(w) Alex de Campi (a) Esau Escorza & Isaac Escorza (c) Carlos Cabrera
After 3 issues, the biggest problem facing Taarna is what I call “The Witchblade Problem,” in that it depicts its titular character as scantily clad in an outfit that practically non-existent, only for that to not at all reflect how they are depicted within the actual story. It’s a shame, because those that may dismiss it for what appears on the cover is missing out on a fascinating take on the corruption that power brings, and the difference one person can make.
What makes Taarna such a fascinating series is the level of trust and collaboration between the writer and art team required to make it work. That’s what happens when your titular character is completely mute – the communication and coordination between Alex de Campi and the Escorzas is perfectly in sync, resulting in effective visual storytelling. There is very little text, let alone dialogue, throughout the issue. As a result, many will likely breeze through this, but doing so would be a disservice to the work put in by the creative team. There are major plot beats and emotional moments strung throughout, only de Campi doesn’t (or more accurately, can’t) direct the readers’ emotions with words. Instead, it’s up to the reader to interpret what they see on the page for themselves.
Despite the strengths of the issue – especially in nailing the emotional moments with little to no dialogue – the pacing is a mess. As much as the work between the creators can be enjoyable, as the issue goes on the inherent flaw with a silent protagonist becomes more apparent. This would be eased if the team remembered that the rest of the cast does not have to be mute, sprinkling in some dialogue from friends and foes. Aside from allowing characters to interact, dialogue – and text in general – is an extremely effective tool for a writer to pace out a comic. I maintain that the work done with Taarna herself is great, because silence is a part of the character’s appeal. But the world around her needs to provide a balance to that, and to that end issue #3 falls short.
Taarna #3 is a solid issue. It’s fun, but flawed. There is a clear collaboration effort made between de Campi and the artists, resulting in a magnetic titular character. Unfortunately, the issue falters when it attempts to apply the same formula to the rest of the supporting cast, who become disposable, forgettable figures that take up page-space. Alex de Campi does provide readers with some backstory to this world, and the parallels to the one we inhabit should play a bigger role in the forthcoming issues. Hopefully, that means the series can emerge from its current state of mediocrity.