Rose is a great new property from Meredith Finch, Ig Guara, and Triona Farrell, which is deftly handling the introduction to a classically formed fantasy world. Something that initially seemed relatively hard for Millar's Reborn to navigate, even though it ended up getting there in the end.
I was actually completely unaware of Rose in the lead up to its release, and (as such) only picked up the review copies as a curiosity. Half expecting yet another Image dystopia (I repeat, I'd seen nothing of this) I was surprised (and not necessarily happy) to see a fantasy book land in my face.
To recap events so far; a world has been introduced where big cat (think lion/tiger/panther) gods are accompanied by an awesome human warrior. This god-style assistance in human civilisation has been wiped out by a seemingly evil human lord and army, and magic has essentially been outlawed on pain of death. Rose, clearly imbued with some magic, is therefore on the run, and has fallen in with a band of folks in similar circumstances. We're still basically at the beginning of this whole situation. It's a very decompressed story.
So, even though Guara's dynamic, Moore-esq (Terry), art does share a few similarities with Capullo's (by extension) McFarlane "pinched" characteristics, that and the setting are where these two books divert. Make no mistake, Millar's book is fine (better than average!) I just feel like there's none of the pacing issues and stiltedness of character which that book had. I do think that Farrell's palette has provided a lot of help in that regard. Mixing basic flats with slightly more complex routines for the panels that really need it. See the difference from the first panel below to the panel which follows it.
That brings me to two things that help sell this whole book to me, one purely functional, and the other a nice art tick. Function first; a single page spread is the limit here. We're in times where economic storytelling actually helps the real world economic concerns of readers. No-one really needs double-page spreads, unless the book is super cheap, or incredibly long. Rose only has single page spreads, I'm obviously a fan of that functionally. The second is the "just right" panel layouts and the art of gutter usage. Panelling work here is spot on, never over complicated, different enough to feel fresh, but still knowing when to blank the gutters for pacing the humour and tension or emphasising important events. I've included a couple of examples below.
It wouldn't all flow so well if it hadn't had Meredith Finch's able scripting. Wisely dumping what small expositional text (that was needed) nicely into the first three pages of issue one, Finch is given space to freewheel onwards. However I'd say that a succinctness to said script means that no scene or words are wasted as fluff. Some of me wonders if this has anything to do with the editing (by the legendary Andy Schmidt) that Finch talked of in the intro of issue one. Finch mentioned that Schmidt actually advised on what needed adding, but I feel you can recognise (if you're looking) that there's an economy of expression throughout. That's key, but what brings the book up a level is that all the interactions and reactions still feel natural, and at no time does the previously mentioned pacing feel affected. I'm not suggesting that's Schmidt's influence necessarily, Finch equally may have nailed that alone.
The only real downside (which may stem from that, it's unclear), which I suppose is relatively significant, was that whilst I was moderately engaged (I'm into Rose as a character – and Thorn almost immediately) I wasn't particularly worried, scared, awestruck, or anything else I think I was supposed to feel. Huge run-on sentences aside, how I feel is important to me when I'm reading a book. I'll always do one read for me, then several more for thoughts. So there's definitely emotion in there, but it's not bounding out of the pages, to make me feel the love or relief that I'm required to. Maybe this means that there's still rope to be climbed here.
In all, though, after a quite capable debut, Meredith Finch and crew have given us a great fantasy, female, protagonist to get lost and grow with. I say get in on Rose now, and it's definitely one for the pull list.
Rose #2 preview pages