Imagine you can pit historical and mythological heroes against each other in a coliseum-styled arena.
That’s what 9 Realms Publishing provides in the first installment of Elysian Fields, “Into the Arena.”
In issue #0, we find Achilles being fatally shot in his vulnerable heel by Paris during the Trojan War. There is a brief interlude where he reunites with childhood friend (and lover?) Patroclus but soon finds himself in a boat on the river Styx. It seems the gods want more from Achilles than he offered while alive. Well, at least one god: Hades. Achilles enters the arena and finds King Theseus, founder of Athens, facing the Sumerian/Babylonian Gilgamesh, who is also called “the first hero,” and his partner, Enkidu. It also appears Jason of Argonauts fame has been killed by Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
There is a lot of action as Achilles faces off against Gilgamesh and they appear to be deadlocked. To say the issue ends on a cliffhanger would be an understatement. As one reads the story, questions arise: where exactly is this arena and what does Hades have to do with it? How were the heroes chosen? What does the winner get for his efforts?
Also, what heroes will we see in future issues? King David and Goliath? Cuchulain? King Arthur? Just so you know, you don’t have to be a student of ancient history or epic world literature to appreciate the book. It helps, but it’s not necessary. If anything, Elysian Fields whets the appetite for the reader, who is left wanting to know the backstory of the characters. Everything about this issue is enjoyable: the pace made by writer Michael Oden, the artwork by Marcelo Oliveira Costa, and the lettering by Luke Stone.
The story is fresh and crisp and it shows how much Oden wants to tell it. It moves quickly and there is no down time. It just keeps on moving. Costa’s art is also brisk, without a single panel wasted. The colors are bright and inviting, married perfectly with the story. The lettering by Stone is sharp and looks professionally done. Also, there are several pages showing artwork of the main characters from sketch to finished product that show the reader the process of creation. There are also character studies by Stone, Jim O’Riley, and Von Randal.
The next issue, “The Pyramid Gambit,” promises to be as fun and interesting as this one!
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Review by J1 Studios Journalist, Sean Murphy.