The effect of grief on people can drive them to extremes, as perhaps best seen in the current cultural sensation WandaVision. When in the grips of that, seemingly rational people can become extraordinary in ways both dazzling and abominable. By The Horns #1 is an inviting fantasy sword, and sorcery takes on that mantle of grieving and manifests it in bloodshed, totalitarianism, and isolation.
A little more than a year ago, Elodie was in love with Shintaro, the grandson of Haru, the councilman in Wayfarer, a farming village in the valley of Khemmis. Unicorns slew Elodie's love and left her with determination. That determination drove Elodie into the countryside to kill "anything in Khemmis with a horn," delivering monster heads back to her hardscrabble community in large numbers but not doing much to help the town with its everyday needs. Moreover, the monster head soup they make from her spoils is, in the words of Haru, "want to throw up all my intestines and set them on fire." The town leadership agrees Elodie should leave and "get this unicorn bloodlust out of your system." She's a symphony of violence on two legs with a blade and a rudimentary pistol, accompanied by a sentient canine with extra fangs on the sides of its head, ending up in the trading port city of Lycus with a chance to fight a great injustice and maybe settle her quest.
What's great about Markisan Naso's script is the thoroughness at which he develops this magical valley. From inventing more than five fantasy creatures to the detail of the societies this sword slinger inhabits, there's a lot of work that went into locations like the Chasm of Slain Soldiers or the Ruined Steppe. Likewise, there is so much to like about the visuals presented by Jason Murh and Andrei Tabacaru, making such intimate details as the stonework overlooking a canal or the glyphs on the side of a dragon whale practically jump off the page.
What's wrong? Well, only Elodie shines here — her sentient companion doesn't even get a line until the latter third of the book, and Haru has some cute one-liners but ultimately has only to point the way away from the home she knew. If this is to be a tale of her grief, Elodie still needs clear supporting characters to have as sounding boards and catalysts.
This is, in fact, a heroic effort that has so much room to become amazing. Let's keep an eye on it and hope it gets there. RATING: HONORABLE MENTION.
By The Horns #1
By Markisan Naso, Jason Muhr
Elodie hates unicorns. For nearly a year, she's dedicated her life to tracking down and killing them all for trampling her husband, Shintaro. Now exiled from her farming village of Wayfarer for selfishly neglecting her duties, Elodie and her half wolf/half deer companion, Sajen, search the continent of Solothus for clues to the whereabouts of unicorns. When they discover a lead in the port city of Lycus, their revenge mission suddenly takes a dangerous turn.