Spirit & Image #1

Written by Daniel Monaham
Art by Tim Brazier
32 pages, color
Published by BobHouse

In the past couple of years, more and more animators seem to be finding their way into comics. That’s not to say that they haven’t already been there, of course; people like Scott Morse or the Monkeysuit Studios creators, for instance, have been plugging away in comics for some time now. With recent arrivals like Mike Kunkel, Jason Lethcoe, Ronnie del Carmen, and Joe Mateo, for instance, it feels like the playing field just keeps widening. Maybe that’s why when I first read Spirit & Image #1, I’d assumed that artist Tim Brazier was another addition from their ranks.

Mocum is a young boy in the 10th Century village of Copaxal, deep in what we now call South America. The ancient Jaguar God has left its people, with only the Eagle and the other totem spirits trying to band together to protect humanity. That’s what Mocum learns in school, at any rate, but Mocum has chosen the jaguar as his totem—a testament to both his high spirits and his outsider status in his own village. Shunned because he doesn’t have a father, Mocum is about to learn a lot more about both himself and the protectors of his village, though. And it all begins with a hunt for snakes in the jungle…

In just a couple of pages, I knew that Daniel Monaham’s story in Spirit & Image #1 was a strong introduction to the series. Part of that had to do with his clever planting of exposition into the opening sequence, where Monaham makes sure to not only give us information, but to do it in a funny way that makes us familiar with Monaham’s personality as well as move the plot forward. By the time the teaching sequence was over, I had a broad grin on my face and was ready for the rest of the issue. Maybe it’s because of how he writes Mocum, with his defiant attitude and playful spirit. He’s a really fun character that can’t seem to catch a break no matter what he does, for good or ill. Almost as much of a star is the rest of the supporting cast’s antics, from the tribe leader’s son whose head is kept in a box so the top of his head will become flat as a board, to Xochi and her dealings with hormonally-fueled boys. They’re certainly not the focus of the book, but they keep things lively when they manage to pull the spotlight away from Mocum.

As I mentioned before, I’d assumed that Brazier was an animation artist based on his style. Maybe it’s because each panel looks like a crisp animation cell with their lively colors and perfectly rendered characters. The character designs here are wonderful, with the different children each dressed in regalia for a different animal totem in such a way that looks both natural and special at the same time. There’s just as strong a sense of movement in Brazier’s art, with Mocum’s leaping through the air looking almost like you could see him actually moving. It’s a visually stunning book, and one that can get just as much action out of a shadow as it can a jaguar on the attack. My only complaint is that the occasional panel looks a little pixilated or fainter than the others, but it’s probably just a learning curve of dealing with printers the first time through—and really, by the time you get to the next panel everything looks great again so it’s pretty forgivable.

I don’t know where Monaham and Brazier have been hiding all this time, but after this debut I don’t think they can hide any more. This is a great all-ages comic that people of all ages really can enjoy equally. Hopefully we’ll see a second issue before too much longer, because I know I’m dying to see what happens next. Once you read Spirit & Image #1, you will too. Spirit & Image #1 is scheduled for release in December 2003, and is in the current Previews on page 244. Or, if your retailer prefers, you can ask them to order Diamond code OCT03 2171.

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