Queen Olwyn has recovered from her injuries but still finds herself trapped in the form of a magical blue tiger and haunted by a menacing arachnoid shade. Captain Rook takes them around an army encampment, and into a deep canyon, where they enter a village of beleaguered quarry workers. The children of the village have all gone missing, but Olwyn and Rook cannot get involved and continue to Isola. Rook falls ill after a hallum encounter and, in a reference to The Odyssey, gets rescued by a beautiful sorceress named Miluše, who is hiding a terrifying secret.
Despite the panoramic scope and widening mythology, I consider the second volume of Isola (which collects issues #6-10) a more inviting installment of the story. The rules of the world are established, as are the stakes of the quest narrative, so now we delve deeper into our somber heroes and their personalities. The relationship between Rook and Olwyn is explored and complicated by the appearance of Miluše. As we know from the first five issues, Rook is motivated by guilt, her sense of duty to the crown, and her love for Queen Olwyn. But her desire for love and to be loved can be a dangerous thing, and easily exploited. Olwyn is less aloof and more decisive in this volume, and I felt she took a more active role in the story. And this pays off when her actions start to reveal guilty feelings of her own.
As magic and mythology continued to grow and overlap in the book, I found some sequences to be slightly confusing. The nightmares and visions that plague the two heroes were particularly challenging, but rewarding once deciphered. The majority of the layouts are poetically composed. Pages that contain as many as nine or ten panels feel simultaneously expansive and deeply personal. The dialogue is sparse, but the writing is remarkably lyrical. This is most notably exemplified in Olwyn, who can't speak in her enchanted tiger form. Her part of the story is largely told in silence, but we still understand so much about her personality.
I can easily apply the same adjectives to describe the art in the book. The illustrations are sumptuous and cinematic, filling the senses and enveloping the reader in the fantasy world. Manga-inspired action lines and scratchy onomatopoeia heighten the impact of tense sequences. And the colors can be enlivening and calming, or they can be powerful and dangerous like a gathering thunderstorm.
The collected edition also includes an excerpt from the Isola Behind-the-Scenes mini comic. Written and illustrated by artist M.SASSY.K (Michele Assarasakorn), it's a fun supplement that details the collaborative process of the creators.
Creative Team: Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl (Story), Karl Kerschl and M.SASSY.K (Art), Aditya Bidikar (Letters), Karl Kerschl and M.SASSY.K (Cover A)
Publisher: Image Comics
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