I am a big fan of Shinku by Ron Marz. I enjoy his writing immensely and how can you not love samurai and vampires. I follow him on twitter and noticed him mentioning Ravine would be coming out soon. I was ignorant of this book and turned to the internet to do a little more research. I was very happy to learn that this was a creator-owned epic fantasy collaboration between Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic. I was familiar with Sejic from his art in Witchblade and hearing the guys on Funnybooks talk about his work on Artifacts. It definitely sounded like something that I would enjoy and I was lucky enough to get to read this book.
Marz and Sejic decided to forgo the usual 22-page comic issue format for this story. They opted instead to go the route of the original graphic novel. This way the story can progress more organically without the need for a cliffhanger every 22 pages. The plan is to tell the story over several volumes. After reading this first story, I have to say that it was an excellent decision.
The world that the story is taking place in is large and textured. It has dragons, magic, and gods that one comes to expect from an epic fantasy. The two main differences are in the unique changes that Marz and Sejic bring to the genre. Instead of magic being just another force, it was one of the four gifts that the first dragons bestowed upon the world. People are able to tap into this power and direct it more safely through the scales of the dragons that populate the world. It is a cool take both on how magic came to be and how it works in the world. The story also has a definite Game of Thrones feel to it as well. It is a sprawling landscape filled with diverse people. They have been brought together in an alliance by the recent defeat of a powerful and evil necryte. The peace they are enjoying is turning out to be short-lived. Political factions from within begin to make their move to take power from the current king while darker powers begin attacking the borders as a prelude to something much worse. All the while, fate is moving pieces on the board to bring about change.
In case the finely crafted story that is taking place is not enough, there is the stunning artwork by Sejic. His style has a very photographic quality to it that brings a surreal feel to this story. I found it breathtaking. Early on in the story there is a confrontation where a daughter sacrifices herself to protect her fiance from her father. The reactions of the two combatants are displayed along the top and bottom of the two page spread with the center being a picture of the father. He is this terrifying creature dominating a battle-scarred landscape. These two pages held me captivated for quite some time as they were just so powerful.
I really appreciated the the little extras at the back of the book as well. The cast of characters section with a small portrait of each character is very helpful in a story filled with such a large cast. I am also a big fan of glossaries when there are new words created to deal with different parts of the world. The glossary isn’t necessary as context is used well to define these new terms but it warms my heart to see it all the same.
I loved this book and am looking forward to the next visit to the land of Paladia to see how the story continues to unfold.