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February 1, 2017

BOOM! Reviews: The Spire TPB

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Written by: Eric Snell
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The Spire TPB
Publisher: BOOM!
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Jeff Stokely
Colorist: André May
Cover: Jeff Stokely

In the middle of an irradiated wasteland stands The Spire.  Surround by a city filled with various creatures living among each other attempting to survive while the human aristocracy lives and rules from above.  Keeping the peace among the dwellers below the Spire is Sha, Commander of the City Watch.  Sha walks a fine line, as one of the last of a race of shape changers known as the Medusi, she works for a ruling caste that hates her for being not like themselves but must depend on her skill.  When the former Baron of the Spire dies a new Baroness is poised to take his place.  While the Baron was a tolerant man who worked toward equality between the various creatures under the Spire the new Baroness cares little for them and openly expresses her distaste.  When members of the aristocracy start turning up brutally murdered in the city the Baroness charges Sha to solve the crime or be forced to give up her position as Commander of the City Watch.  Sha dives headfirst into finding the killer all while dodging her personal demons and a running from past she chose to forget.

The Spire is a pretty thrilling murder mystery.  Simon Spurrier must have spent some time with Sir Arthur Conan Doyles Sherlock Holmes stories.  From page to page he seamlessly pushes the story along introducing intrigue after intrigue with small pauses for character development mixed in.  As Sha examines crime scenes and picks up on clues that none of her subordinates notice Spurrier makes sure to keep the reader involved in her thought process via dialogue in much the same way Holmes would exposite to Watson.  Spurrier manages to inject the scenes with subtle puzzle pieces all the way to the climax where Sha finally confronts the mind behind the murders and neatly puts it all together for the readers.  It was great to reread the story and pick up all times Spurrier actually told the reader who the killer was that you’d never have noticed the first time through.  Having been a fan of Sherlock Holmes this isn’t particularly mind blowing but it was notable in the landscape of modern comics.

The art style reminded me heavily of 90’s Nicktoons mixed with some Studio Ghibli anime.  As I was doing some background on the book I read that Jeff Stokely was actually going for a Hayao Miyazaki feeling with his art in this book.  Stokely pays incredible attention to detail here with this book and doesn’t skimp on the atmosphere.  If Sha is walking through the dregs of the city, every inch of the panel is going to emphasize that.  Stokely isn’t afraid to stay away from the super cute character models either.  Some of the wastelanders are downright grotesque, which makes the hatred toward them more believable.  The colors are a little drab, there isn’t anything here that will jump off the page at you but you’ll notice the shift in color palette between the city below the Spire and the Spire itself.

The dialogue was a real star here and I don’t talk about it enough. I really liked Sha and her companions interactions.  The conversations, during both business and leisure lead to a believable relationship between people who have a long history together.  None of the banter seems out of place between them and readers will chuckle and enjoy all the snide comments they make under their breath to and about each other when they’re together.  Spurrier gives you just enough time to get acquainted with them to not have them feel like throwaways and thankfully wraps up their stories at the end where some writers would have left them unresolved.

The worst part of The Spire comes in it’s conclusion.  The climax was excellent don’t get me wrong and the reveal of the mastermind was a great moment in the story.  However, the motive was probably the most out of place part of this whole story and it was very disappointing.  I felt that the motive, and Sha’s place in it, were in the story for pure shock value and while from within the stories world it could make sense I felt it came out of left field and was a little unnecessary.  You’ll decide whether it sullies the story for you or not.

All in all The Spire is a wonderful book and could just as easily work as a novel.  The ending notwithstanding the rest of the book is a strong work of fiction.  The Spire is another triumph for Boom! Studios.  It’s not a recommendation I’d make for young children however.  The murder scenes are fairly graphic, there are sexual and LGBT themes within the book that parents might have to explain to children, and the mystery might be hard for younger readers to follow.  For teen and adult readers however, I give The Spire a seal of approval. I’m sure that others will have differing opinions about the ending but no matter how you feel about it when you get there I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy the journey.

Eric Snell
esnell@comicattack.net

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