From Under Mountains #1
Art and Colors by Sloane Leong
Story and Script by Claire Gibson
Cover and Story by Marian Churchland
Image Comics, Inc
I grew up reading a socially-damning amount of fantasy novels, and I have let most of that drop away from my prose reading. I have enjoyed small amounts of fantasy in my comic books, but it has been tough to find straightforward fantasy, books that thrill to knights on horses and witches in forests and don’t need to keep winking at you to make sure you caught the clever twist that sets them apart. So I am pleased to let you know that Ultimate Comics is carrying the first issue of a confident straightforward fantasy ongoing series, From Under Mountains.
The story is a stitching-together of beloved tropes, dedicated to world-building more than plot movement. In one piece, young Isme tends to her village’s elder woman as she summons flame, wind, and frost into the scariest shadow monster since Game Of Thrones. In another, a twenty-year-old princess chafes at her father’s treatment of her brother as an educated heir but herself as a marriage strategy. In the third, a young woman attempts an assassination but finds the monster has gotten there first.
The writing is sparse and clear, naming exotic new kingdoms without falling apart in baroque language games. The characters are distinct and showcase a range of the experience of women in this world, from mystic to noble to mercenary. The art is lush and textured, and in reading, I kept hearing sound effects like a fire crackling or a whistling desert wind despite the lack of any onomatopoeia on the page. This builds a vivid reading experience of watching this as a movie with no background music, setting a clear tone and gravity. The sequence of creating the monster was, in particular, surprisingly detailed and subtle, with silhouettes only visible through a careful second read. The monster herself has a delicate blend of feminine beauty and dark danger, and I hope to see more of her.
Fans of fantasy should keep this series on a close watch. It’s not too flashy, and it’s proving a serious understanding of some of the best parts of this genre. You’ll be telling your book club all about it.
-Matt Conner for Ultimate Comics