By Meredith Finch, Ig Guara, Triona Farrell, and Cardinal Rae
Rose #1 hits stand this week with a classic tale of magic and war centered around a strong female heroine, adeptly named Rose. Rose is a special girl who was born with the power of magic in a time where it is illegal to have such powers. Finch knocks this first issue out of the park with strong female leads in a world where magic reigns supreme and those who yield it are the ones in charge. The good versus evil magic plot is firmly laid out throughout this book, with little hints being dropped along the way toward things to come. We enter a tiny village, one with a history of cleansing from a tyrannical leader afraid of the townspeople manifesting with magic. In this world, magic is something people are either born with or not. The tiny village is many years removed from a cleansing, until now. The lone survivor, Rose, now tries to find her way in a world that wants to kill her for her powers.
This premiere issue was a huge undertaking from the entire creative team. There is so much introduced to the reader in the initial pages, from magical creatures named Khatz to the guardians, who were people linked to each Khatz. Then, a history of war, over magic and power, is shown over time. When the reader is finally caught up to the present, the plot moves too quickly. This pacing does feels odd, with the beginning backstory being told to a Grier, a character we have yet to meet. Then, it goes to ten years from now, and we are meeting Rose with no Grier in sight. It would have been preferable to leave the backstory of the war, the magical creatures, and the village oppression for future issues. There was so much more the reader is missing from the relationship between Rose and her mom, Rose’s magical abilities, and interactions with other people in her village. There is some teasing of the Khatz, that is perfect, and would still make sense and keep the reader’s interest peaked without the backstory.
The initial pacing issues do resolve themselves toward the end of the issue when we get introduced to the Queen. Man, oh man, is she a bucket of fun. Queen Drucilla (what a cool name) is the real highlight of this issue. For every ounce of innocent sweetness we get with Rose, we get the exact opposite with Drucilla. The team spends just enough time with her, and we get to know just enough information about her that it leaves us satisfied to know she is a badass we do not want to mess with, but still curious to know, how did she become that badass? Art from Guara and colors from Farrell are tremendous throughout the entire issue, but really shine at the end with Drucilla. It seems like there was so much time put in the panel layouts to tease the reader before the final reveal of Drucilla, and it does not disappoint. The palette lures you into a world of magic, yet the colors feel so oppressed and grimy when focused on the bad guy. Then, when we are with Rose there is a constant lightness and feeling of hopefulness just by using a brighter palette.
The character design and character development of Rose and Drucilla is the best part of this book. By the end of the book, you will know who the bad guy is and who our hero is and, surprise surprise, they are both kick-ass females. It just feels natural to have them be women too, not like it was a conscious decision to make a book with a female lead. Finch does a great job to show the reader how awful and powerful Drucilla is, but Rose is still a work in progress. Which is great! All too often books will give us ready-made heroes, who are ready to fight the bad guy and right all the wrongs of society from page one. We need to see Rose develop, learn her magic, maybe get a Khatz, and find her strength. The reader has already established the threat she is up against with the queen, now they want to see the next issue unfold as Rose finds her own strength. This book is about investment into the world Finch and Guara are creating and it does that successfully.
Rose #1 introduces readers to a world filled with magic, power, and hope; all the ingredients to make a great comic. When you pair that with the beautiful pages of art from Guara, it is a must-have for any fantasy, superhero comic fans. A tale that can introduce such a vast world with complicated characters and strong themes of oppression and hope in one issue is a great book. The book does maybe bite off a little more than it can chew with the enthusiasm it shows to fully immerse the reader into this world, but that all becomes forgiven once you hit the last few pages of the book.