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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Comics Spotlight Review: 8House: Arclight #1

Since the beautifully weird Prophet, Brandon Graham has been one of the creators whose work I can't ignore. His style of storytelling, while oftentimes difficult and slow, is unique and rewards readers who pay close attention and reread. To put it lightly, I was pretty excited to hear about the new set of series that he is helming, 8House, which features many different creators giving interconnected takes on the eight magical realms of this new sci-fi fantasy universe. The first, Arclight, comes out this week and is written by Graham himself, with Marian Churchland providing the art.

8House: Arclight #1, in typical Brandon Graham fashion, goes in with a cold open as we see Sir Arclight, a gender neutral knight, and her Lady, a woman who seems to have the body made up of tree branches, as they explore the outer limits of their realm to discover what sort of alien entity has crossed through their kingdom. They find a dying creature and manage to save it through a blood magic ritual that allows it to exchange bodies. They return to Cserce-Miasta, the capital of the Blood House kingdom, to investigate, only to find that the mystery of the Lady's strange body has come to the forefront.

Among the many things that make this a supremely intriguing first issue are the rules of the magic and gender in this universe. It seems body-swapping is a theme that will be explored further, which is only further hinted at by the fact that all characters so far are gender neutral. The only exception is in the holographic picture of the Lady's past, in which she is portrayed as a human woman with a man, hinting that perhaps gender is a thing of the past in this world.

Churchland renders this world with beautiful range, running the gambit from stunning outdoor vistas to club scenes. She is able to capture the mood and time of day expertly, and is able to show the passage of time purely through color and shading in a way that I haven't really experienced before. She utilizes and interesting color palette that is both muted and imaginative, and rides the line between sci-fi and fantasy very well.

While this first issue only gives us the briefest of glimpes into the world of 8House, that glimpse is a fascinating one. Graham and Churchland are able to create a whole new universe without overloading us on exposition, and the result is a graceful introduction to the world and characters that leaves just enough to imagination to make it interesting. While Prophet gave us an ever expanding and strange cosmos, 8House seems to be following the same route but with magic and gender being the primary ideas to be explored, and I'm definitely onboard for the ride.

8House: Arclight #1 releases in comic stores this Wednesday, with this story taking up the first four issue arc of 8House.

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