Reaver #1 is published by Image Comics under the Skybound imprint. From the creative team of writer Justin Jordan, artist Rebekah Isaacs, colorist Alex Guimarães, and letterer Clayton Cowles. The issue begins amid a fierce and bloody battle.
The forces of the “Old Empire” are battling those from a country known as Escalene for control of land known as the Reach. A nameless Lieutenant is rescued by his sergeant Ash Mahan, and taken to temporary safety. While they are hiding in a trench they discuss how poorly the battle is going. However, before they can catch their breath, they something coming. An allied soldier has gone berserk and is slaughtering Empire forces. Within moments he has slain the lieutenant as Ash fled, deserting him.
The scene then shifts to a war room. Colonel Travvos of the Empire is discussing the dire situation of the war with another man named Marris. As they discuss the cause of the enemy’s success, Marris suggests that he has a plan. Soon Travvos has recruited Ash, who had recently been arrested for desertion, as well as several other criminals and monstrous individuals. Styrian, Rekala and, in a twist, Essen Breaker.
The man who killed Ash’s lieutenant and sullied his honor. With all of them assembled they are given their mission. That is, they must sneak behind Escalene lines escorting Marris. Once there, they will attempt to destroy a machine that is telling the Escalene forces every move the Empire is making. With that, the stakes are set, and a few new wrinkles are introduced. But once the job begins, it seems death is inevitable, whether it will come from the enemy or each other.
From page one the influence of Suicide Squad is present. A team of dangerous criminals being led by a stalwart soldier is too clear of a parallel to draw. However, despite the surface-level similarities writer Justin Jordan does a fine job of helping his work stand on its own. His characters each have their own personalities and quirks. Additionally, this story is easily more adult oriented. Which leads to one of my favorite things about Jordan’s writing.
He doesn’t burden the reader with in-universe slang or proper nouns. We don’t need a primer in this entire world and it’s languages or customs to get what these people are saying. Rather, they talk like us. They curse, they speak frankly. It is always refreshing to read fantasy that isn’t afraid to speak plainly, which I appreciate. I will, however, say that I wish there was a bit more world-building. I don’t know that it would hurt to know a little more about who these people are and why they fight. It is possible that we’ll learn more in the future, and I appreciate expediency in service of getting to the story more quickly. But a little more would definitely have been welcome.
The art from co-creator Rebekah Isaacs is a great fit for the dark fantasy setting. The scenes of violence, while drenched in blood, are clean and clear to follow. Character faces are expressive and their designs are excellent. With as little about their backstories as we are told, the visual side helps fill-in more about them.
In the same vein, the colors from Alex Guimarães are superb. Each panel feels vivid and alive, even when the people present aren’t. Additionally, the lettering from Clayton Cowles is as solid as ever. Dialogue is never hard to follow and the sometimes brutal sound effects are excellently portrayed.
There’s a lot to love from this new series. The characters are delightfully wicked, and the mission suitably hopeless. I do wish I knew more about them and the world they inhabit. But along those lines I trust the writer to share that information more freely as the series goes on. If you’re a fan of low fantasy or dark fantasy then Reaver #1 is a solid entry into the genre.
Reaver #1 will be in comic stores everywhere on July 10th, 2019
Rating: 4/5 Severed arms