It's very easy to write reviews about terrible comics, and it's a lot of fun to write reviews for comics you love. What trips you up, is writing about a comic you feel entirely ambivalent towards. That's the predicament I find myself in with 'The Spire #7". It's got solid art, decent characterization, and some small stabs at world-building (more on that later), but there's no element that feels hugely memorable, charismatic, or engaging (at the midway point I was frankly a little bored). The Spire follows a misfit loner law officer who gets snagged in political intrigue in a fantasy sci-fi world, a description which could probably go for half of the creator-owned books on the stands right now. And frankly, there’s just not enough to recommend the Spire as being anything special. Let's start with the biggest problem with The Spire: its focus on political intrigue. This is a hard type of plot to make interesting at the best of times, and a fantasy world of made-up names and histories makes the inner workings of the Spire's governance a drag to read. In this issue the Pax begins to go off the rails after Sha's killing of an enemy priest at the end of the last issue. But that killing is not ever addressed directly and its fall out is muted by the political story being told. The reader cares about Sha, not about the city, and far too little time is spent fleshing the main character out. Anyhow, after this setback, Sha comes head to head with the results of her investigation as well as the consequences of her dalliance with the princess.
Issue #7 has a number of twists and turns, not all of which landed, mainly because so little of the preceding six issues have stuck with me. I am well aware this is as much my fault as a reader as it is the comic's, but I found myself un-interested in re-immersing myself in The Spire. As various factions enact their plans, reveal secret pendants, and double cross one another, I realized there was no character who's fate I was anxious to know.
In other books without a charismatic cast, this lack of a rich cast of characters might not be a problem as other interesting parts of the story might take up the slack. Si Spurrier has many talents as a writer, but they all lie in characterization, and his attempt to setup a rich fantasy world comes across as a half-baked mishmash of fantasy cliches and new ideas that don't quite work (Sha's odd spidery arms strike me as a mistake by the artist every time I see them, before I remind myself that's how she's supposed to look). There is a quirky weirdness to some bits of the Spire's world (like it's chubby, cherub-ish messengers) but it's surface-y and there's no real hook to build a world around. To put it simply, it's more than a bit dull.
This brings us to Jeff Stokely's art which is, like much of the book, serviceable but not hugely memorable. His style reminds me of Giannis Miliogiannis in his scratchy pencils, but with a simplified cartoony sense of characterization. It can be charming, but it's not the type of work that builds a multi-faceted world by itself; it's the type that needs a masterful story to complement its strengths (beautiful actions scenes) and hide its weaknesses (the constant lack of backgrounds).
There have definitely been times when an original fantasy story with a high a quality as The Spire would seem a welcome change from superheroes and fisticuffs. But in the current comics landscape, it's simply not memorable. It's perhaps not fair to hold the Spire up to other excellent but similar books, but one only needs to go as far as Spurrier's other release this week, Cry Havoc #3, to see that he has the potential to write a creative exciting story. As such, this feels like a book that will be forgotten as soon as it's finished.
[button btn_url="" btn_color="pink" btn_size="large" btn_style="default" btn_outlined="no" link_target="self" link_rel="" icon_left="Score: 3/5" icon_right="Score: 3/5"]Score: 3/5[/button]
The Spire #7 Writer: Simon Spurrier Artist: Jeff Stokely Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/23/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital