Pulp and Dagger

Graphic Novel Review


Sojourn: The Warrior's Tale

2003 - available in soft cover

Written by Ron Marz. Pencils by Greg Land, with Araon Lopresti. Inks by Jay Leisten, Roland Paris.
Colours: Justin Ponsor, Caesar Rodriguez, Laura Martin. Letters: Troy Peteri.

Reprinting: Sojourn #13-18

160 pages

Additional notes: sketch gallery/pin-ups

Published by CrossGen Comics

Cover price: $15.95 USA

The Sojourn series of comics comprise a traditional High Fantasy saga set in a medieval-like world under the sway of an evil wizard, Mordath. The beautiful Arwyn is an archer who seeks to bring down the wizard, not the least because he killed her husband and child. With a fellow archer -- the roguish, free-wheeling Gareth -- and her dog, she seeks to assemble the parts of a mystical arrow that will destroy the wizard -- the parts being secreted in various lands, leading to assorted quests. All of this is, nicely and conveniently, recapped in an opening intro to Sojourn: The Warrior's Tale, the latest installment in the series, so that a novice reader (like myself) won't feel left out.

This story arc has Arwyn and Gareth arriving at Ankhara -- a city of mountain dwelling winged people who have been conquered and occupied by Mordath's troll army. Sneaking into the city, she and Gareth aid rebels in the city in their own quest for a powerful weapon, while also hoping to find a piece of the mystical arrow.

Sojourn: The Warrior's Tale is an enjoyable read, if perhaps a tad breezy.

Not the least of its striking aspects is the beautiful art by Greg Land which is detailed and realistic -- an idealized realism, that is. Looking at Arwyn, there's a nagging sense of familiarity, as if Land modelled her after a super-model, but I can't say who. In fact all the women are stunningly gorgeous, with plenty of bare midriffs (and Arwyn appears in a salacious scene -- albeit, it turns out to be Gareth's dream). In a break from traditional, Tolkien-esque European flavoured fantasy (which this series, one assumes, generally resembles), the cliff dwelling civilization of winged people is modelled after ancient Egypt, including sand stone buildings, hieroglyphs, and mummies. This adds an extra freshness to the familiar milieu, the visuals beautifully realized by Land's art and the warm, sun-drenched hues employed by the colourists. In fact, the colouring is a curiously effective technique, with backgrounds often seeming truly painted with coarsely mixed colours (though the characters are coloured in smooth, comicbook shades). Having flipped through the previous two Sojourn collections, I think Land's style may even have improved (though it was good from the beginning). In fact, the effectiveness of the art, the beauty and atmosphere -- and beauty of Arwyn -- can be a two-edged sword...because whhen Land is absent for an issue (Aaron Lopresti pinch hits an issue) my interest waned slightly. Lopresti is a perfectly good artist, but it's Land who makes the world breathe.

Another break from traditional fantasy stories is that the Ankharans are black...a welcome pluralistic addition to a genre that typically tends to feature only white characters.

The plot itself is enjoyable enough, and moves along reasonably well. But like another fantasy-themed CrossGen TPB I read written by Ron Marz (Mystic: The Demon Queen), it can seem a bit...slight. For something that runs six issues, it's not especially complex in plot or character development. Well, actually, it's more like a five issue story, since the opening chapter is largely self-contained, focusing on the troll captain, Bohr, who has been pursuing our heroes (basically this series' Inspector Javert).

I don't mean that it's boring, or that there seems a lot of padding or extraneous scenes. I just mean that somehow, while still presenting an enjoyable enough romp, Marz manages to take a long time to do very little. Scenes may be a tad longer than they need...but not to the point of tedium. When you reach the end of the adventure, most of the challenges the heroes' faced were overcome fairly easily, and most of the plot twists weren't all that twisty.

An interesting side thought on gender and comic book sexism: here we have a story where the seeming principle character is the heroine -- and though she's certainly beautiful and obviously meant to be eye candy, she is dressed respectably throughout (excepting the dream sequence to which I alluded earlier). So that even though one could argue there is a cheesecake aspect to Arwyn, it's not blatant. However, even though she is presented as the lead...reading the story itself it's not quite as clear. Gareth appears in as many scenes as she, is as likely to come up with the clever plan...and it's Gareth, not Arwyn, who narrates!

This TPB collects a story arc, with Arwyn freeing the Ankharans and winning yet another piece of her mystical arrow by the end, so that it can be read on its own. But there's an aspect that is left kind of dangling -- at least, so one assumes. A supporting character is killed off, which wouldn't seem like a "dangling" plot thread...except I'm guessing the character will return (the death scene seemed so perfunctory, and no body was recovered).

The Warrior's Tale is an enjoyable romp, full of beautiful scenery (and beautiful women), and the archer aspect was a nice touch, putting me in mind of Robin Hood stories (though the fact that Arwyn fires exploding arrows kind of loses the rustic elegance of the weapon!). For fans of High Fantasy, the chance to see such a milieu come to visual life is quite appealing (because it's not common in comics nor in movies, The Lord of the Rings notwithstanding). But though enjoyable, the characterization is slight and the story seems more like an episode of a TV series rather than a 132 page epic adventure.

Reviewed by D.K. Latta

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