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This Ain't Middle Earth: I, Necromancer #1-2 Review

Written by Scary Cleve on Saturday, August 05 2017 and posted in Reviews

This Ain't Middle Earth: I, Necromancer #1-2 Review

When will magic types learn about ****ing with death?


Source: I, Necromancer #1, #2

I Necromancer cover 2

I, Necromancer #1-#2

Donathin Frye - Story, Scripts, Layouts

Lukasz Marko - Pencils, Inks, Colors, Letters

Derik Diaz - Additional colors

Anna Landin - Cover art

I, NECROMANCER is a sword and sorcery series featuring darkly distinct, unsettling art. It tells the story of a sympathetic, but brutal elvish sorcerer named Vanion Knightwood. As he prepares to unleash his unholy revenge on Mankind, he reflects on his tragic life, his own ambitions, and being a father. And when an unlikely band of would-be heroes rally to bring an end to his reign of terror, questions linger: is Vanion a terrorist or a freedom fighter? Is he a monster, or is he a victim?

The series is a character-driven exploration of a diverse cast that is working to build an immersive fantasy world that is one part Tolkien and one part Lovecraft. StArt Faire Magazine described the comic as "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS meets BREAKING BAD."

Special thanks to Darick Taylor.

When the word "fantasy" is mentioned. A solid picture of a colorful, ancient realm comes to mind. This image accompanies an assumption the conflict is black and white. It's not hard to have this image given the granddaddy of modern fantasy, Lord of the Rings, is simple good vs. evil. However, merely a passing glimpse of the genre shows it's not accurate. Game of Thrones, an immensely popular series, is rife with murder, sex, and morally gray characters. Even before Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, these fantasy worlds existed.

Gray morality in fantasy works in the same way it would for any type of story. It's an exploration into the complex nature of people in a world where nobleness and wickedness coexist. They can even be the two sides of the same coin. I, Necromancer starts off with its dark protagonist Vanion Knightwood.

Issue #1 opens to a stormy night over Castle Lu'ghul in the gothic lands of Korsova. The coloring here is a neon wash of eerie blue that is like a silent film. It could easily be Nosferatu or Caligari's vacation house. The scene cuts to hunchbacked Piotr driving a carriage at great haste. Panels of him are intercut with the carriage's interior. A coffin is inside, gradual close ups suggest there is something (someone?) inside. It's nothing pretty.

When Pitor finally reaches Castle Lu'ghul, he is greeted by Raphael, loyal servant to Vanion Knightwood. Their conversation speaks of Vanion in fearful tongue, worried that he might be in a bad mood. This is punctuated perfectly, though perhaps corny, in a close up of a castle window from where otherwordly lights and a shrill scream emanate. This introduction perfectly sets the tone and setting. Raphael and Piotr's conversation informs without showing that Vanion Knightwood is a fearsome person. This profile is confirmed with page 5, Vanion sitting alone in a ghoulish throne room, darkly brooding his wicked past.

The only negative is that the gothic tone is a little too obvious. It's got all the cliches. If you're familiar with any gothic literature, imagery, or even just the "Night on Bald Mountain" animation, you'll know what to expect. However, Marko and Diaz's coloring make these genre conventions an enticing spectacle.

I Necromancer image 2

The rest of the issue is a flashback of Vanion becoming a necromancer. Turns out Vanion lost both his son and wife to a war between elves and humans. Angry and desperate to protect his homeland, he makes a deal with Khul who is last of the demonic Ancient Ones. He is granted power but at the cost of both his and his daughter Mischaelina's humanity. Mischaelina's condition is the worst, becoming a vampire with a rampant bloodlust.

The same is done in issue #2 with the introduction of the antagonist. Lady Ireena is captured by pirates on a ship where she stowed away. She confesses to them that many years ago she trained Vanion to be a soldier. He showed promise but exhibited suspicious behavior, particularly in his hatred toward humans. Ireena follows him and discovers Vanion has been hiding in a cave with his daughter Mischae. Ireena considers them an affront to the gods and attempts to kill both. She can't go through with it though, and allows them to escape. Now that Vanion has spread darkness and corruption throughout Korsova, Ireena realizes her mistake and she travels to Castle Lu'ghul to finish the job.

In both cases, the characters are given a brief origin that leads to their current predicaments and motivates their personal goals. It's efficiently to the point, plus sets up interesting gray morality. At first glance, Ireena seems to be the most motivated by righteous goals. She wants to rid her homeland of the humans as much as Vanion, but draws strict lines not to cross. At the same time she's not altruistic.

The source of Ireena's morality comes from faith, worshipping the traditional gods ofI Necromancer image 3 elven culture. This faith-based conviction fuels her self-righteousness. It motivates harsh moral judgment on Vanion for hating the murderous humans. Seriously, it's the Jedi-style jumbo of "anger leads to hate etc." which ignores how complex emotion is. This includes the occasional need to feel anger/hate toward wrongdoers. It also motivates the decision to spare Vanion and Mischae. Ireena's narration suggests she did it to feel good about herself. Even now, her attempt to make amends is scavenging whatever dignity is left. This is of course the cynical side of reading Ireena's motivations. The more optimistic is that she truly feels regret and will do everything possible to stop Vanion's madness.

Ireena is a saint compared to Vanion though. At first, he comes off as sympathetic, a desperate man trying to find the power to bring justice to the evil men that have ruined his life. However, the lengths that he goes to are morally reprehensible, using the remnants of a loved one in his deal. These actions lead to teenage Mischae, through no choice of her own, turning into a vampire. Now, Vanion keeps her locked up in Castle Lu'ghul as he rules with tyranny and plans a genocide of Mankind. Furthermore, it becomes obvious that Vanion's motivation is more revenge than wanting to assure Mischae or elvenkind's safety.

The creepiest aspect of Vanion's personality is his possessiveness of Mischae. She occasionally sneaks out of the tower to drain the blood of sexual partners. Vanion's response is to angrily cast fire in Mischae's face. Such a strong reaction brings an unsettling element to their relationship. It's not incest, but any parent so controlling of an adult child they would even dictate their sexual desires is a disturbed individual.

Witnessing Vanion's controlling behavior and the extreme steps he's taking to exact revenge makes it difficult to have prolonged sympathy. It's lost once he makes the pact with Khul. I can see the Breaking Bad comparison, but the downfall of Walter I Necromancer image 4White was gradual. It took a few episodes or even seasons for audiences to turn on him. I, Necromancer burns through any goodwill toward Vanion by the end of issue #1. That said, I think it's the most enjoyable part of the series.

It's rare to have stories that aren't afraid of making the reader follow and even identify with terrible people. Vanion Knightwood is such a complex, imposing anti-hero. His characterization explores and expands the major theme of I, Necromancer in which conflict unleashes the worst aspects of humanity. Even people who started off as regular individuals can become monsters and will rationalize their decisions on the basis of necessary evil. What keeps readers coming back is the question will Vanion redeem himself or not?

There is a good amount of world-building, basic set ups of geography, religious practices, and world conflict. It's not incredibly in depth, nor does it have to be. It exists in service of the true attraction, which is the gothic melodrama.

The story might be off to a strong start, but the art is way behind it. Lukasz Marco's strength is in coloring. He adds in a lot of neon glow to the grainy world, giving it a gothic, ghostly vibe. The combination of the two sets the tone of the series, mysticism coexisting in a world ravaged by war and corruption.

Unfortunately, Marko is held back by flawed anatomy. Characters are simply not consistent. At random their hands grow larger than their bodies, upper bodies inflate while lower halves remain the same, they shrink or grow in relation to objects unevenly, and facial features change from panel to panel. It doesn't help that these characters are stiff in their movements. Good fight scenes are ruined when characters can't fully use their arms and legs. While I have praised the grainy aesthetic of the art, it also causes details to look murky. The results are scenes akin to a painting ruined by heavy rain. If it was not for the coloring, the art might be completely unsalvageable.

I Necromancer Image 5The problems with Marko's art are particularly obvious when compared to the covers of Anna Landin. She has everything under control that Marko does not with the added bonus of superb coloring. I can't help but put myself in the shoes of a consumer. If the cover art attracts me to I, Necromancer's, the interior might turn into a let down. When you have different artist on the front and inside of your book they need to be of equal aesthetic and quality. This matters even if the cover ends up superior. Good examples of this are series like Preacher and The Unwritten.

I, Necromancer is rough on the visuals, but still manages to tell an enticing dark fantasy tale of gray morality with a thick gothic atmosphere. The series is only two issues in, but all signs point to an epic event that will be bloody, demonic, and all the good things. If anything, it's refreshing to have fantasy titles in comics that aren't afraid to be meaner and darker in tone.





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About the Author - Scary Cleve


All his life, Scary Cleve wanted to write gruesome stories in a grim Scottish castle while sipping whiskey and contemplating his existential angst. Instead, he ended up living in Florida, so he does all this with a tan. He's been a life long fan of comics and plans on writing some. Until that day, he writes and edits about comics over at PopOptiq under the guise of Ben Howard, and he's more than happy to spread his filth to the Outhouse. Other interests include horror movies, heavy metal, and writing screenplays and occasional short stories.
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