Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Written by: Kari Castor, Kim Hutchison
Illustrated by: Mike Krome, Nei Ruffino, J. Scott Campbell
Published by: Big Dog Ink
Availability: Out Now
Synopsis: Shahrazad was known for her amazing stories of 1001 Arabian Nights, but now it is time to tell her story! She lives a life unlike anything you could imagine. An existence that spans generations as well as genres. In this new ongoing series, Shahrazad stares into the storms on the horizon with determination, but the forces of nature, and of history, are not to be taken lightly!
When I first reviewed the Preview Issue of Shahrazad from Big Dog Ink a few months back, I was completely taken aback with the way that BDI and Tom Hutchison were handling the tale of the woman known for the renowned and fabled 1001 Tales of the Arabian Knights. It is quite a feat to go back and spin your own kind of magic on a tale as popular and as well-known as those of Shahrazad. But Hutchison certainly did just that and brought out one of the more fantastical stories I have seen in comics all year long. Though it was just a preview of things to come, it hit like a hammer and left an indelible print in my mind.
Flash forward from July to the present, and I now have before me a copy of Shahrazad #1, the first issue of the ongoing series written by series co-writers Kari Castor and Kim Hutchison. Let me tell you something, the Preview certainly gave readers a good glimpse of what to expect from the ongoing series. With a centralized story now beginning to take shape in this issue, it is going to be fun to see where exactly this tale will lead. We got glimpses of Shahrazad’s long life in the Preview, and how it would affect the way the story unfolds; but to now see it in play in the story – I am really liking how this issue turned out. Usually debut issues have this feeling that things ended to early or that not enough of the story was presented to get a good feel for the direction of the series, but Shahrazad #1 doesn’t feel that way.
I think because of Shahrazad’s disconnect with linear time due to her prolonged life and the adventures she has had it kind of makes sense that the story ends the way it does in this issue and the way the past and present blend themselves as the story unfolds. Think of it as having watched an episode of Highlander: The Series; the story jumps around in certain places to various times in the past, but there is never a disconnection with the overall story in the present… or at least the present that Shahrazad finds herself in at the moment. It’s going to be fun to see how this plays out in future issues of the series, but as of right now, from what the Preview and issue #1 have shown, Castor and Hutchison look like they know how they want to handle this aspect of the series. Call me weird, but I like it when comic creators takes chances with storylines and devices that defy the conventional look and feel of a traditional comic book story. To take on a project and then pretty much say “I want the story to jump around from time and place at a whim to connect past stories for the character to tell a broader story in the end” just seems like a daring and original thing to do in comics – and something I wish others would do as well. Not the time/place jumping thing, but just take chances.
That’s the beauty of being an independent publisher: you can look at your work and decide how you want to do things, not try to fit into the structure that the larger company above you sets forth. Or trying to meet the expectations of managerial staffers who want you to tell an individual story that fits in with the established parameters of the series. Not that I mind what Marvel and DC do – I love those characters; but a breath of fresh air, a new take on stories from publishers and creators like those at Big Dog Ink keep comic books new and interesting and keep it from all feeling stale and monotonous. Spider-Man, Superman, Justice League and X-Men are all great series; but if everything was written the same way, presented the same way, directed the same way, the comic industry would have lost its novelty a long time ago. What Castor and Hutchison and the team are doing at Big Dog Ink for the story of Shahrazad, this is the kind of independent passion and innovation that keeps the industry alive.
Ah, speaking of the team, there is no way I can go on about Shahrazad #1 without mentioning the beautiful art provided for the series by artists Mike Krome and Nei Ruffino. The art of Mike Krome continues to impress me every time I see it. Usually his art is seen only on comic book covers, but as the interior artist for Shahrazad and getting a full view of the scope of his talent in a full issue, oh my stars and garters, it is freaking beautiful. I mean, the level of detail in the lines of the art that Krome has provided for this issue is on a whole other level. It really pops out at you from the pages. Of course, helping that pages seem alive and look as vibrant as they do is also the work of colorist Nei Ruffino. I have gone on record in the past stating that I believe Ruffino is one of the better artist in comics today – and not just as a colorist, but as a complete artist, from concept to completion. I have seen her works for a long time now and have admired her portfolio at shows and cons for years and I am always impressed with what I see from her. And her work on the art and colors in this issue only go to further validate my statement and sentiments about her.
Rounding out the regular artists’ pool for Shahrazad is J. Scott Campbell of Gen13 and Danger Girl fame. He is set to provide covers and some interior work for the series, but what I am looking at right now is his “B” cover for this issue. His work is just as impressive as ever, and if you want an artist the caliber of Campbell’s to bring some extra attention to a title, the cover that he provides for this issue will do just that.
To end my little rave for Shahrazad here, let me just say that as far as debut issues go, Shahrazad #1 goes far beyond what other initial issues do. It gives you a good feel for what the story is and what to possibly expect in future issues of the series. It is a fun read that will really make you think about how the past, present and future of the character will play into how the story presents itself. Add to that the amazingly beautiful art by a masterful illustration team and you have what I am calling a “must read” series for any comic book fan out there. Independent fans will certainly love the feel and presentation of the book, but I also believe that mainstream comic fans who dare to take a chance of the series will be just as impressed with what they are reading as much as they are by anything the “Big Two” are producing. My final grade for Shahrazad #1 is nothing short of an A+.
((Editor’s Note: In my haste to put up the review I mistakenly credited Tom Hutchison as the writer for Shahrazad #1 when in fact it is co-written by Kari Castor and Kim Hutchison. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and the appropriate changes have been made to the review to reflect the corrected creative credits.))