing to wield swords in her bathrobe just because, bringing dead animals to life with her tears, and forcing a man to protect her until some of her power mysteriously kicks in, surprising everybody except the reader.
Why is this story being told? I guess putting female characters at the forefront, both on the protagonist side and the antagonist side, makes things a little fresher than they could be, but that's the extent of any innovation at play here. Perhaps there is a fan-base for basic, predictable high-fantasy with light entertainment. Or maybe this book just hasn't kicked into gear yet. Maybe it's got something wild up it's sleeve for when it brings the Khatz into the mix – producing a lovable, beautifully-illustrated, mold-shattering Meow Mix of a comic book. Though my instincts tell me this book is doomed to more honest interpretations of Meow Mix – reliably filling budget class consumption that does the job but won't be sating the appetite of those with higher standards.
I hope you have your rose-tinted glasses on for this one, because without the nostalgic love for generic high-fantasy stories you've heard a hundred times before, there's little to admire about the plot of Rose. Though for every misstep in the story (retraced step, rather), there is a heap of Ig Guara's outstanding art to gawk at. This isn't a bad comic, it's just that everything involving the plot and characters feels immediately tired upon introduction. Despite that, the marriage of story and art here is wonderfully done, and it infuses the title with enough energy to make light entertainment for readers not yet jaded by run-of-the-mill genre stories.
Written by Meredith Finch
Art by Ig Guara
Colors by Triona Farrell
Letters by Cardinal Rae
Published by Image Comics