ISOLA #1 by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl
Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl's epic journey begins in ISOLA #1. The Image Comics series features fantastic world building, with mesmerizing landscapes and animals. Kerschl's artwork perfectly captures Fletcher's well crafted characters and their dangerous quest.
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Image Comics’ new series captures an exhilarating wildness. The comic’s energy fills the landscape, the animals, and even the fierce eyes of the comic’s heroine. The fantastic artwork in moody jewel tones brings Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl’s ISOLA #1 to vivid life. Kerschl beautifully illustrates animals of all kinds, some monstrous, others serene. Fletcher’s minimalism emphasizes the valiant lead character’s feelings of urgency. The comic is disorienting from start to finish. But the confusion is appropriate for a truly epic start to a mysterious series.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

The comic opens in a strange forest. The ruggedly beautiful Captain Rook of the Royal Guard stands watch over the Queen of Maar. The two are now exiled from their realm and lost on a seemingly endless journey fraught with danger. Haunted by magical forces, Captain Rook must protect Queen Olwyn from very real dangers.

Special Edition: NYC 2015 Brenden Fletcher Interview

ISOLA #1: Making Myths

Fletcher and Kerschl bring a mythological element to their comic. With wild gods and magical forces, ISOLA #1 reminds readers of Norse-mythology. The comic does not necessarily follow the classic hero’s journey. However, it does include elements of an epic cycle. Rather than starting with the call to adventure, however, ISOLA #1 drops readers into the story that has already begun for disastrous — though unknown — reasons. Nevertheless, young Captain Rook is a passionate protector for the Queen. Her blustery attitude engages readers even more as she struggles on her quest.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

ISOLA shares some similarities with other warrior-centered comics. For example, the comic is strikingly similar to Gabriel Rodríguez’ SWORD OF AGES. Both comics’ heroines share many features from their fighting skills, armor, and pelts, to their piercing eyes and dark hair. Strange beasts and powerful enemies await them at every turn. While SWORD OF AGES follows the lines of Arthurian legend, ISOLA’s plot evokes fantasy archetypes but does not otherwise rely on older narratives.

Kerschl and Fletcher build a lush world for Captain Rook and Queen Olwyn to travel. The detailed artwork brings to mind Tolkien’s art for his many epics. Kerschl fills the comic with intricate maps and fast-paced frames. Coupled with a strange language running through the text, the artwork adds to the comic’s overall ominous style.


Rookie Captain?

ISOLA #1’s lead character is the fierce young captain. Fletcher perfectly captures Captain Rook’s emotions that often bubble up in stress, anger, and compunction. It is easy to empathize with Captain Rook, who must use all of her skills to keep the Queen safe from harm. She has to balance the fear of being in unknown terrain with her passionate desire to serve the queen.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Kerschl’s artwork makes Captain Rook and her companion even more exciting to watch. Captain Rook is somewhat androgynous, with a scarred nose and strong jaw. Her armor consists of rocky gear and pelts. As a result, a queering of the comic seems possible. However, the first issue barely hints at identity politics beyond the complicated rapport between Queen and protector. Survival, and how Captain Rook can get through the day, is the main question. Despite the struggles she faces in ISOLA #1, Captain Rook is rugged, competent, and beautiful, making for a likable heroine.

Special Edition: NYC 2015: Gotham Academy’s Becky Cloonan and Karl Kerschl Interview Part One

Human vs. Nature?

Dramatic character design helps Kerschl and Fletcher articulate one of the comic’s central conflicts: the interaction between humans and nature. Accompanying Rook is a fabulously illustrated tiger with electric-teal stripes. How this plays into the comic is unclear. Nevertheless, Kerschl’s illustrations of wild animals are worth the mystery. As Rook desperately creeps through the comic, the tiger stalks through the pages alongside large boars, exotic birds, and other masterfully illustrated creatures. The animals, in particular, are reminiscent of the wolves and other creatures in Studios Ghibli’s environmentally engaged film Princess Mononoke. Furthermore, Kerschl’s artwork gives the animals a fluidity that lets them control the comic’s movement.

Like Princess Mononoke, ISOLA #1 challenges the trope that pits humans against nature. Indeed, there is a wildness to Captain Rook, even as she struggles to maintain a sense of order for the Queen. The comic indirectly suggests that Captain Rook and Queen Olwyn need to restore the balance between natural, magical, and human forces. The interaction between Captain Rook, Queen Olwyn, and their new environment will be interesting to follow in coming issues.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Final Thoughts: A Captivating Quest

ISOLA #1 leaves readers wanting more. The beautiful artwork and exciting story make a marvelous comic. Additionally, Captain Rook’s struggle to protect the queen against strange forces is a compelling start to the hero’s journey.

Hopefully, coming issues will continue to develop the relationship between Captain Rook and Queen Olwyn, as well as their backstory. Regardless of what happens, Fletcher and Kershl’s magnificent creative energy will make ISOLA a truly epic series.

ISOLA #1 will be available April 4, from Image Comics

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