Plucked from relative obscurity and cast in an unlikely if not criminally overdue starring role, writer Jason Aaron leads Arkon The Imperion through a landscape jam-packed with fantasy lore. Armed with tropes both historically well-celebrated and deep-in-the-bench-oblique, this hero’s journey is indeed a legend as time-honored as it is all-new and all-different.
The first page splash is a full-frontal ultimatum, boldly putting the reader on the fence. The key is to let your 1970s “van art” guide be your muse. If any of the overt sword and sorcery elements appeal to you, proceed ahead. If not, please put the book back and await a horde of ogres to give you a friendly-neighborhood talking-to about your life choices.
In twenty mind-blowing pages, the debut issue is a stunning visualization bringing to the life the unspoken question of “What if H.P. Lovecraft ran the Island of Misfit Toys?”. Populated by various Easter egg-y inhabitants, Marvel’s new floating “Fantasy Island” is full-bore testimony to the “everything is on the table” flavor of the Secret Wars books. For those looking for a spectacular oasis between Aaron’s equally-acclaimed work on Thor and Star Wars, welcome to your new home. PS: Ronnie James Dio is not dead, you’re his new neighbor…
Sharply stating the blenderified perfect-storm of magicdom, art powerhouse Mike del Mundo delivers like the psychedelically-inflected lovechild of Bill Sienkiewicz and Frank Frazetta. The narrative is emblazoned in each panel like a proud collection of patches on any given denim jacket at a Motorhead show. Metaphorically best represented through Arkon’s new dragon steed, the painted visuals swoop and stab with decisive punctuation and majestic fluidity. Yea, there is an undeniably rhythm that pulsates through these epic pages- John Bonham could easily lift his goblet of mead to it in Valhalla and abidingly headbang in time!
Assisting del Mundo on colors is Marco d’Alfonso. The exact division of labor is unclear but the immersively vibrant results cannot be denied. Operating in similar capacity to righteous accolade on the recent Elektra series, the current unadulterated “land of make believe” platform really gives the artists a chance to level-up the dynamic. Already, subtle flourishes like the textured, crumpled map drawn in Arkon’s own decidedly unartistic scrawl stand out as crown jewels. It’s also nice that the choice of color palette reflects in The Imperion’s demarcation of this wondrously hazardous nether-realm.
Aaron and company have really kicked open a treasure-trove of unexpected hidden wonders. Even better, they succeed in keeping it fresh and new-reader friendly. The semi-amnesiac protagonist is a great navigational device. With a proper soundtrack and Arkon’s interior monologue doubling as lyrics, ambling exploration could easily be just as compelling as any “central quest”. The transition into engaging the Big Bad requires slight suspension of disbelief as to how dire the circumstances really are. However, the last page reveal commands attention that would make Joseph Campbell tune in next time. Take from that what you will, this is a creative endeavor certifiably among the heights of Battleworld.