Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Greg Land(p), Jay Leisten(i), Justin Ponser(c)
Imagine your favorite swashbuckler movie: Robin Hood, Captain Blood, the Son of Monte Cristo; the selection does not matter. Just imagine. Add a few supernatural elements. Now, imagine that movie on dvd in widescreen transferred from a pristine negative. The final product would have the quality and entertainment value of Sojourn.
When Mordath, a being who positively breathes out evil, orders his Troll army to raze a city of humans to ash, he unwittingly creates his own defeat by instilling a thirst for vengeance in Arwyn. Arwyn loses her family in the destruction, and she vows to destroy Mordath and his empire. Things do not transpire as predicted. Neven, a mysterious being of immense power, informs Arwyn that only the semi-mythical Aden can remove Mordath from the lands. Aden can only be called by the combined five fragments hidden in the five kingdoms that Mordath controls. So begins Arwyn's sojourn.
The issue opens with the ugly and alien castle reconstruction: the castle destroyed by a dragon hastily enlisted by Arwyn. Calling the architecture ugly and alien may seem insulting, but these are the feelings that Mr. Land is attempting to educe. Mordath is evil with a capital e. He is not going to live in a white fairy tale castle where a moat serves as the home for swans. Within the recent addition, Mordath relates some of his centuries old history. Ron Marz subtly implies in the scene a dark path that Arwyn if not careful can tread. He explains Mordath's use of the Troll Army as well as why they follow him given their sense of honor and individuality.
The scene seamlessly shifts to our hero's bitter evening spent by the campfire. Mr. Land and team portray Arwyn as a beautiful woman whose beauty is now merely a shell. She is not hollow inside, but the positive emotions remaining within her ring hollowly amid fury and hatred. It's because of this characterization that a traditionally light-hearted scene works so well as a powerful drama.
I cannot say whether or not the highwaymen seek to rob Arwyn of more than her gold, but it's not the seediness of the men or their intentions that create impact. Arwyn is without humor and portrayed as deadly serious. The tension for this issue is as taut as a bowstring at the ready.
After Arwyn deals with the robbers, Neven materializes. Here again, the characterization guides the story away from the expected direction. Neven despite being a gorgeous creature isn't really felt that way. You notice her beauty on an intellectual level. On an instinctual level, the artwork depicts her as powerful and dangerous. Her amber eyes are not beguiling. They're unsettling.
A surprise that releases the bowstring awaits the reader in the remaining pages, but the creative team enhance the suspense until the very end. Arwyn and Kreeg, her dog, enter an ominous looking town: veiled in sun but also swathed in shadow. You half-expect when the lad who waters and stables her horse warns her about Kreeg accompanying her into a tavern that somebody intends to eat Arwyn's only friend. A more pleasant surprise awaits. Capping off the book, Brandon Peterson delights with a captivating pin-up of Arwyn that appreciates her anatomy and comprehends aesthetics.
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