ISOLA, VOL. 1
Writer: Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl
Illustrator: Karl Kerschl
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A tale of adventure, magic and fantasy that instantly feels like a timeless classic.
If you're a fan of Miyazaki's films, like Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away, you will love this comic. But there's also an undercurrent of Don Quixote just behind the adventure and magic -- a worry that the quest these characters are on is one they'll never complete.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Faithful defender, Rook, has to protect Queen Olwyn, who has been transformed into a tiger. They're headed for the mystical land of Isola, which Rook speaks about as if it's the answer to all their problems. But as she discusses her search for Isola with other characters, we get the sense that this task is more difficult than originally thought, and potentially ultimately quixotic.
Throughout the story, we slowly discover how and why the queen became a tiger and why they're searching for Isola, along with other bits of the past that tell us more about our characters.
Rook and Queen Olwyn must flee their old lives and search for Isola. Along the way, they must survive bandits and marauders, foul magic and other mysteries, while also trying to rid the queen of the curse keeping her a tiger. But this first volume is only the beginning, and there's still so much story to tell!
The world feels so vast and vibrant -- I can't wait to explore more of it
There seems to be a lot of story that we haven't even had exposure to by the end of the volume, keeping our interest through a slow reveal of backstory
Isola is one of the most beautiful comics ever created
Kerschl & MSASSYK's talents truly bring a sense of magic to the page
The emotion in the characters' faces, even the animals, conveys so much without words
Using artistic themes to transition from one scene to another is incredibly impressive and effective
The line art and colors animate the page to the point where it feels like we're seeing stills from a movie
This comic wouldn't be as exceptional without MSASSYK's stunning color work
She has a cinematic sense of how each scene should be treated
Her thoughtful color holds, blurred backgrounds, contrasting warm and cool colors and general expertise enchant the page and breathe life into this world
While the art of Isola is filled with beauty and magic and wonder, Fletcher & Kerschl's expert use of dialogue (or, at times, a lack thereof) creates its own magic
Rook's only traveling companion can't speak, so it's interesting and so human watching her try to carry a conversation by herself nonetheless
They're not afraid of using silence (or near-silence) for powerful scenes (like in the below panels)
Rather than relying on loads of exposition to tell us everything we need to know, they let us slowly learn the world through more indirect and immersive means
The storytelling is well balanced between past and present
Enough backstory to provide answers while still keeping us guessing
Enough current plot to feel like we're still moving forward
As always, Bidikar's lettering is exceptional and expertly tailored to the comic's tone
His choice to have hand-drawn borders around the dialogue bubbles, with no black stroke to show where the borders are, creates a clean, organic aesthetic that blends with the environment and the often bright art (or stands stark against the darker scenes)
He uses font size to convey volume, but he'll also change from all-caps to sentence case to show the difference between, say, a declaration vs words said under a character's breath
His sound effects/treatment of strange sounds are scratchy and raw and often red, but it somehow brings familiar elements in with stranger characters so the reader can still understand the tone, even if they can't necessarily understand the sounds or words spoken
The concept of Isola being this mysterious answer to all their problems that they may or may not even get to is, I think, an important one
Especially as the title of the book, it feels like the theme of the story is perseverance and hope in the face of danger, despair and all evidence to the contrary of what we need to believe to keep us moving forward
It's also interesting that reaching Isola will, presumably, be the end of their incredible journey, but with "ISOLA" as the book title, huge and bold on all the covers, it's like it's there, always hovering in the characters minds, even when they aren't talking about it
The last page is...well, let's just say I'm excited for the next volume of Isola to come out!
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Flashbacks mixed in with current timeline stuff can get a little confusing as to what's happening now vs. before, but that could be intentional
Because the world and the characters seem so foreign, and like there's so much backstory, it can feel a little like we're outsiders looking in, rather than a part of the story -- not necessarily a bad thing, but some readers like a character they can empathize with
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
You should read Isola because it's a beautiful, sweeping epic of an adventure tale, filled with magic and mystery and heart. And you should read it right now.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Motor Crush, Vol. 1 by Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr & Cameron Stewart
Angelic, Vol. 1 by Simon Spurrier & Caspar Wijngaard
The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kerschl
If you like the art:
Isola, Vol. 2 by Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl
Gotham Academy, Vol. 1 by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Brenden Fletcher – Writer
Has been friends with co-creator Karl Kerschl for over 30 years!
Dream Team: Also worked with Karl Kerschl & MSASSYK on their Gotham Academy run
Karl Kerschl – Writer & Illustrator
Test of Time: Has worked as a professional comics illustrator for over 20 years
Outlander: Lives in Montreal
MSASSYK – Colorist
Moniker: Her real name is Michele Assarasakorn
Outlander: Lives in Vancouver
Multitalented: Also does illustration work
Aditya Bidikar – Letterer
Multitalented: Co-hosts a comics podcast with fellow letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, called Letters & Lines
Enjoys hand-drawing his sound effects
Sometimes hosts a #LettererJam event on Twitter where letters all show their different approaches to a single page of comic book art
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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