Written by: Jay Faerber
Art by: John Broglia
Colored by: Ron Riley
Lettering by: Ed Brisson
Published by: Monkeybrain Comics
Cover Price: $0.99
Note : This review is for the digital version of the comic available from Comixology.
Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!
Summary (contains spoilers): This comic starts off with a caravan of barbarians travelling through a snow-covered wasteland in wagons drawn by massive horned creatures. The barbarians seem to be taking orders from a hooded man named Paris, who insists he needs to inspect the merchandise. Satisfied with what he finds, he sends off a crow to deliver a message. Moments later, and a woman named Denali and her Abominable Snowman like ally named Grok attack the caravan.
When the barbarians realize Paris betrayed them, they try to attack him, but we find out that he’s a powerful wizard in his own right and blasts them with some kind of magic spell.
Denali storms the wagons to look at the merchandise…and we discover that the barbarians are transporting a baby. Denali vows to return this child to his parents, and reveals that she is looking for her own son who seems to have been taken in a similar fashion.
Review: Monkeybrain seems to have created a solid niche for non-superhero comics. Denali seems to have a strong fantasy quest vibe going for it. Monkeybrain has the added benefit of being a digital company and able to sell it’s books for 99 cents each. Granted, most Monkeybrain comics are shorter than a normal comic (Denali had basically 8 pages of story), but those pages are pretty packed with action and story.
I loved the hybrid of sci-fi and fantasy we had here (which has been kind of a trademark for Monkeybrain….both Wander and Amelia Cole feature similar blends). Denali’s laser axe was a cool touch and helped set this book aside from a pure fantasy book. I also thought the way the story was set up was perfect. From the first page, you are not quite sure what to expect, and the comic quickly builds up in momentum and action until it hits a real strong finish. Even at such a short length, you feel like you get a pretty complete story here. I can’t say that about some Marvel and DC books that are twice as long and 3 or 4 times more expensive.
This issue leaves us with a ton of questions. Why are these barbarians kidnapping babies? Who is Denali and how did she meet her strange band of allies? I am really curious to find out the answers, but Monkeybrain’s publishing schedule tends to be “whenever the creative team finishes an issue, it goes up” so that leads to some long waits. I am really hoping Denali comes out a lot more often than The October Girl…
There are also lots of great character moments. In just eight pages, Jay Faerber lays a lot of ground work for us to get to know these characters. The way Denali wanted to protect Grok (who sure didn’t seem to need it) says a lot about who she is. I also liked the way we saw Paris’s sense of humor, and when it was revealed he was more than a common scam artist, I was completely won over by this book. It’s funny, so many stories have a “Han Solo” like character, that you would think it would be cliche, but time and time again, that character ends up being one of my favorites. There is just something about a charming rouge that appeals to me.
I am not really sure how I felt about the art on this one. I did think some of the characters has some strange proportions and poses at time. They didn’t always feel natural. That said, I thought the art had very strong storytelling and character development. At times, it felt more practical than pretty, but at the same time, it really worked for this type of story.
Even since Scion, Sojourn, and Meridian were cancelled, I have been dying for a good fantasy quest comic. I was hoping Demon Knights would provide that, but after a strong start, I quickly found myself getting bored of that comic. I couldn’t even bring myself to pick up the last few issues. But Denali is off to a strong start, and at a buck, it definitely was well worth the price of admission.
I do worry sometimes that Monkeybrain should focus more on the books they have then keeping releasing new ones. They have put basically 9 series out since they debuted in July, but each series has 3 to 5 issues. Considering the books are fairly short, I would love to see them weekly like DC’s digital books, but instead you feel like you are waiting forever just to get a small taste of what these creative teams have to offer. That said, pretty much every series I’ve tried, I’ve immediately added to my must read list. Denali is another strong series, I just hope it has a consistent release schedule planned!
Final Score: 8.0: Another strong start for a Monkeybrain series! Denali has a great fantasy quest feel to it, and I can’t wait to see more!