Compass #1 is published by Image Comics. It comes from the creative team of writers Dave Walker and Robert Mackenzie, artist Justin Greenwood, colorist Daniela Miwa, and letterer Simon Bowland. On a quiet moonlit night, a castle sits in front of the starry sky. Only a single light can be seen coming from the castle’s windows—the room where Shahidah El-Amin works to break open a door. Soon the door gives way, and she moves into a dark room.
Inside she opens a secret passage only to trigger a trapped ceiling. She flees and escapes at the last moment, only to find herself surrounded by skeletons. She utters a brief prayer and pushes deeper into the castle, where her quarry awaits. A lone chest sits, waiting for her to open it and take the treasures from within. But, as with any good adventure story, there are more surprises in store for our hero.
Compass #1 feels as much like a new entry into the Indiana Jones canon as anything I’ve read or seen. Shahidah is smart, driven, and a badass who can hold her own in a fight. But the comparisons don’t stop there. So many of the hallmarks of a good adventure movie, the Indiana Jones films, in particular, are on full display. The friend turned traitor, the treasure hunt as a cold-open, and the trapped corridor are just a few of the many excellent tropes present.
But beneath all of that is an interesting look at the medieval world. Shahidah is a fish out of water in this story, but that serves the plot well. What she observes and learns about the people of 13th century Britain helps keep the story feeling fresh despite its clear inspirations. It also contains one of my favorite pieces of world-building; notoriety. Nothing helps make a world feel more fleshed out in a hurry than people who have heard of each other. Shahidah’s worldliness allows her to capitalize on this to give characters more backstory while keeping the plot moving.
Greenwood’s art is solid, with good character designs and strong expressions from the various people in the story. There are a few hiccups, though, particularly with the action scenes. When the more intense action is going on, the clear flow from panel to panel begins to deteriorate. At times it is legitimately difficult to tell what is happening and how Shahidah is escaping from the deadly situations she finds herself in. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it does mar an otherwise great first issue.
The colors from Miwa are excellent and varied. My favorite bit of coloring is the use of the color red for Shahidah’s hijab. It seems like a fairly innocuous color choice at first. However, the red contrasts with the rest of the palette on display, making Shahidah stand out. This little bit of coloring helps to enhance the idea that she is out of place in a foreign country and is a sign of a good colorist. The letters from Bowland are solid as well. They are easy to read, and the bubbles are well sized. Additionally, the use of different fonts when people speak other languages helps keep those sections from becoming confusing.
Overall, Compass #1 is a great first issue of a series I am now looking forward to seeing more of. Shahidah is a compelling hero, and her adventures strike the same chords as others before her, but it still all feels very fresh. The plot is engaging from Walker and Mackenzie; the art is solid if a bit flawed, and the colors and letters bring it all together. If you enjoy stories from the Middle Ages and adventure, then this is a great title to look into.
Compass #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.
Overall, Compass #1 is a great first issue of a series I am now looking forward to seeing more of. Shahidah is a compelling hero, and her adventures strike the same chords as others before her, but it still all feels very fresh.