Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mora #1

Mora #1, February 2005, Image Comics
by Paul Harmon

Blogger's note: Entry for Friday, February 29, 2008.

Well, I won't be doing that again.

When I first decided to end the second month of the second year of A Comic A Day with a second look at the some of the series I've reviewed in the past, I thought that I was pretty darn clever I would be able to simply leap back into the title's story with just my knowledge of that single previous issue I'd read. Yes, the issues I read over a year ago. I have a hard enough time remembering what's happened in the series I collect month to month, and those are the books I've chosen to read! If I can't recall the Savage Dragon's exploits, a series I've been collecting for a decade, what kind of investment could I make in a title like Mora?

Fortunately, February's final sophomore effort comes a little easier than its predecessors this week, because I'm taking a step backward in the story -- back to its very beginnings. When this issue came out, obviously, Mora #4, which I reviewed in December 2006, hadn't been released yet, so my impressions of that installment practically don't even count! Have I effectively erased my review from the annals of history, Marty McFly-in-2015 style?

Time traveling paradoxes aside, Mora #1 is a definitive "first issue" any way you cut it. The story of Mora, a young witch that converses with animals, begins with a harrowing scream that cuts across the dark night sky. Our heroine is in the clutches of a hungry, lion-like beast, and then . . . a turtle and a hare welcome the audience? Huh? While my description of the opening act might paint it as ill-paced, Paul Harmon actually combines these methods of introduction into a seamless immersion of fantasy and suspense. The tortoise and the hare act like Shakespearean muses throughout the issue, narrating events from a subjective, sympathetic perspective. Just as Mora elicits the readers' sympathy, the rabbit warns us, "That pretty face belongs to no woman . . . She is a witch, the greatest witch." Well, rabbit, tell me more!

As Mora's lonely childhood unfolds, during which she converses with fairies, we also behold the growth of a lion cub, who develops an almost Oedipal fascination with his mother's prowess and hunting skill. When she accidentally claws him in the midst of the hunt, the lion's bestial side emerges, implying a coming storm of dire consequences. The way Harmon effectively establishes the lion's character, I expected this king of the jungle to mutter, "There's a competition in me . . . I want no one else to succeed!" Yet, no, Mora strikes me as a completely original work, perhaps deriving inspiration from the likes of the Brothers Grimm and L. Frank Baum, but weaving a mythology all its own.

Paul Harmon's rich artwork definitely helps lay this foundation, perhaps even more so that the narrative or dialogue. His graytones are so rich one almost forgets that the interior art is void of color. His brushstroke captures both the innocence of young Mora's gaze and the richness of the forest setting through varied line widths and shadow techniques, infusing a consistent sense mood and wonder in almost every panel. I bet Mora would make an excellent digest-sized collection, the kind of comic book you could take to the park and read on a summer day . . . or curl up with under the blankets on a rainy one.

Interestingly, I left Mora laying around the other day and my girlfriend gave it a flip-through, commenting, "This comic is ridiculous." Indeed, it certainly isn't what one might expect from a comic book. I think it's better than that, offering the essence of an old fairy tale via the seemingly unlimited potential of modern sequential art. Leap into this story, no matter where or when you are.

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