Not to mince words, but there are enough original fantasy realm books on the stands today to choke a moose. It’s hard to stand out in a field like this, to ease a reader in without immediately hitting them with too much information or familial ties all at once. It becomes dense and eventually falls to the backs of many pull lists.
However, Isola bucks those trends by revealing information little by little, allowing the reader to develop their own ideas, and then allowing for a series of small organic surprises. This is a book that was touted as appealing to fans of Studio Ghibli films or the other works of Hayao Miyazaki, and the comparison is more than apt.
Co-creators Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kershl, long-time buddies and extremely underrated artists, produce a first issue that stands apart from the stable of fantasy comics, a debut that has grabbed hold of me in a way I haven’t felt since the first Autumnlands.
Fletcher has cut his teeth on several DC books, books like Black Canary and Batgirl that put him in the public’s eye, and his story here in Isola is unlike those in that there is no “street level” feel to it because there’s no street – this is a wild land, one we are unfamiliar with, and one we are allowed to be unfamiliar with. He only mentions the names of different places twice, and only briefly. He doesn’t name the animals that come streaming out of the forest, he doesn’t explain which gods are which, and he doesn’t come right out and say who the two protagonists are. These slow reveals really lend themselves into making this book accessible.
Kershl worked with Fletcher and co on Gotham Academy, but his work here is reminiscent of his unfathomably wonderful webcomic the Abominable Charles Christopher – there’s this unencumbered natural look in his environments, and all creatures have more going on than their surface indicates. He has a beautiful aesthetic style all his own, and I feel like he’s able to really just cut loose here and unveil his unfiltered vision, kinda like Daniel Warren Johnson working on Extremity.
I apologize if this review isn’t offering up specific details, but that’s solely because this is a book that needs to be seen to be believed; the careful bits of information are released with intention, the small mysteries of reader revelation, and a world so vivid that you can hear the rain falling in the frames. Isola has magic in its pages, and it should be in every set of hands that crave a true departure from our reality.