In Review: Artifact One #3

I want a book that takes me someplace I've never been before and this delivers the goods. Recommended.

The covers: There are two covers that show the two conflicting forces of the world. Remi is the focus on the A cover by Romina Moranelli. She’s in a dark location, so dark it can’t be discerned. She holds a light before her so that she, and the reader, can better see. If only she looked behind her she would see a hulking figure that has crimson eyes. This cover is just too dark for the threatening figure. Remi is easily seen, but the individual behind her is just a black void that takes up almost three quarters of the cover, leaving only a pair of red eyes. Comic books are allowed to cheat with colors, even in dark locations. That should have been done here. The B is by JP Mavinga showing the Akolouth, the muscle of the religious leaders of the world. They look ready to beat someone down in their dark clothes that have stripes of red. They each wield a staff with a long blade attached at the end. Having them shown with a strong gust of wind makes it seem their presence has disrupted society. Placing these characters atop an orange background increases their ominous tone. Very nice. Overall grades: A C+ and B B-

The story: A scene from the past opens this issue by J.T. Krul and Vince Hernandez. Remi is very young and is being led into a cave by her father. She’s frightened by the noises of things in the dark she can’t see and he’s telling her not to be afraid. “…whatever we encounter that is most foreign to us or strange fills us with unease. That is why I brought you here. So that you can became familiar with the unknown.” He lights a lantern and several creatures are seen around them. “So that you can learn that simply because something lives in the darkness — that does not mean is is dangerous.” He tells her to touch one of the creatures near them. She pets the millipede-like insect and is surprised when it crawls up her arm. She slowly smiles, saying that it tickles. With this realization, the writers return to the present where Remi and Elgrove are being pursued in a cave by three humanoid creatures covered in hair, but wearing metal masks. To help her elder companion, Remi turns to fight one of the creatures and something happens. The opening three pages are a good way for the reader to see how the protagonist’s life is about to go full circle. Page 8 has a solid surprise before following a bird (an excellent transition device) to the Kingdom of Jorda where religious leaders make a fateful decision. The story goes several pages without Remi, allowing Elgrove’s character to grow and him to question what he discovered with her. An arrival in Halden teases something important is about to go down. The final four pages have a big surprise that will change everything Remi believes she knows. This continues to be a great read with the forces of religion and science colliding. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals of this book are great, starting with the design of the characters. The males have protruding foreheads and chins, with a good foot in height over the women, who have red hair and the coolest markings above their eyes. Such designs could create fear, but the first three pages by Romina Moranelli focus on Remi and her father, showing the reader that these characters are similar to any person. The design of this book is great, with everyday items, such as the lantern on Page 1 or the design of the religious leaders’ clothes, create an otherworldly look. The full-paged splash on Page 2 would be terrifying were it not for the words of Remi’s father. Panels three and four on the third page are a great way to show the action of the insect and the happy reaction of Remi. The creatures chasing Remi and Elgrove are great: they are an excellent combination of animal, with their massive woolly hides, and mechanics, with their delightfully designed masks. The action sequence on 5 is really cool. I like how it is explicitly shown to the reader on 7 why Remi ends up in the situation she is. Pages 10 and 11 have four panels that go from left to right, creating four panoramic vistas to transition the reader to a new location. Very beautiful, very cinematic. The snarl that ends Page 12 is to be expected from a character in this position and I’m hoping to see some comeuppance upon this face eventually. Amara’s scenes with Elgrove are interesting, though they could have been nothing more than talking heads: Moranelli moves her point of view around often to keep things visual engaging and does an outstanding job on the settings and having the characters emote. The arrival of the characters on 16 is ominous, though the reaction that ends the page is wonderful. The silent movements by the pair of characters on the last three pages are outstanding and I really like that the reader sees Remi’s reaction before turning the page to see what is before her. That last page needed to be a full-paged reveal for what it contains and it’s absolutely the perfect way to end the issue. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors go a long way in showing the alien setting and its inhabitants as well as increasing the emotional tone of panels. This issue’s colors are by Enrica Eren Angiolini, with flats by Cassandra Peirano & Sheena Marie B. Bofil. I love that the sound that scares Remi is the brightest thing on the opening page, making the sound especially loud. The cool blues used for the interior of the cave are also a good way to create darkness without making the art disappear. I also love the variety of colors on the creatures revealed on Page 3. When the present is shown, Remi is the brightest character, with her bright hair and clothes expertly tempered by the cave’s lack of light. The growls by the beasts after her and Elgrove are in a grotesque luminescent green, increasing their threat. The colors used on 10 and 11 are beautiful, creating an excellent sense of calm after the previous calamitous pages. Clothing the religious members in crimson is a good way to make them antagonistic. Candlelight creates some cool colors on 14. A terrific job by all involved. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, narration, and scene settings (the same three fonts), sounds, yells, and the three word tease for next issue are created by Dezi Sienty. I love the dialogue of this book, created with lower case letters, visually separating this book from other titles on the stand. However, I wish that a different font had been used for the narration and scene settings, rather than having them differed by colors or shape of balloon or box that contains them. The sounds are deliciously creepy. The yells deserve notice for being in a much larger font than the dialogue, which informs the reader that what’s being said is incredibly loud. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Artifact One is a wonderful mystery in an unknown land. The reader learns along with protagonist Remi, immediately pulling them tightly into the story. The visuals create the familiar and the new in gorgeous design and colors. This is a book I look forward to every month. I want a book that takes me someplace I’ve never been before and this delivers the goods. Recommended. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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