Rating: 5/5 – Brilliant Artwork in a Story that is Familiar but not Predictable.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
So you’ve watched the HBO series Game of Thrones and it’s got you hooked. You’re yearning for more sword and sorcery action with just enough deviant, devious sex to give the tale spice. You want to see epic battles, confused bloodlines, regained kingdoms …but you’re fearful of the massive number of pages that lie before you in G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books. You’ve heard that they’re loaded with page after page of what people ate, among other more mundane topics, to balance out all the incest and intrigue. And you’re worried that Martin might not finish it before he passes on (for that last one, refer to a very popular Neil Gaiman article on the matter).
While you make up your mind, check out Titan’s Royal Blood, a tour-de-force from acclaimed creator Alejandro Jodorowsky and artist Dongzi Liu which pretty much hits every aspect of the Game of Thrones canon – war, power, sex, parenthood, good, evil – but does it all in about 111 pages. After he’s left for dead on the battlefield, King Alvar must regain his throne after his wicked cousin usurps not only his title, but his very identity. However, Alvar’s quest is only the beginning of a very byzantine tale that almost seems to end where it begins, albeit some number of decades later. Perhaps that’s the point. Many epic fantasy yarns tend to move in circles, but in the case of Royal Blood…wow, what a circle!
That the book is able to keep the frenetic pace it does without completely losing the reader is only the first of its many positive aspects. Make no mistake, this book rushes through its history, but you don’t get a sense that you’re being rushed while reading it. Pivotal events happen quickly, and perhaps occasionally too easily, but if you’ve ever gone to a movie, where things have to happen in a given timeline, nothing in this book should catch you off guard. It’s not so much “Plot Convenience Theater” as it is attempting to tell the story Jodorowsky wants to tell in the given space provided, and this book does it well.
Another aspect, something I’ve come to almost expect from every Titan book I plunk my money down to buy, is the amazing artwork. Dongzi Liu’s work is beautifully rendered, with nearly each panel a painted masterpiece. If you’ve ever read manhua (Chinese comics) you’ll have a good idea of the lush artwork you’ll find in these pages. As mentioned, this has pretty much become par for the course with the books I’ve been getting from Titan. They keep raising the bar, then jumping over it with apparent ease.
A final consideration that particularly drew me in was the sense of history that, whether intentional or not, fell into the work. There are elements of the Arthurian legend, the founding of Rome, aspects of the Marchen (fairy tales, particularly German, and in particular the Grimm tale Allerleirauh, the original, not the cleaned-up version), and several other references that gave this story a familiarity without being predictable. It’s the combination of these three elements – quick but sure pacing, brilliant artwork, and an attachment to what came before it – that actually gives the story a uniqueness you’re not likely to find elsewhere.
As good as Royal Blood is, it’s important to point out that the material is definitely suited to an older audience, with enough gore and incest going on to merit caution before proceeding if you’re not used to that sort of material. Having said that, the book will scratch that itch you’re having while waiting for the next season of Game of Thrones to come out. Be warned, though, you might find yourself enjoying it enough to seek out more of Jodorowsky’s work, and there’s a lot of it out there. Here’s hoping Titan will continue to pair his words up with brilliant artists and bring us more books like this.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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