As a genre, Fantasy goes together with comics extremely well. Comics employ mythic archetypes to great effect, and part of what makes Rose #5 such a successful instalment of its larger ongoing storyline is the way in which writer Meredith Finch and artist Ig Guara continue to employ these archetypes to create an adventure that should thrill any fantasy fan.
The story of Rose #5 is split between two plot lines. In the minor storyline, Will, Ila and their band of rebels prepare to defend the small village of Millhaven from the imminent wrath of Queen Drucilla. The Queen is still desperately searching for, and hoping to obliterate, any traces of magic in the land. And as Millhaven was where a cohort of guards on that very mission were dispatched by Ila and the rebels, the townspeople are awaiting the Queen’s retribution. Meanwhile, Rose continues her search for Thorne, last of the Khatz. But she is also being pursued by Dante, the Queen’s huntsman looking to get back in her good graces, as well as by even more sinister forces. Will Ila and Will decide to defend the town? And will Rose manage to finally find her Khat and secure her destiny?
If you’re a fan of fantasy stories of this type, there’s certainly no denying that Finch and Guara have employed some familiar elements. Magic as a target of intolerance, destiny as a driving force, a brutal tyrant, mythical beasts, rogues in search of nobility and unlikely allies. And swords. Tons of swords. But archetypes and tropes are really only bad when they fail to entertain or engage. There are countless classic stories that follow familiar paths (just watch any Western film ever made), but what matters most is how invested you are in the journey and how compelling the travellers are.
In this case, Rose #5 winds up succeeding very well as a classically entertaining example of a fantasy story. Rose continues to be an interesting character who negates any possibility of annoying the reader through occasional naive or ill-advised choices because Finch writes her as determined and inventive. In this way, though Rose may make rash decisions or mistakes, we understand where she’s coming from and her strength of character keeps us firmly in her corner. Each of the supporting characters are just as engaging, even if they resemble characters we’ve seen in other stories. Ila’s wise-woman character bounces nicely off Will’s more cynical rogue, and Dante is a solid addition to the cast, which could use a more anti-heroic, morally gray presence to balance Rose’s earnest heroism. There’s a reason all of these character-types pop up in adventure stories, it’s because we like them and they effectively propel narratives.
And that’s one of Rose #5‘s major strengths, indeed the strength of the series thus far. The creative team keeps the pace of the story humming along perfectly, with each issue seeing the story advance and adding new wrinkles without losing any momentum. There’s a lot of comic book series out there that wouldn’t have anywhere close to this much development and incident to their central narrative after five issues (which is kind of crazy, really). Rose #5 sees a new relationship change over the course of the issue, establishes the stakes and nature of the conflict for the subplot, cements one of the defining character relationships of the whole series, and has a giant kick-ass battle sequence as its centre-piece. As a result, you hit the final page of the issue amazingly quickly, and all that work as keeping the momentum going and setting up coming events makes the reader eager for issue #6.
Ig Guara’s art continues to be just as important to the success of Rose as the scripting. He’s really great at capturing expressive and distinctive qualities in each character, not just in rendering individualized and detailed faces, but also in providing them with their own body language. He handles action extremely well, with the battles having impact and energy and a nicely violent feel that communicated jeopardy and realism without being excessively gory. The issue feels earthy and solid without losing the elements that give a fantasy story its distinctive feel.
This series continues to be an enjoyable and well-constructed adventure. And though it embraces the tropes of the fantasy genre that could make the story beats and relationships come across as familiar, it’s all executed so well that you’re too busy enjoying the read to mind. Rose #5 is another great example of a solidly enjoyable fantasy-adventure, executed by a creative team dedicated to delivering engaging characters in a fast-paced story. 8.5/10
Rose #5 will be released August 9, 2017