Rating: 5/5 – A Classic Tale Repackaged and Revisited.
by ComicSpectrum reviwer Al Sparrow.
Back when “creator owned” was still a dirty word, Marvel put out a magazine called Epic Illustrated that allowed for many artists to put out stories not necessarily suitable for the superhero crowd, and retain ownership of the rights to them. If you can find any in the back-issue bins, do yourself a favor and pick them up. Almost like a poor-man’s Heavy Metal, the magazine pushed the boundaries of what longtime fans of the House of Ideas might expect, and allowed some creators to really stretch their wings.
One particularly standout storyline came from Chris Claremont (yes, that Chris Claremont from the X-Men) and John Bolton (Books of Magic, Man-Bat), in the form of a buxom, silver-haired warrior named Marada. Before you can cry “Red Sonja” take a moment to read the articles Titan includes in this oversized hardbound collection of all three Marada tales. The similarities are there, to be sure, but Claremont created Marada’s history within the confines of actual history, giving her a setting during the beginnings of the end of the fall of Rome, tracing her lineage to no less than Caesar, and paying attention to world geography as she moves across a fairly small section of the glove, relatively speaking. It’s an attempt to merge a swashbuckling sword and sorcery yarn with elements of the real world, and it works surprisingly well. Whether Marada plays the most dangerous game with an African queen, or finds herself being seduced by an Arabian mystic, clearly Bolton paid attention to architectural and clothing details on a level many artists might simply gloss over.
Of course, this being a lone-female-warrior-woman type of story, and considering it appeared in an imprint geared toward attracting older audiences, you can expect a fair amount of undress and adult situations – and you get them – but if you grew up on a steady diet of John Carter, Conan or any other works of that nature, you’ll be pretty well-prepared for it. Truthfully, if you’re going to have that kind of story going on, you could do a lot worse than to have John Bolton doing the artwork for you. It may throw off newer comic readers who are used to a much more dynamic style, but any student of art will appreciate the work that went into these renderings. It may be presumptuous to say this book stands as a bona-fide work of fine art, but you can’t help but think it as you flip through these pages.
Titan Comics did an amazing job compiling the three existing Marada stories together along with supplemental materials from Claremont, Bolton and (editor) Jo Duffy discussing their involvement with Marada’s creation. I’m hoping to see Titan become another Fantagraphics, providing readers who care enough ample resources to look into the rich and storied history of sequential art. We cannot get enough of this type of material. We need more companies willing to provide it, and with a level of quality that enthusiasts will not only be proud to put on their shelves or coffee tables, but will also speak to the work itself.
If you’re a fan of gripping fantasy yarns, particularly with a strong female protagonist, Marada may have slipped past you. It was, after all, three short stories in an imprint that disappeared some 25+ years ago. Despite that, she has her place among the more well-known fighters of fantasy lore, saying as much in those three stories as what took multiple volumes for others. Take the time to find this book. I think it will find a solid home on your shelf with many re-reads down the road.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow – email@example.com
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