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Advance Review: Revealing New Worlds in ‘8House: Arclight’ #1

Advance Review: Revealing New Worlds in ‘8House: Arclight’ #1

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8House: Arclight #1
Written by Brandon Graham
Art by Marian Churchland
Published by Image Comics

Note: this comic will be released on July 1, 2015

Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland don’t want to make it easy. The solicitation copy that Image is using to sell 8House: Arclight #1 is way more clear on what is happening in this issue than the comic itself it. But don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s a bad thing. Graham and Churchland create a new reality of ladies as knights, magicians and mystery. It’s a reality that they want you to discover and characters that they want to you get to know. The story of Lady Kinga, a noble lady now trapped in the body of a robed creature, and her faithful knight and protector Arclight is about true worldbuilding where the creators take their time to reveal the characters and the story.

Churchland’s art sets this comic somewhere between being an epic and a fable. Her simple line tells us so much about these characters. Lady Kinja and Arclight make a strange pair right from the beginning of the comic. Arclight almost looks elvish, at least what Peter Jackson wants us to think that J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elves look like. It’s the finery of Arclight’s clothes that give that appearance. The light green cloak and the dulled golden armor that she wears is contrasted against Lady Kinja’s slightly hidden appearance, with her wormlike feelers sticking out of her hood and sleeves. Much of the comic focuses solely on these two characters, as well as a possessed red goose that they save along the way. Churchland draws them in a way that is both beautiful and rugged. These aren’t China doll characters or outright monsters. She creates so much of their personality simply in the flow of her lines.

 

8House_Arclight-1-Graham-ChurchlandJust as Churchland tells us about the characters through her artwork, she craftily reveals the world that she and Graham are creating here. From the relationship between these two women (part duty, part honor, part love) to the passageways created by overgrown and gnarled trees to the greenish yellow hue to everything, the woods that Arclight and Kinja travel through are warm and welcoming. Even the bright red wounded creature that they find at a base of those gnarly trees is more endearing than threatening. As we’ll discover later on in the comic, the monsters in Arclight aren’t the unearthly looking person and animal. We may look at them as these unknown things but to Churchland, they’re a vital part of this ecosystem that she’s drawing.

In all of his writing, Graham never seems that interested in diving headlong into his stories. From Multiple Warheads to Prophet, he slowly takes his time to build his way into the story. In 8House: Arclight #1, it’s not until the end of the issue, when Kinja and Arclight have returned to the city and in many ways, returned to a life that’s more concrete than their time in those opening pages in the woods that we start to see the shape of this story. But there’s something else in the air in this comic. Maybe it’s compassion. Maybe it’s love. Or quite possibly, it’s both. He refuses to tell you who these characters are. Instead he believes in letting you discover them through their words and actions. Whether it’s the care that they show to a wounded creature (albeit through the sacrifice of a healthy goose- and even that tells informs us about the characters) or the fierce way that Arclight defends her lady’s honor once she returned to the city and society, Graham and Churchland want you to discover this world and these characters.

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Graham and Churchland’s insistence on showing us this world and not telling us about it leads to some incredibly lean storytelling. Graham uses only the barest narration and dialogue that he needs to as Churchland’s images are each worth 10,000 words. The alchemy between story and art unveils the story in a way where experience it as more than plot and narrative. 8House: Arclight #1 becomes an experience of discovery, of sensation and of something more than simple conflict/resolution storytelling. Graham and Churchland craft an issue that contains magic in the words and, more importantly, in the art that is perfectly reflected in the magic and the love that exists in Arclight and Lady Kinja’s story.

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