Thursday, January 23, 2014
"They must prove their worth to be among us. They must show that they are of the people that they belong. That they are of stone."
Ogres often get a bad rap. It may be the wonton violence or propensity to want to eat anything (or anyone) smaller than they are, but some of them have feelings too. Who knows? They may even feel some sense of community while among other ogres. That inevitably means that one of them must work to protect the others and Of Stone is a book that looks at that angle. The issue is written and illustrated by D. A. Bishop.
Gan is an ogre who's of stone, making the title appropriate. He belongs to a tribe known as the People of Stone, all of whom are strong, made of rock and extremely powerful. They channel that power into the hunt, prompting a rite of passage of sorts where they venture into the wilderness annually in search of a Vraithunde. The hunt gives Gan plenty of time for self-reflection and an evaluation of his people's current state of being. And considering how fond of both hunting and his people Gan is, there's plenty of time to think about those types of things.
Gan is largely introspective, yet fierce at the same time. He's a quiet warrior, reminiscent of Leonidas in 300, except without all the super slow-motion jumping through the air. Gan knows what must be done to protect his family and his people, venturing out into the wilderness with a methodical combat prowess, despite his life being put on the line more often than most around him would like. Bishop allows the reader to follow along with Gan's inner monologue as he narrates the hunt, effectively presenting Gan and the world he lives in. It's pretty impressive how much is revealed about the People of Stone through just the one hunt, with Bishop establishing a very strong character amongst equally as strong other beings.
Bishop also handles the art duties and the sketch-like quality fits very well with the story itself. Gan's people live in the bitter, biting winds of what is presumably the north somewhere and the scratchy illustrations hit home the inclement, snowy cold. Gan is a mammoth being who looks like a cross between Abomination and the Hulk and the reader never questions his ability to outlast his foe. Equally as harsh looking are the environs around Gan, as Bishop litters the landscape with jagged rocks and high snow drifts. The Vraithunde are illustrated with an air of mystery to them, thanks in part to Bishop's refusal to completely bring them into the light; something that achieves a fantastic effect of mystery.
Of Stone does one thing exceptionally well: it makes you care about the main character, despite the fact that he looks like someone who's head would also be filled with rocks. Bishop characterized Gan through his quiet ferocity, something that also manages to aptly describe the entirety of his people as well. The book is a very nuanced look at the responsibilities that come with being a leader, putting your own life in danger for the sake of your people. Of Stone is a very strong character book that could definitely be expanded into something further if Bishop chose to do so. Right now though, just sit back and enjoy a tale about an ogre actually being a good guy for once.
Of Stone is available via Comixology now.