I’ve been propping up Eurocomics as a force of nature within comics worldwide and something we Americans need to pay more attention to. I still believe this. But there comes a point where I’m starting to see cracks in the armor I keep wrapping Eurocomics in. To me, they can do no wrong and I’ve been blinded by my enthusiasm; letting transgressions within the Eurocomics I’ve been reading pass by my critical eye without so much as an acknowledgement of their presence. Not any longer. Even Eurocomics are fallible–subject to the same crimes of clichés and shallowness found in hundreds of thousands of comics here in the States.
Child of the Storm (Humanoids Publishing) claims to be a steampunk-fantasy but it falls more into the category of science fiction punctuated with steampunk. It has the clichéd Chosen One storyline which, at first glance, follows every single plot point of this overused theme; one used by writers who can’t seem to color outside the lines. Personally, the Chosen One storyline should’ve died with Frank Herbert who penned the ultimate novel with this theme, Dune. It is a tired plot device and Child of Storm seems to hitch up its pant legs to boldly wade right into it.
Writer Manuel Bichebois starts his Chosen One themed graphic novel with the predictable intro of a hunter finding a baby in the forest next to the corpse of it’s dead mother: The clan the hunter belongs to are leery of bringing an outsider amongst their tribe. And it doesn’t stop there. Stop me if you heard this one before: The hunter then claims the lost baby as his own son because his wife can’t have a child. Been there, done that. I’m not happy with Bichebois because finding new, exciting comic writers from Europe is not an easy task by any means–especially in the U.S. where superheroes are dominating everything! Furthermore, I don’t like it when this tired theme in comics are illustrated with frickin’ awesome artwork! What a waste of good ink on worthless plot devices.
As I read each cliché writer Bichebois, and illustrators Poli and Zeloni laid out in sequence before me, I failed to notice Laith never completes any of the quests he sets out on. They either end in failure or he learns nothing about his past or how to use his powers of lightning. He is never fully developed because his ever changing environment doesn’t let him. These factors are Child of the Storm‘s saving grace. If it were not for my second reading of the graphic novel, I would not have noticed these subtleties.
Does this fact make me ask for forgiveness for my earlier bashing of Child of the Storm in the form of an apology? Short answer: no. I will admit my discovery of the main character’s failures, subtle though they may be, improved my overall opinion of the graphic novel. But it is still a Chosen One plot which brings nothing new except a few tiny intriguing twists and tweaks here and there.
I want to love Child of the Storm–I really do–because the artwork is just fantastic! Didier Poli gets to add lots of color to his illustrations as compared to his dark pallet found in his awesome work on Titan Comics’ Elric series. I love his illustrations far more than the story–staring at the panels to take in every detail. At the novels half-way point, Giulio Zeloni takes over on artistic duties and does an excellent job. His illustrations not only compliment Poli’s but also has its own signature style. But even though I absolutely love the artwork and layout of this superbly produced book, I just can’t get past the overused Chosen One theme. Furthermore, by the time Zeloni picks up his pen to start where Poli left off, I get the feeling the rest of the story was rushed to the finish line. It’s as if the creators felt they needed to wrap the series up due to budget constraints. It happens. Even so, the book finishes with not everything resolved and readers are left feeling incomplete.
Is Child of the Storm a bad graphic novel? Of course not. Is it a great graphic novel? Sadly, no. Bichebois has the chops to make it better than it is–his subtle tweaks to the traditional Chosen One theme through his main character’s failures are proof of this. He shows he’s trying to think outside the box and I promise to give this book a second chance if the tease within the Afterward is true. What was the tease? A title–The Prince of the Storm–followed by the admission of a “sequel story cycle”. If Humanoids Publishing imports it, I will read it. My love for Eurocomics demands it.