The old Baron is dead. A woman close to the royal family has been murdered. And things in The Spire, a city that is highly stratified – both literally and figuratively – are about to take a dramatic turn.
The Spire #1 is an ambitious project. There’s a lot going on in this first issue: murder, politics, strange creatures, tons of world-building, and character introductions. And yet, it all manages to come together flawlessly. From the “antiki-talk punks,” who speak in pseudo-Shakespearean, to the ugly, winged messengers sent out to spread the news of the old Baron’s death, to the tiered city itself, writer Simon Spurrier and artist Jeff Stokely have succeeded in creating a wonderfully imaginative world that is simultaneously fantastic and familiar.
It is fantastic in that The Spire is a city where humans and various other creatures – known as “sculpted” if you’re progressive, or “skews” if you’re racist – live side-by-side. It is also familiar in that it’s also a place where racism, drug use, and crime are common problems. Enter Captain Shå, of the city watch.
Shå is a sculpted herself, although we learn that she’s the only one of her kind in the city (for reasons that are only hinted at so far). She’s a Medusi – she looks human, for the most part, but has thin tendrils that come out of her back and can grab at things. And she’s rapidly falling out of favor with the new Baroness, especially since the Baroness’s old nursemaid was found murdered in an alley in a lower tier. Meanwhile, various sculpted groups are being summoned to the city to reaffirm their vows in the wake of the old Baron’s death – a move that, it seems, will have serious repercussions for Shå.
A quick side note: I’m fairly certain that this comic is actually science fiction, as it’s implied that the sculpted are called that because they were literally genetically engineered. At the same time, there isn’t any crazy technology in play (although we do see things like guns), and many people in the city wear medieval-type clothes, giving the comic a distinctly fantasy feel.
The one odd thing I noticed about this comic is that it wants to have its cake and eat it, too, in terms of the maturity level of the comic. Several characters swear throughout the book, but always in the asterisk-and-ampersand way. The murder scene is shows nothing worse than blood. And there’s a scene where Shå is hanging out with her lover, and they’re both nude, yet we don’t actually see anything. With so many “adult” type things brought down to a PG-13 level, I have to wonder what the point is. Did Spurrier and Stokely want a more mature book, but BOOM! talked them into toning it down so it could be marketed to a wider audience? Or was this censoring self-imposed? It’s certainly far from a deal-breaker for me, especially considering how good this book is. I’m mostly just curious. I’m also curious about that circle over the “a” Shå’s name. Is that supposed to affect the pronunciation? I’ve just been pronouncing her name as “Shah.” Please advise.
This comic is a great example of writing and art working in tandem to create something special (and it’s no wonder, considering that the writer and artist share creator credit). It will definitely appeal to fans of science fiction and fantasy, as the world of The Spire is right up both their alleys. But I actually encourage everyone to give this one a shot – it really is worth it.