To be certain, monster hunters, desert cities, and too-good-to-be-true promises of salvation are old hat for the fantasy genre, and Rogers’ tale isn’t going to reinvent the wheel here, at least not in this volume. What makes City in the Desert work, often, is the attractive, minimalist linework, which renders the vaguely Middle Eastern city and its inhabitants with a sort of stark personality that jives well with the themes of the setting, and swings between chaotic (for action) and calligraphic (for mythic backstory) when it needs to. The two-tone color palette stays out of the way but manages to enhance on its own, shifting from its usual sandy brown to blue or acrid grey, occasionally, when the mood requires. The pages are given over to only a handful of large panels most of the time, giving the art room to play but also making City in the Desert something of a quick read.
Irro is a likeable protagonist, good-natured and witty but expert at what he does. He is the only character given much depth in this volume. Rogers allows him to be heroic while still holding clearly problematic beliefs about certain things. Hari’s story starts to move a bit more in the third act, but, for the most part, she plays the stereotypical, feral teenage girl, a little unpredictable and dangerous while occasionally asking Irro questions that allow him to explain to her (and the reader) some aspect of the world’s history. No doubt she will develop further in future installments.
City in the Desert is a fun and light fantasy, but it is only the first part of this story. Some of this volume feels a little meandering and the plot is fairly predictable so far, but by the end things are only just getting started. Pacing issues aside, there’s a lot to like about City in the Desert. If Rogers continues on the trajectory she eventually sets in this volume, this series could definitely have a nice story to tell.