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Scion: Conflict of Conscience

The Traveler Edition: bigger than a paperback, smaller than a standard comic book, able to fit in no man's pocket.

I've been told by several people, and I've read as much over at The Fourth Rail, that Scion is one of Crossgen's most consistently well written comics. Since it just got the Traveler Edition treatment (smaller size, smaller price, extra issue collected), I picked it up.

The story is this: Avalon, a world that combines the highest of technology with medieval mentality, has known peace ever since warfare had been replaced with ritual combat between the two largest factions of the planet, the Heron and the Raven Dynasties.

On his twenty-first birthday, Heron prince Ethan enters the combat circle, ready to take part in the tournament, but not before a strange creature emblazons a sigil onto his arm. The very same red and orange yin-yang that all the Crossgen cronies have, go figure.

During the fight with the Raven Dynasty's champion Bron, the sigil flares and Ethan gives Bron a nasty scar and a need for an eye-patch. Accused of using an illegal weapon, Ethan offers his own imprisonment at Raven hands as a means to avoid war.

When Ethan arrives in the Eastern lands, his imprisonment is short-lived when he is smuggled out by a mysterious woman named Ashleigh. She then asks Ethan to join an underground movement to free the "lesser races," genetically engineered servants and creatures made to serve the dynasties who all seem to share certain traits resembling mermaids, trolls, and Smeagol. Ethan ponders the question, but must first find his way home to prevent a war, or at least tip the scales in favor of the Herons.

I'll be the first to admit that the concept and the story aren't first rate or too original, but I don't expect the Crossgen titles to be mind-blowingly good. I do expect them to be solid, though, and Ron Marz delivers a pretty solid tale of medieval romping with some neat high-tech nuances. (In lieu of horses, some people ride genetically engineered lizards, giant cats, and griffins, not to mention the occasional dragon complete with onboard computer systems.)

He could have done some things better. For instance: he really could have put in more effort to world building. We get only the smallest sense of what kind of culture this world has; if the lesser races are truly reviled all over, or whether it is simply an aspect exclusive to the Raven lands, is barely addressed. I would have liked to see more about the Underground and the woman Ashleigh, as Ethan tends to ramble on about it, yet the reader gets no real information on the movement because it's just Ethan saying "I feel guilty about not joining up...but my family needs me…but I feel guilty…the glowy thing on my arm itches…"

Something Marz does right is give the reader some action. I complained before that not much happened in Meridian, as per the Crossgen formula, but Marz managed to fit in a duel, a fun scarring, lots of Ethan being chased by people who'd like to kill him, and a full on (albeit brief) medieval clash between the armies of the Heron and the Raven dynasties. All this while balancing the story and setting up future plot threads with the introduction of characters like Ashleigh and the mysteriously shifty, Aryan poster boy Bernd Rechts. Oh, this guy has "Hitler-esque" written all over his Teutonic face.

Have I mentioned the art? Because once again, Crossgen shows that it knows how to hire. Jim Cheung's style is beautiful and fits the "Sword & Sorcery" feel of the book like a jewel-encrusted gauntlet. If you combined Terry Moore's art from Strangers In Paradise with Chris Bachalo's moody style, you'd get something close to Cheung's work. He's not real great with facial expression; the characters seem to range from angry to mildly disinterested most of the time (I was actually surprised when somebody smiled), but the rest of the visuals are good enough to overlook it.

I've said it before and it's still true: there's no better value in comics then $9.95 for the equivalent of seven issues. And it is a good read.

In a comic industry where crap comics continue to be published (let's see…Marville, Uncanny X-Men, Thundercats, stop me if you've heard it before), it's good to know there's at least something entertaining and readable to be found. So go out (or stay in and use the link provided) and pick up Scion and save it for that slow week where only one good monthly comes out and you're chomping at the bit for your three-color-ink fix.

Crossgen: the methadone of modern comics.

Scion Traveler: Conflict of Conscience

Robert Sparling

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