‘Amelia Cole and the Hidden War:’ TPB Review

Amelia Cole is back!  In print, that is.  She has been living her life as the new Protector of the unknown world digitally through Monkeybrain Comics for quite some time, and now IDW is unleashing Amelia Cole and the Hidden War on the printed world, and it is magical.  Collecting the next six issues of Amelia’s ongoing adventures, Hidden War introduces us to Amelia’s exhausting, day-to-day exploits as the new Protector of Otysburg, taking the job after Hector the Protector was ousted from the position in the first volume, Amelia Cole and the Unknown World.  Amelia often finds herself at odds with her employer, the Magistrate, due to her strong-willed nature and insistence to help people who don’t know magic, as well as those who do.  Amelia takes the side of good, plain and simple.  She views the whole city as worthy of protection, but between the Magistrate’s annoying, secret errands and her own efforts to keep Otysburg’s denizens safe, Amelia’s pushing herself to her limits, and it’s wearing her out.  Or is there more going on below the surface? A more sinister plot flickering around the edges, waiting for the right time to make itself known?  I’ll leave that for you to find out.

Also back is the creative wonder team that brought Amelia Cole to life in the first place.  Writers and co-creators Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride continue to infuse Amelia with moral tenacity and a goofy, lovable sense of humor.  The suspense and danger are there, too, as are the friends that Amelia met in the first book. Their interactions with Amelia are honest and relaxed, building on the relationships that made The Unknown World so endearing.  And, of course, there’s Lemmy, Amelia’s magic golem and constant companion.  Though he never speaks, his eyes convey a loyalty that speaks volumes.  The incredibly talented Nick Brokenshire, also a co-creator, once again provides the art, and it is as fun, whimsical, and detailed as ever.  Brokenshire does an excellent job of balancing the magical with the everyday and creates a world that is recognizable and surprising all at the same time.  His art is an absolute delight, allowing Amelia’s strength and resolve to shine through in her features and posture, and she and her friends possess a familiarity that is comforting, like coming home to a favorite home-cooked meal.  The characters and art fill you up with a warm joy that fuels your imagination and touches your heart.  Additionally, Brokenshire’s covers are fantastic, painting exciting tableaus of what is in store for Amelia while also expanding upon the world around her.  Rachel Deering again solidly letters the story, making the dialogue and sound effects fit in perfectly with the world, creating a cohesiveness of vision.  Ruiz Moreno returns as the color assistant, and the colors pop, bright and vivid, with terrific oranges and reds in the desert and with all shades of blue and black in the city at night, especially when things get seriously suspicious.  There is a warmth of color that runs through this book, from the soft yellow of Amelia’s magic to her kind, but resilient, green eyes to the way the sun lights up the city during the day.

What I haven’t talked about yet is where Hector, the previous Protector, finds himself in this book.  All I’ll tell you is that he’s now a soldier, traversing the desert with the mysterious Omega Company, valiantly attempting to keep the city safe from unknown dangers.  This new role turns out to be a whole lot more strenuous and life threatening than Hector imagined, and he finds himself on the front lines of a war he wasn’t expecting.  The cutting between Amelia’s struggles in the city and Hector’s challenges in the desert is exciting and allows for Knave and Kirkbride to have quiet, emotional moments with Amelia without sacrificing pacing, since, on Hector’s end, all hell is breaking loose.  There is a wonderful dichotomy of action and introspection between the two stories, and it provides an excellent balance that helps to build out the unknown world and gives Brokenshire the opportunity to cut loose and create some explosive set pieces.  To top it all off, the book, designed by Dylan Todd, is brimming with supplemental material, from pin-ups and sketches to stupendous posters and an affecting introduction from Jen Van Meter. I could go on and on, but it’s probably better if you just pick up Amelia Cole and the Hidden War and read it yourself, so you can experience the joy and creativity that is the world of Amelia Cole, a world that is no longer unknown or hidden, but rather enjoyed and shared.

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