Isola 1 Review

Story: Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl
Art: Karl Kerschl, Msassyk
Cover: Karl Kerschl
Score: 5/10
Being a big fan of the Fletcher/Kerschl pairing during their runs on Batgirl, Gotham Academy and currently Motor Crush, my interest was piqued when I heard they had a new book from Image coming out. The premise behind the title, a disgraced solider and her cursed queen (who has been transformed into a tiger) as they journey towards the mythical island of Isola in order to break the curse and restore the queen back to power was enough to hook me.
The combination of Kerschl and Msassyk come together to create a beautiful book. The art in this issue was so fluid and the lush colors absolutely popped off the page. The first few pages contain very little dialogue, which allows the book to really showcase the skills of both these talented artists. The art alone is worth picking this book up.
Considering this is a brand new title where readers are walking into the story fresh, this issue contained very little world building and we are essentially dropped right in the middle of the story. As I read through the issue, I found myself confused more than once, having to re-read several pages to ensure I understood what was going on. This is very apparent in the first few pages where the story begins with Captain Rook leaving Queen Olwyn at base camp, in order to follow a fox. Through the pursuit of the fox, Rook comes upon Olwyn dead, her body filled with arrows, arrows being shot at Rook only to pull back and reveal there is no body and no arrows. The next scene is of Rook sharpening her sword, with Olwyn awakening from slumber. I’m guessing this was some kind of dream sequence but it is not completely clear.
The other complication is that Olwyn does not speak, resulting in Rook having a very one sided conversation with Olwyn for most of the book. This singular narrative does not serve the issue well, when we are trying to figure out why this story is happening and why we should pick up the second issue. While I understand that Rook is our protagonist, we are viewing this world through her eyes, it adds to the confusion, as she is talking to Olwyn about topics we have not come to understand yet.
I found the relationship between Olwyn and Rook compelling, as Rook has to learn to shake off her old role of Captain of the Royal Guard and embrace her new role as servant and protector of Owlyn. There are several times throughout the issue where Rook commands Olwyn to action only to scold herself for making demands of her queen. Rook seems to be someone who has always only had to rely on herself and worry about herself. With her queen now accompanying her on this journey, she is realizing her own needs no longer come first. Rook spends the majority of the time in this issue, on the run from hunters, poachers and wild animals. The issue ends with Olwyn and Rook finding refuge in a cave only to be met by a mysterious yoda-like stranger who may join our duo.

I give this book 5/10, Kerschl’s art and Msassyk breathtaking colors save a lukewarm start to this book. While not the strongest debut for the Fletcher/Kerschl team, they manage to set up just enough that I’m curious to see what the next issue has in store for me. Issue 2 definitely needs to strengthen the hook that Fletcher has set for his readers. When all is said and done with this series, I suspect it will be highly satisfying to consume in trade form, given the slow build.