Proud stands The Spire. We’re back for the second installation of another sweeping tale by Spurrier, Stokely & Sons, and goddammit I loved every minute of it. Shå is still investigating the death of the new baron’s childhood wet nurse in the lower levels of the Spire. Meanwhile, the Marchioness is touring the hospital level of the Spire when she is attacked by an unseen force. Shå sets one of her underlings to take the Sniffers out to find some clues to the murder while she climbs to the top to attend to the Marchioness. The Marchioness teaches her a thing or two about the Spire’s relationship with the sculpted as well as the Zoarim, a kind of religious war-cult that lives out in the Nothinglands. While she giveth the lesson, Pug, the flying, hideously ugly messenger imp, and his sculpted/tithebound escort see the Zoarim war machine in practice.
I’m a tough guy to win over for fantasy stories; as much as I love superhero books and sci-fi, for some reason I feel like those look to a possible future, while fantasy (even fantasy that obviously takes place in a far future version of our world, where guns are outdated weapons “from the antiki-times”) feels like a step back into a world where things can be explained by “because it’s magic.” The fantasy that really entice me is stuff where the plot almost becomes secondary to the world-building--massive sagas like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time cycle, anything that takes place in Middle Earth, and a lot of fondly remembered series from childhood, like The Golden Compass books. The Spire hits that sweet spot of an incredibly rich, detailed down to the minutiae in the background kind of world that I love with characters that I am invested in. I don’t necessarily have a solid ending goal for Shå to root her towards, but she is a detailed character with heroics and foibles and she is everything that people mean when they say they want Strong Female Characters.
The world of The Spire would be wanting without such intensely thought out detail on both sides of the comic--Spurrier has built an incredible framework for the story, delivering social commentary along with a ripping adventure, but with Stokely filling in the details of what the Spire actually looks and feels like, it would be empty. Thanks in no small part to André May’s colors, the Spire feels like a place that exists somewhere in our world, some secluded corner of a small country you’ve always forgotten about. This is one of those books that you feel like you could almost smell if the wind caught you just right. From the pomp and ceremony at the higher levels to the disgusting creatures of the lower, to the mysterious things that grow and shift in the night out in the Nothinglands, Spurrier, Stokely and May have filled this book to bursting, and it is truly blessed for it.
One of the real treasures of this book, one that I think I’ll be bringing up every single month, is the lettering by Steve Wands. Spurrier fills in a lot of large crowd panels with snippets of sentences that duck in and out of each other, repeat and run into dead ends, and Wands brings every one of them the appropriate amount of emphasis. His use of greyed out lettering is a fantastic device, one that functions much better than just shrinking down letters to indicate uncertainty. And his ability to come up with a unique font for almost every single character and social caste is baffling. Wands deserves all the awards and adulation for his work on this book, for taking the “invisible” art of lettering and making it not only visible, but an integral piece of the world-building.
The Spire is the fantasy comic I’ve been waiting for; it kills me every month with how good it is and with the fact that I’ll have to wait another 30 days for more. Spurrier, Stokely & Co. are at the top of their games, handing down knowledge from the top of the Spire, and we are all the better for it.