Story: Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl
Artists: Karl Kerschl & Msassyk
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Song I listened to while reading: Forever by Sa-Roc
Simply put, Isola tells the tale of a wrongfully accused soldier and a queen-turned-tiger as they traverse a fantasy world filled with threats, human and animal alike, to find a cure to the transformation in a mythical city, Isola. But beneath that is a beautifully depicted story of two stron women overcoming self doubt, dealing with empathy, and having faith in the face of the vast unknown. This title would have totally fell under my radar had it not been for a recommendation from my LCS and I am eternally grateful. The art, the dialogue, and the imaginative vision of Fletcher and Kerschl are in complete synchronicity and the result is a tale that many others have noted as Miyazaki-esque. Those people are not wrong in that comparison and it’s truth is apparent as soon as you open the first issue.
In the shadow of a looming war, our story centers around a beautiful queen, Olwyn, who is transmorphed into a black tiger by her brother, Asher. The Tiger Queen is accompanied by young member of the Queen’s Guard, Rook, who killed the Asher in her defense, as they travel through their world in search of a cure for Olwyn’s current ailment. Along the way there is an overbearing sense of something sinister happening in these lands, despite the world’s natural beauty. In issue 8, after learning that one small village’s children have all gone missing, Rook takes ill and they are found by a strange woman, Miluše, in the middle of the woods. Like mostly all strange people who live in the woods, there is something a bit off about this woman. Olwyn is the only one healthy enough between the two to notice the strangeness, but being a tiger, is unable to fully relay her suspicions.
This issue continues immediately after issue 8 and right away. The medication Miluše has been giving Rook also serves as a hallucinogenic to try and keep Room there with her forever. Her plot becomes more sinister as Olwyn’s discovers the source of that medicine. The issue turns the excitement up quickly as the action pages deliver fast paced action and a revelation as to what’s has really been happening with the locals and their children.
This issue differs greatly from the previous issues, becoming more fast paced in comparison to previous issues providing background for context. Having become more familiar with the characters, we start to see how important they are to each other and their survival. Without many words, I find myself favoring the Tiger Queen. There are panels in which her silence speaks more than words and it’s amazing how Kerschl displays so much emotion in an animals face. Needless to say, I got a lot of Lion King meets Mononoke vibes based off art style alone. But this is different, for although many critics give the comparison, I feel that this series will end up being something more.
So far we’ve only been given 2 mainstay character, but we’ve been taken no where close to Isola. I feel we have yet to meet more of the key players in this story, and even more story of the oncoming war itself. Image’s reputation for publishing quality work continues on, and like them, I will continue on with this series to very end.