By Zack Quaintance — Isola is one of Image’s most interesting comics, in that it stands out for being both utterly beautiful and massively decompressed (see The Warning). The thing I find most intriguing about Isola, however, is that as the book gorgeously reveals more of what’s happening, why things are happening, who are these characters, and the histories they share with one another, it doesn’t lose much (if any) of its tension.
There’s a concept in fiction I think about often called the rate of revelation, which says that one way to create suspense in a story is to carefully dole out vital information at a certain pace as the plot goes on. This, I believe, is the main strength of Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl’s writing in Isola. They also do a great job of giving the audience what they need to make key orienting assumptions before truths become clear. One early instance of this is how in the first issue the tiger is treated with reverence and called Your majesty. My immediate guess was that a monarch had been converted into a tiger...and I was hell bent on continuing to read until I found out whether I was right.
The other (and more evident/impressive) strength of this comic is what is arguably industry-best semi-regular art. I mean, just look at this screen grab from Isola #5.
But, friends, we are not here to talk Isola #5! Nor are we here to continue to discussing this comic in a super broad sense. We are, in fact here, to talk Isola #6, which marks a return after a hiatus and the start of the book’s second proper story arc (the Isola Vol. 1 trade is out now, btw, and as I wrote in our Top Comics to Buy for January 16, it’s one of those reasonably priced introductory Image ones, which means with $10 and a little more than an hour you can get all caught up on this fantastic comic…). And it’s quite a solid return, to be sure.
When we last left our two main protagonists—Olwyn, the tiger who wouldbe/is queen; and Captain Rook, charged with escorting her to a possibly magical place called Isola that also might be bad and could maybe not exist—they were encamped under a tarp in the rain after an ordeal that almost claimed the life of the queen. This issue is characteristically decompressed, dedicating its first seven pages (nearly ⅓ of the total) to a slow vision in which Olwyn interacts with her mother. It’s gorgeous, cut with the dreamlike blue hues that marked the last issue’s desperate end, and it also does some work in the plot, leaving me (at least) with a couple of key questions.
The first is maybe more obvious: what role did Olwyn’s family—her parents and erratic brother—play in her current danger and plight, and secondly, what is happening with the animals in this story, are they all as the queen humans banished (or escaped) into other forms? It’s a great question to raise, one that really has me engrossed in what’s happening in these pages. The other significant developments here are that we see yet again that the queen’s forces pose a threat to her and are also erroneously marching toward war in her name, and, perhaps more importantly, a small friend of Rook’s learns what’s going on. The plot, however, is less important than pointing out that Isola maintains the beautiful aesthetic and patient storytelling with ample revelats that have made its first volume such a joy. I’m pretty glad this comic is back.
Overall: Isola #6 is yet another gorgeous burst of sequential art from this creative team, more of the developing fantasy tale with its themes of loyalty, desperation, trust. This is the first issue back after hiatus, starting a new arc. I’m loving this title, and I encourage any with even mild interest to pick up this issue along with the $9.99 first volume Image trade. 8.5/10
Writers: Brenden Fletcher / Karl Kerschl
Artists: Karl Kerschl / Msassyk
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.