High-fantasy epics are a pretty rare occurrence in comics, the sheer scale of the world building and character design sending writers scurrying to the world of novels in which to forever delay their sixth instalment.
Fortunately, no one seems to have told Kurt Busiek (Astro City) and Ben Dewey (The Tragedy Series) as they plunge straight into the pulpish delights of the floating city of Keneil, “westernmost of the Seventeen Cities Above the Plain”. It’s here we meet Dunstan, a young bull terrier and hero of the unfolding adventures.
The world here is populated by beasts, and how this place, run on magic and ruled by wizards, came to be is a mystery. Why the magic is running out and who the summoned Great Champion – a human! – really is, are others.
Vol 2 begins the adventures anew after the fall of Keneil – an excellent starting place for new readers. Dustan and the Great Champion are separated from the city folk and have different ideas on what to do next.
Busiek has been gestating this tale for ten years, and that patience is evident in the slowly unfolding world in all its extraordinary details. Dusty’s position as a privileged but naïve youngster makes him the perfect protagonist to discover his surroundings, with class and cultural tensions underlining the story.
Dewey’s background as a painter is evident in each chapters introduction, a two-page painted scene complete with prose extract from a faux pulp sword and sorcery novel explaining the events of the comic with a romantic tinge. His character work shines with the wide cast of characters and creatures, and more so in this volume where sci-fi elements begin to come to the fore.
It’s rare to see such detailed character work exist alongside intricate cityscapes and scenic landscapes, and the colours of Bellaire truly add a magic touch