REVIEW: ‘The Marked,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Marked Volume 1

The Marked Volume 1 is published by Image Comics, written by David Hine and Brian Haberlin, art by Brian Haberlin and Jay Anacleto, colors by Geirrod Van Dyke and letters by Francis Takenaga. Saskia loves her art. But that love of art is about to take her further than she ever would’ve imagined. When she submits an entry in a drawing contest she hears about at her local coffee shop she discovers she is one of the Gifted. A select group of people capable of wielding the power of glyphs. These glyphs take the form of elaborate tattoos that the Gifted use to protect the world from dark malevolent forces. For now, the world is at piece. But how long can it stay that way?

There are generally three ways to create a stand out piece of fiction. These are:

1) Tell a story everyone has heard before, but execute it so flawlessly that no one will mind that it’s not original.

2) Take a familiar concept and give it a new twist/aesthetic that gives it a fresh feel, even if it’s not truly original.

3) Take the genre you are writing into a bold new direction that people have never experienced before.

The Marked Volume 1 lands itself solidly in the second category. This is not meant as a criticism. As the concepts it mixes are not strikingly new or bold, but certainly different in its approach. Let’s get into this.

The core concept of this story rests in the magical world hidden among us trope. This has been explored in lots of different forms in the past. Everything from the more classic wizard style worlds like Harry Potter, to more horror inspired settings like Hellboy. The Marked Volume 1 takes the world of magic and adds a punk aesthetic to the mix. As one of the gifted grows in skill, they acquire more tattoos till their bodies are literally covered in these ornate designs.

These intricate designs, gorgeously captured by Haberlin and Anacleto, come to life when their power is activated. These activations come with an innate feeling of power. Even simple tricks instill a bit of awe and wonder. This awe is amplified when the fighting starts. The intensity of the combat gives the feeling that these powers are used only with great determination. And to resist them takes even more effort. But like all magic, these powers come with great dangers. And one abuses them at their peril.

Along with the magic in plain sight trope, the other major concept it digs into is Hitler’s obsession with the occult.

The concept of an occult shadow war going on in the background of World War II is another well explored concept in sci fi and fantasy. The approach to this though, much like it’s magic, is unique in its execution and feeling. It’s difficult to describe without going into spoilers, but it took the concept to a scale much larger than previous interactions on the theme had ever taken it.

While I felt enthralled by the design of the magic, and The Marked Volume 1‘s unique take on its major themes, it’s story struggles a bit more. This is mostly due to it’s pacing problems.

My big problem with the pacing in this book is that it’s much too fast. Over the course of five issues we go from being introduced to this world, and the group that protects it, to an apocalyptic confrontation that leaves half the characters we were just introduced to dead in its wake. This just all happens way too fast. A smaller confrontation, allowing the reader to get more familiar with both the world and the characters would’ve helped this book greatly. If for not other reason than allowing the eventual deaths and tragedies to bring more weight to their respective moments.

The Marked Volume 1

While the story of The Marked Volume 1 struggles a bit, their are several excellent character moments. Writers Hine and Haberlin do a particularly great job establishing the character of Mavin. The leader of the Gifted, she captures all the key qualities of a strong leader. She is intelligent, she speaks with authority and is utterly compassionate for those who deserve it. I sincerely hope to see much more of her in future tales.

The other stand out character in this story is Liza. Despite the scale and pace the story takes Liza gets a fully fleshed out character arc that really hits home. Her struggles feel impactful as she goes through the various emotional moments the story takes her into..

Beyond the aforementioned excellent tattoo design I mentioned earlier, the art work in The Marked Volume 1 is excellent in all respects. A gothic punk vibe infuses the Gifted. They play wonderfully within the setting the book takes place in. And the monstrosities they come to battle are pure Lovecraftian excellence.

I also cannot praise the color work enough here. Van Dyke works some absolute magic in these pages. The awesome magical effects would not land nearly as strongly without the perfect application of the vibrant color use applied to them.

Lastly, the lettering in The Marked Volume 1 works a bit of magic all its own. While the lettering work by Takenaga is good all around, I particularly liked their work with the dialogue of certain villainous characters. The standard white text bubble turns black and the text becomes red, highlighting the difference between human and monster. This, combined with the bit of extra the rest of the visuals bring to the story and extends that extra to the dialogue’s presentation.

All in all, The Marked Volume 1 serves as an exciting introduction to a new take on the hidden among modern life fantasy/horror genre. It’s unique visuals, bombastic moments, quality development with certain characters more than makes up for a plot that feels a little too eager to put its characters in world ending peril. If you are looking for a unique take on fantasy this should be on your radar.

The Marked Volume 1 is available July 1st wherever comics are sold.

 


The Marked Volume 1
4.5

TL;DR

All in all, The Marked Volume 1 serves as an exciting introduction to a new take on the hidden among modern life fantasy/horror genre. It’s unique visuals, bombastic moments, quality development with certain characters more than makes up for a plot that feels a little too eager to put its characters in world ending peril. If you are looking for a unique take on fantasy this should be on your radar.