This first issue is really the background for everything to come. About a third of the issue is made up of what I think of as the “Galadriel monologue” where we get all the necessary backstory to this fantasy world from a nameless narrator along with accompanying grandiose scenes of these historical events. The fact that Mortifera is set in the real world is an interesting twist on the usual fantasy setting, and the lack of knowledge that came out of The Dark Ages makes it perfect for setting these adventures while staying true to history. While only mentioned in passing in Issue #1, I look forward to seeing the church's demon hunters, the Exturminata, and witnessing how they operate compared to the Mortifera, the rogue demon hunters.
The remainder of the issue is the set-up to Catherine, Ethan, and Durin's later adventures, which begin when the Mortifera of Ireland are wiped out by Kanisus, and Catherine decides to summon Durin to aid her and her brother on their quest to slay him. If there is one disappointment, it's that this issue ends right when things are getting good. All of this time has been spent building the setting, the characters, and the plot, and right when it's time for the story to begin, it ends. In an ideal world I'd like to have seen this packaged with Issue #2, so we had the set-up and a first adventure to go along with it, instead of the set-up by itself.
There isn't enough seen of the main cast to give a well-rounded impression, but glimpses of the characters' personalities are given here and there. Ethan's carefree attitude and matter-of-factness add moments of levity to an otherwise serious story and make him a welcome character to provide audience opinion. Ethan's laziness and lack of knowledge will give the more studious Catherine plenty of opportunities to fill her brother, and the audience, in on the details of this world going forward. Catherine is all about control and discipline, being the knowledgeable and responsible one of the siblings, though her decision to summon a demon to aid their cause seems a bit rash. Durin doesn't even appear until the last couple of pages, and there isn't time to learn much about his personality or abilities. We know he is bound by a couple of rules, so he can't harm the Gregors and must help them defeat Kanisus and his followers, but it is never explained if Durin can harm innocents or has to obey Catherine or Ethan's orders.
The art of Mortifera is a simple, almost manga-like style with vibrant colors. It gave me a good high fantasy feel, and I can't wait to see how the art will perform when our lead trio is out kicking demonic a--. Sarah Partington also has a gift for character stance and facial expressions, which adds a lot of depth to Stephan Frost's dialogue. I look forward to seeing if Partington's gifts apply as well to the non-human characters as the human ones.
Overall, Mortifera #1 does a good job of laying the groundwork for the rest of the series, and, though I feel it would have benefited from being part of a larger issue or a graphic novel, it left me wanting more, which means it did its job. Mortifera #1 is scheduled to be released on August 29, 2012.