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Published on July 1st, 2015 | by JCDoyle

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The Spire #1 Review

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Released this week is the first of an 8 part fantasy series from the writer of 2012’s X-Men Legacy series and the cover artist of Translucid. And what a mass of wonderfully delicious fantasy it is.

It starts with a scene with the feel of Planet of the Apes before jumping to a fairy tale castle with the tragic death of a king before introducing a bunch of messengers that have just escaped form a late 80’s Jim Henson production (and breathe). All this within the first three pages.

The story is (on the surface) a pretty simple affair, the Baron is dead and a new Baroness has taken to the throne. She has requested that all come to make tribute and pay respect but there is a killer in the streets of the city, someone who has killed one of the aristocrats, and the new Baroness doesn’t have much faith in the city watch.

The Spire insert 2

There are a number of elements to the story worthy of looking at;

First up The Spire itself. The Spire is a sprawling metropolis that stretches up from the rocky, lifeless landscape into the sky like a termite hill. Like any good city on a hill there is a vertical hierarchy where the rich and privileged live at the top and the poor, unwanted live at the base, with the whole host of social variants in between. The population is a mix of human and The Sculpted, or Skews, or Hybos, dependant on what the community is calling them at present, basically Others, some of whom are obviously not human and some that blend in for the most part; just like Captain Sha but more on her in a bit.

The Spire reminds me of The Dark Tower from Stephen Kings Dark Tower novels, or the Castle of the Crystal from The Dark Crystal or D’Ni from the Myst games and novels or, well, you get the picture. It’s a classic design for a city and is realised in wonderful sculptural forms by Stokely. There are elements of the city that are like the streets of Victorian London and others that reek of Pratchett’s Diskworld.  Spurrier has created a varied and exciting place to house his host of fascinating characters.

Speaking of characters, there’s a host of scrumptious morsels to get your teeth into. There is the enigmatic new Baroness who sits atop her futurist throne dispensing orders to all and sundry. She is stiff backed and very regal, a female version of Jared from Labyrinth (another fantasy influence) and she doesn’t like Sha. In fact her coldness to the Captain of the Watch seems to suggest that there’s some kind of history between them.

The Spire insert 1

Then there’s Pug, a fairy (!?!) and messenger for the ruling family. He is sent to The Smokewood to pass on the news of the Barons demise and request that The Elder returns to the city. Pug is the comic relief thrust into the centre of something disturbing without a clue what’s going on. This character is essential to The Spire because it shows that Spurrier has a sense of humour and that not everything in the story is going to be action or death. The fact he sends the comedic character off into the deep dark wood also screams volumes about his story telling technique, he is going to challenge the reader mixing the horror and the comedy together.

And last (but by no means least) is Sha, central character, one of The Sculpted and Captain of the city Watch. In a nut shell, she’s awesome. She has it all and does it all. From the moment she is introduced she’s engaging and intriguing. She has determination chasing down the thieves, even with an arrow in her shoulder yet she lets them escape to save the life of a child. She then faces bigotry and racism as her origin is questioned but she handles this with the same strength she employed in the recent pursuit.

Her ‘home’ life seems as complicated as her professional life but these scenes have some tender, heart-warming moments. Her girlfriend is loving but jokes about Sha’s hard exterior. And who exactly is Sha’s girlfriend? I’m sure all will be explained.

One of my favourite moments in the entire comic is when Sha journey’s to see the new Baroness. As she moves from one tier to the next, Stokely draws her crossing the panel’s gutters giving her a majestic air: she is so important that the normal boundaries don’t apply to her. This simple three panel sequence sums up the brilliance of the comic as it combines setting, character and tone in one simple movement.

The Spire issue 1 is a magnificent and satisfying opening to a sprawling fantasy story equal to any of the best examples of the genre you care to mention. It’s smartly designed and the script bounces along with a wonderful pace. Great things are going to come out of this comic.

The Spire 1 cover

Title: The Spire

Publisher: Boom! Studios

Writer: Simon Spurrier

Artist: Jeff Stokely

Colourist: Andre May

JCDoyle

JCDoyle

Lover of comics and Art and Sci-Fi in multiple media. Currently teaching my kids the ways of the Geek (while protecting my first editions)
JCDoyle

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  • Lilian Halcombe

    I really enjoyed this comic. I missed it initially, but a friend recommended it to me and I picked it up this week.

    Sha has a real Sam Vimes vibe for me (complete with bacon sandwich, tension with the palace guard, etc) and the whole story reminded me a lot of the early guards novels. Deputy Milk is also based on Sergeant Colon I think, although he’s a little more competent so maybe not.

    Sha’s girlfriend Meera I think is the Baroness’ younger sister. Sha addresses her as m’lady on one occassion. She is apparently used to better lodgings than Sha’s (and Sha is the commander of the city watch). She looks to be a few years younger than the Baroness which would fit with the picture of them as children, and Sha was a friend of the old Baron so she may have met Meera there. That’s just a guess at the moment though.

    • JCDoyle

      I agree about Meera, it would explain the awkwardness between Sha and the Baroness.
      It is also very ‘Guards’ and made me want to reread ‘Feet of Clay’ (which is my favourite).

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