COMIC REVIEW: Lament Of The Lost Moors, Vols 1 & 2 (Cinebook Reviews #31)

LamentOTLostMoorsWelcome back to our exploration of the Franco-Belgian comic scene, filtered through the translations of the corking Canterbury-based company, Cinebook. I’ve been doing this column for a fair old while now, and it’s a mark of the breadth of material out there that I am blindsided by the variant styles of story-telling and genres explored by our continental cousins. In my experience comics rarely delve into the realms of epic Fantasy beyond occasional adaptations of popular novels – Thorgal, Mazeworld and Slaine are the only big name original tales that spring to my mind (feel free to recommend any others in the comments section below) – so I was more than a little interested to see what Grzegorz Rosinski and Jean Dufaux could pull out of the hat with their hauntingly titled Lament Of The Lost Moors.

 

In many ways Lament of the Lost Moors is pretty standard fantasy fare, with its world full of castles, knights and peasantry. Magic is evident but not ubiquitous, allowing political machinations and force of arms to still have some value in terms of the plot. To whit: a mysterious traveler arrives on a secret mission which could have overarching consequences. Meanwhile, Siobhan, wayward daughter of a legendary hero, is chafing at the political chains that will wed her mother to the Lord Blackmore. She fears the cruelty in his eyes and suspects his intentions. As war comes, her family’s history, and the history of their land are unveiled to Siobhan, and she realises she must take up her father’s fight against the sorcerer Beldam or risk losing everything. Fantasy fans may be all up for this, but folk weary of familiar tropes will have rolled their eyes and moved on to the next article by now. Fair enough. This isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

There is a tone of dark mythology reached for by the creative team and a sense of long history to the land of Eruin Dulea, which the oils and canvas of the cover art are eminently suitable to capture. It’s a bit of a shame then that they’re not used within, though understandable because it’s such a time-consuming medium to work with. What we do have is line-work with watercolours. The style takes me back to the Eighties with some highly (perhaps over-)detailed pencil work pulling it away from its cartoonish roots. It’s not quite Bakshi’s Lord Of The Rings, but not too far away either. The medieval world-building is solid, suitably dirty and darksome; filled with rough textures and ominous shadows. There’s a good range of character design, eschewing beauty for interesting body shapes and facial features, which adds to the reality of the piece. Unfortunately there’s a slightly pervy focus on the young heroine’s body too, which may titillate teenage readers but taints some scenes unpleasantly for adults. There is nothing of a particularly graphic sexual nature depicted, but Blackmore’s clammy desires do seem rather to be shared by the artist in his portrayal of the two main female characters.

Although born on the cusp of the ‘grimdark’ renaissance of the fantasy genre, Lost Moors hearkens back to the simpler days of wish fulfillment fantasy and fairy tale, with just the lightest shades of moral and psychological complexity. It’s a book that doesn’t seem to know how adult it should be, though. On the one hand we have a land where the resident dark lord has already won, an undead army waiting to take bitter vengeance, brutal murder and a palpable feeling of sexual threat from Lord Blackmore. On the other hand we have a couple of comedy set-pieces with a cook, involving a wretchedly cute-but-annoying pet creature called the Ookee, a triumvirate of baddies that are so eee-vil they may as well have capes and twirly moustaches, and a castle built to look like an actual sodding skull. I found myself cheering and grinning at some points but then wanting to throw the books across the room at others because I was so disgusted with them. Not an easy one to wrap up then. The target audience is probably in the 11-16 bracket, doubtless imagining they are reading something more grown up. That’s not to say there’s nothing here for older readers, but age and experience will give you a clearer view of what Lament of the Lost Moors actually is – an epic fantasy written in shorthand. The first two books appear to wrap up the story-line, but there are at least two more books to come in the series. Whether this continues Siobhan’s tale or begins a new arc in the same world remains to be seen.

GS Rating: 3/5

GS Reviewer: Dion Winton-Polak

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