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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Graphic Novel Review: The Spire by Simon Spurrier & Jeff Stokely

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

About Simon Spurrier: Simon "Si" Spurrier writes novels and comics.

His work in the latter field stretches from award winning creator-owned books such as 'The Spire', 'Coda' and 'Angelic' to projects in the U.S. mainstream like 'Hellblazer', 'The Dreaming' and 'X-Men'. He and his works have been nominated for Eisner Awards multiple times.

His prose works range from the beatnik neurosis-noir of 'Contract' ("A tour de force" - The Times) to the occult whodunnit 'A Serpent Uncoiled' ("Gargantuan literary flourishes" - The Truth About Books). His experimental e-novella 'Unusual Concentrations' was shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Awards.

He lives in Margate, UK.

Publication date: December 20, 2020 Publisher: BOOM! Studios Page count: 208 p 



Welcome to The Spire, a strange conical city rising out of the desert. Its shape reflects the class system - the closer you live to the top, the more power you have. But, conversely, the closer you live to the bottom, the more difficult your life is.

Spurrier & Stokely have created one of the weirdest and most memorable fantasy worlds. Inhabited by people, chimera, and shapeshifters, it feels fully lived-in and engrossing. I admit I wouldn't want to live there, not even for a while, but I loved reading about it. Instead of focusing on the world, they tell a fast-paced and deeply personal story about a woman trying to solve a murder and investigating a mystery about herself.


Meet Shå, a head-strong, snarky, and lethally dangerous Commander of the City Watch. She isn't entirely human, and she can't remember her past. Day-to-day pressures of her life - bureaucracy, murders, corruption - make her tense. To make matters worse, she's supposed to guard a humorless Baroness Tavi who has, shall we say, complicated views on ethnic diversity. Oh, and to keep her affair with Meera, the daughter of Marchioness, a secret. The story starts small, becomes a conspiracy, and gets pretty epic. Of course, there's also politics involved.


In around 200 pages, The Spire introduced me to the world unlike any other. The Spire is a roughly conical ancient city rising from a toxic wilderness. Inside it, races try to co-exist. Not an easy task, when privileged and wealthy despise lower castes and Sculpted (creatures created by genetic modification or magic or whatever - it's not explained.) The characters include aristocratic bluebloods with ambitions and dark secrets, various constructs, and even miniature fart-propelled messengers called Gargs. The world and the narrative straddle the line between sci-fi, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic, and it's perfect.  


The tone shifts between humorous, dark, and suspenseful. In Shå, we get a strong, smart, often grumpy, but also funny protagonist whose life hides secrets. She wears an eye patch, smokes, and has no patience for bureaucrats. Her social graces are...limited. 


I instantly liked her.



I loved Stokeley's unique art; it's spellbinding and allowed me to relax into the story. His sketchy style fits the story. In addition, the color palette makes it a pleasure to read and look at.

The Spire is an excellent fantasy graphic novel with fantastic art, seducing worldbuilding, great characters, and an emotional ending. I highly recommend it to fantasy fans interested in getting into graphic novels. It has brutal and darker moments but they're balanced by funny ones.

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