Rose #6 represents a turning point for the series, as new alliances are formed between heroes while the forces of evil find themselves presented with fresh opportunities. Writer Meredith Finch and artist Ig Guara set the stage for the next act of Rose. It’s a bit of a low key end to the series’ first arc, which could have benefitted from a big action set piece, and it also feels a bit familiar in its story beats. However, its focus on establishing new relationships and fresh jeopardy means Rose #6 is still a satisfying read for fans of the series.
The previous issue saw the village of Millhaven under siege by the villainous Queen Drucilla (whose unabashed evil-ness continues to be one of the series’ most fun draws), while the rebels lead by Ila and Will attempt to defend the innocent. Meanwhile, Rose and her khat Thorne must decide whether or not to trust Dante, a ruthless knight formerly devoted to Drucilla and sent to kill her before seemingly changing sides. Can Rose trust her new ally, or is this simply a ploy to get her guard down? Can Will find a way to defeat overwhelming odds to save the villagers? And will Drucilla find a way to gain the upper hand through a surprising new prisoner?
Up until this issue, Rose had been moving along as a solidly entertaining, if fairly archetypal, fantasy tale buoyed by interesting characterizations. Rose was an engaging and compelling protagonist who benefitted from being a relatable and vulnerable hero. The idea of khats and their connection to the disappearance and resurgence of magic may be a common trope in the genre, but it’s not an unwelcome one. Drucilla, Ila, Will and Dante all had well-established personalities and motivations and goals.
Where this issue stumbles just a bit is in its emphasis on the characters discussing their dilemmas as opposed to the actions they take to solve them. The issue doesn’t ever really show the actual siege of Millhaven itself, choosing to keep the battle largely off-panel. The issue instead focuses on three dilemmas facing the characters; how can Will save the people, how does Drucilla choose to motivate her army, and can Rose and Dante choose to trust each other. All of these dilemmas are interesting in their own right to be sure, and I’m not suggesting that Finch and Guara were wrong to include them as the heart of the issue. But as the climax of the first arc, it might have given Rose #6 some pep and energy if the creators elected to open up the floodgates and give us some good old-fashioned action.
Will’s dilemma in struggling to defend the town provides the greatest opportunity for a few moments of action. We get one panel of the battle basically, and then see Will struggle with how to achieve his goal of saving the townspeople. He does come up with a solution, but instead of seeing him act out his decision in a way that involves us in the solution, we only see the aftermath, and I found myself yearning to see a little more swordplay and fuse-lighting than the extremely minute amount we get here. Finch and Guara have proven themselves adept at action before, and there is even a a couple panels that touch on the edges of the battle and a subsequent sneaky raid. But the way that the issue doesn’t commit to actually showing us an out and out battle is a bit frustrating, and it would have helped to energize an issue that sees its major drama spring from an interpersonal conflict. Putting a just a bit more action would have helped balance the story’s pace a bit more, as far as I was concerned.
As for the other elements of the story, particularly the heart of the issue surrounding Dante and Rose and Thorne, things go much better. Yes, it’s been foreshadowed for at least one previous issue that Dante and Rose would wind up on the same side, the inevitability of that doesn’t mean it isn’t welcome. Despite the fact that you know from the issue’s start what the outcome will be, that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to seeing our heroes team up to take down Drucilla, who gets a tone of formidable “hiss and boo at the baddie” moments in the issue.
As always, Guara’s art is fantastic. He really nails a full page piece showing Dante and Rose banding together, and the final page, a two-panel piece that contrasts a sacrifice with a victory, aided ably by some superb colors by Triona Farrell, is nicely done. I mentioned a single page showing the battle for Millhaven, and part of the reason I wanted more of that is the chaotic and highly-detailed energy and earthy violence Guara brings to that page makes you hungry to see him turn loose and really give us at least another panel or two of that kind of melee.
Still, even with my desire for a little less conversation and a little more action, Rose #6 is by no means a bad or unenjoyable issue. If you’ve been going along with Rose’s journey so far, it does offer significant developments to the status quo as the series heads into its second arc. The narrative is by no means standing still, and even though the story is running along well-trodden paths for fantasy fans, the journey remains an engaging one thanks to solid characterization and effective world-building. Rose feels like its quest is just heating up, and even if this sixth issue is a bit of a stumble, it still feels like one worth embarking upon. 7.5/10
Rose #6 will be released tomorrow, September 13, 2017.