31 May 2014

Umbral is fantastical

One of the best things about digital comics is that it is easy to try out new titles and when they work out to buy the subsequent issues. And so it was with UMBRAL.

I have felt for a while that I should be reading stuff by Antony Johnston and have recently started his new series The Fuse.

Wasteland was the other obvious one to try but that is only available via ComiXology which no-longer supports in-app purchases (a very silly mistake) and so I preferred to keep with titles published via the Image comics app.

Umbral fitted the bill nicely.

It was still on my must-try-one-day list when the first issue was suddenly made available for free in the hope that it would encourage people to buy Volume 1 which collects issues 1 to 6. I downloaded the free issue and read it almost immediately.

I was blown away by the beauty of it and so did as was expected and bought the first volume which I then read. It got better.

Umbral sits more-or-less in the Swords and Sorcery camp of, for example, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser but with a twist of horror added. There are feudal kingdoms, wizards, assassins, pirates, ghosts and a guild of thieves. These provide a familiar context but the story is more complex and more gripping that most in that genre.

Christopher Mitten's stunning artwork adds the knock-out blow because it is beautiful in all sort of ways. It's slow and dramatic when it needs to be, such as in the full-page panel above and at other times it flows with Antony Johnston's pacey script.

I think that this typical page shows why the comic is so good. The heroes are being chased (that happens a lot), the detail in the archers in the middle panel is exquisite, the tower they are climbing down could only belong to another realm, the different perspectives in each panel emphasis the action, and the story just runs down the page, a page that urges to be turned.

It has been quite a while since a comic has hit he as hard and as fast as Umbral has. The only downside is that I am now completely up to date with the book which has ended on something of a cliffhanger and it is going to be a frustrating wait for issues 7 to 12.

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