CITY IN THE DESERT Vol. 1: The Monster Problem
Original Graphic Novel Hardcover
Written by: Moro Rogers
Illustrated by: Moro Rogers
Cover by: Moro Rogers
Publisher: Archaia Studios Press
City in the Desert is the first graphic novel from Moro Rogers, who handles both the writing and the artwork. The story is interesting enough, and the art is very unique, and may take some getting use to, but it’s the character interactions that keep you coming back for more. More on that later, though, and in the meantime let’s get a better understanding on what this story is.
Long ago there was naught but darkness, and the deity Iriaze created the Great Flame which gave light to the world. Of the creatures of this world, man was the most like his creator and Iriaze protected man. One day man disobeyed Iriaze and was cast out into darkness. In this darkness, man fought with evil and struggled for a long time in a battle neither side could win. Iriaze broke up the fighting, though the ground was already soaked in their blood. Rather than take man back into his good graces, Iriaze created a race of monsters from the spilled blood to serve as an eternal reminder of man’s disobedience. As the author says: “Remember this day and persevere! And from that time on, the world was full of monsters.”
And THAT is the world in which this story takes place. What a great concept. In this story Irro, a monster hunter, and his assistant Hari help the people of a small desert town surrounded by monsters. One day a cult from the North arrives in town promising to rid them of their monster problem forever. But things aren’t always what they seem, and strange and disturbing things start happening in the town. Perhaps the monster problem wasn’t really the problem to begin with.
The story itself is well paced, and never bogs the reader down with too much information all at once. The expository scenes are few and far between, and done in such a way that they are incorporated into the characters’ current task at hand, so it never kills the momentum. This is good because there’s an awful lot of ground to cover. A downside to the story is that the reader is dropped right into the thick of it. While the whole “in medias res” approach is quite effective in some cases, there are a few moments in this book where one might be left scratching their head and thinking ,“Okay, who was that and why did it matter.” But for the most part, it’s perfectly fine, and characters’ connections with the main character are quickly explained a little after their introduction.
The art is another mixed bag. It’s very unique. It’s got a very rough-draft, sketchbook sort of feel to it. It has more of a web-comic or storyboard look about it. This isn’t to say it’s unpolished or “bad.” It’s just not what one might be use to in a traditional comic. Some pages are quite stunning, for instance when the reader first experiences our hero encountering a monster, or the first time they go to the palace. Other pages are completely lacking in detail, and look more like a sketch than a finished page.
There are two major gripes with this book that need to be addressed. One is the ending, or rather the complete lack of one. If it had ended in a cliffhanger, that would have been fine. However, this feels more like it just stops the same way it started, right in the middle of something. The other is a major plot-point that can’t be harped on in any real detail, without spoiling a lot of the story. So, without revealing too much, the villains of the story have managed to affect the entire town in a very negative way, but our two main characters thus far seem to be somehow completely immune to the villains’ actions. And the henchmen even ask how this is possible, but it never gets explained. Considering this is only volume 1, with any luck both the unexplained plot-point and the story’s lack of a stopping point will be addressed with the release of Volume 2: The Serpent Crown.
Despite the few shortcomings mentioned above, the majority of this graphic novel is very good, and Moro Rogers and her story City in the Desert are full of potential and promise. This reviewer can’t wait to see what comes next.