you read comics, you've undoubtedly heard that Crossgen Comics
has been running the gamut of financial problems in the past
few months. There have been rumors galore about freelancers
not getting paid, of CEO Marc Alessi shelling out his own
money to cover production costs, and a slew of other glitches
that make the rumor columns like Lying
In the Gutters drool like a St. Bernard staring at
other online reviewers and comic book commentators have been
of a split mind when it comes to the fate of Crossgen. Some
say these are the final days of the company that tried to
foster a unique working environment in comics, where artists
and writers were full-time employees and not just a paid-for-hire
workforce; where new mediums (Comics on the Web, DVD) were
proposed and tried and new venues (Crossgen's scholastic program)
were found. Some say the company isn't dead, but the innovations
mentioned above are the fat that needs to be trimmed to keep
the company going.
no idea what will happen to Crossgen. Despite my spectacular
ability to pontificate about the greatness of this trade or
that collection, I don't know a damn thing about business.
I'm just hoping Crossgen sticks around, because the books
in its line, Sojourn especially, are some of the better
comics on the market today.
is a straightforward fantasy adventure that somehow manages
to feel fresh when compared to some of the other fantasy comics
and books in recent publication. Ron Marz, Crossgen's former
go-to man when it comes to writing, pens the story of Mordath,
the man who almost brought The Five Lands under his despotic
control and would have succeeded if not for one man named
Ayden. Ayden managed to ally the many races of The Five Lands
to create an army that toppled Mordath's troll legions, and
then slew the megalomaniac himself.
he left as mysteriously as he came, leaving behind a way to
contact him should the world ever be threatened again.
a few hundred years. Mordath has been resurrected and controls
almost all of The Five Lands and will soon control all of
it as his troll hordes sack town after town. When his army
attacks a small border town, razing it to the ground and killing
most of the inhabitants, he kills the husband and daughter
of Arwyn (no, not Liv Tyler, another Arwyn), a woman whose
skill with a bow is only surpassed by her burning desire for
vengeance against the man who killed her family. Her path
of revenge will lead her and her trusty dog Kreeg into a multitude
of death defying situations, and she'll meet some interesting
people: the one-eyed archer (and the only man able to ignore
a lack of depth perception when firing a ranged weapon) Gareth,
the slightly pale but magically (and *ahem* physically) endowed
Neven, and a whole lot of trolls.
writes what could have been a badly conceived Dungeons
& Dragons campaign and makes it richly entertaining.
Marz, as I've mentioned before, is an excellent world builder
as he's demonstrated in other Crossgen titles, and he doesn't
slouch here. In the beginning prelude to the main story, we
get a glimpse of the many races of The Five Lands, and of
the mysterious Ayden, all of which beg for more story time
and get it in later volumes.
has a great narrative dialogue in the series. A lot of the
story is told directly from Gareth's perspective and it's
interesting to hear Gareth comment on Arwyn in the past tense,
as the narration seems to be set some time in the future of
the story. It makes the tone a little lighter and gives Marz
the chance to throw in sarcastic comments and comedic hindsight.
It may not seem funny when trolls in the sewers of some ancient
temple are hunting you down when it's happening, but boy howdy
does it have its moments of levity a few years down the road.
have to be given for fostering the seeds of an epic story.
Marz takes a long view of the story as Arwyn and Gareth go
off to find the means of calling Ayden back to help defeat
Mordath, which means that they'll be seeing all five of The
Five Lands in great detail as they battle their way through
Mordath's hordes. And Mordath, a very well written villain
for a change, won't make it easy I'm sure.
will be a gorgeous journey. Artist Greg Land is one of the
best pencilers in the business, and doesn't get enough credit
for the level of detail and outright beauty in his work. The
sketchbook in the back of the volume further demonstrates
this, featuring some of the greatest pin-up shots in comic
book history. Arwyn and Neven are two of the most captivating
women drawn in comics, and Land draws each with such care
that it's clear this man cares about his work. Land doesn't
just focus on the ladies though; the people, the trolls, the
creatures, the magic, even the architecture and backgrounds
are of the highest quality. Like a lot of comic book artists
these days, Land seems to have studied film or camera work
in some respect, as he has a good eye for setting up interesting
"shots" of characters: the opening of the fourth
chapter featuring Mordath on his throne is such a creepily
evil, yet somber depiction that I got that feeling that I
was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie and any minute now, a butcher
knife-wielding transvestite might be lurking over my shoulder.
Sojourn is not one of the titles set
to get the axe after Crossgen's upcoming, multiple-title-spanning
event (I just really, really don't want to say "crossover")
entitled The War, so the epic may continue, provided
Crossgen continues. There's both full sized editions of Sojourn
available, which is better for the artwork, and a Traveler
sized edition, which is better for the pricing. Pick up whichever
satisfies your personal fanperson tendencies, but do pick
it up. It's worth every penny, and at the moment, Crossgen
could use every penny.