Creators Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely have crafted a rich and detailed fantasy world with a complex political history and a compelling mystery narrative. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a fun and exciting book though, in fact there is plenty of time dedicated to developing interesting characters, action set pieces, and delivering some funny asides. This is a great read that is already building into something special.
The first issue of The Spire did an awful lot of work to establish the world in which this story takes place and introduce our main characters, with a particular emphasis on awesome city watch badass Shå, and seed in the foundations of the core plot. Where it was perhaps lacking a little was in providing the reader with sufficient information to really understand what any of it meant. It was clear that there were a great many interesting wheels in motion, but it was hard to gauge which were more important and how they should be pieced together. Fortunately the creators do some incredible work here to bring those strands together and offer insight into the world and its ongoing plot.
This issue is especially effective at drawing out more of the backstory of this world; what was previously snatched out of context scenes with the young Marchioness are now more clearly related to the political history of this place. The relationships between the humans of the spire and their inhuman citizens, the sculpted of the wild-lands, and the religious zealots the Zoarim have all been brought into much sharper clarity, all of which serves to give greater meaning to the other elements of the plot. The mysterious assassination of the baroness’ nursemaid, the attempted murder of the baroness’ mother, the internal political, economic & racial conflicts of the Spire itself, the flourishing relationship between Shå and Meera – with a stronger understanding of this world each story instantly makes more sense and carries more dramatic weight.
The core narrative circulates around the death of the Baron and the upcoming coronation of Baroness Tavi; the old Baron was (it appears) an enlightened ruler who was tolerant of the ethic diversity in the Spire, but Tavi seems to be far less accepting of the ‘lower’ classes. Whilst this political upheaval is in play there are some sudden shocking murders that strike near the heart of the royal family, but interesting questions remain unanswered inside the Spire (why was the Marchioness left alive, isn’t sudden ‘skew’-instigated violence coming at a convenient moment for the new Baroness given her ideological views, what if the Marchioness is manipulating everything to her own advantage?). Meanwhile dangers lurk outside the Spire too as the Zoarim have a devastating new weapon. All of the above plot points are masterfully laid out, with just the right amount of hinting and expositing and showing; this book has quickly become an excellent fantasy political drama.
Jeff Stokely’s art is especially effective in this context, along with Andre May’s terrific colours, he is able to evoke the sprawling, dense, politically charged environment of the Spire, even whilst he imbues the place with a certainly coziness and comedic slant. The economic divide between the upper and lower tiers is starkly realised, both in the citizens and the places that exist within them (take for instance the expansive brightly lit hospital at the top and the crampt dank alleys at the bottom), and Stokely’s panel work depicting things like the never ending staircases between tiers is always excellent. The staging of the ‘attempted assassination’ of the Marchioness is a particular highlight, coming as both a surprise and a hugely tense sequence. Similarly every scene of Shå utilising her unusual powers has been artfully and interestingly rendered (even in the beautiful love scene back in issue one).
There are plenty of moving parts in this densely packed book with any number of potentially integral plot elements waiting in the wings to be revealed, but it is well paced and each story line emerges organically. The art is a perfect fit for the complex world at this story’s heart, and the developing characterisation of Shå is wonderfully integrated into the escalating drama of the book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked this up, and even the after reading the first issue I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but I am very glad I stayed with it – this is really turning into a great book.
The Spire #2 // Written by – Simon Spurrier / Illustrated by – Jeff Stokely / Colours by – Andre May // Boom! Studios
– The use of dropped words and letters in the opening scenes are an effective device used to demonstrate that the Marchinoness is not considering her surroundings, but rather remembering times long since past (as well as showing the run-on-rabble like questioning from the reporters)
– The weird Gilliam-esque naked flying messenger pug guys who live in a cupboard and were sent out to spread word of the Baron’s death really do remind me of Brazil/Time Bandits which I guess is the intention, but I find them more than a little unsettling!
– I am very impressed by the number of great terms that creators have been able to come up with for the Sculpted: Skews, Chimmers, Hybos, Geneblurs (this one is especially good)
– Previews for this series indicate that it is only a four-part story. I’ve gotta say that I am already expecting to be sad to see the end of this world