Pathfinder Spiral of Bones #2
Crystal Frasier (writer, main), Rob McCreary (writer, backup), Tom Garcia (artist, main), Diego Galindo (artist, backup), Morgan Hickman (colourist, main), Mohan (colourist, backup), Thomas Napolitano (letterer, main and backup)
2 May 2018
A small confession: I was always likely to enjoy this issue as Val (a.k.a. Valeros) takes centre stage, and I adore Val. Like many of the adventurers in Pathfinder, there are some old tropes rubbing up against interesting complexities, and in Spiral of Bones #2, the reader gets some further insight into Val’s character. Better yet, we get to see Val stumbling around The Boneyard, the macabre domain of Pharasma, dodging confusing rules, and an unexpected case of sudden death.
Val usually fights alongside a group of adventurers comprising of sorceress Seoni, elven rogue Merisiel, wizard Ezren, dwarven ranger Harsk, and cleric Kyra. In issue #1, the gang found themselves in Kaer Maga, searching for information. Cue some unexpected adventures below the city and a nasty run-in with some cloakers (think giant purple stingrays with teeth and claws), before Val accidentally touches something he shouldn’t. Readers may already be familiar with Val’s impulsive, hedonistic, and downright idiotic behaviour, so it should be no surprise that he, a) grabbed at a suspiciously magical-looking object, and b) it did not go well for him.
At the start of issue #2, there is a short scene giving some context as to why Val has been chasing the fighter’s life. It’s a slight moment of pathos (along with a possible implication that Val has scotopic sensitivity and thus a greater difficulty with reading), which adds context to Val’s motivations. However, he is woken sharply from his dreams, and it emerges that Val has died, the magical object he found embedded in his forehead.
What follows is an introduction to The Boneyard via Wini, a nosoi (a small, black masked bird) who acts as Val’s escort. Wini’s role is to lead the newly deceased and very confused fighter through the afterlife. The Boneyard is a sort of Purgatory, and it turns out that there are a couple of people very interested in laying claim to Val’s soul.
Through some initial banter, Wini and Val begin to reach an understanding in what becomes a surprisingly sweet partnership. I was not expecting to see the start of a touching friendship emerge, but Frasier creates emotional bonds as Val implores Wini for help.
It’s also an amusing tale as Val bumbles around a world full of strange new sights, but a distinct lack of beer. Little details make this a fun read. There are almost distracting scenes played out in the background, adding a sense of Val being lost within an inalienably strange world. To emphasise just how askew things are, Val gives the kind of speech that Ezren usually delivers as he chronicles their adventures. However, this being Val, he’s not quite got the hang of it.
The Boneyard is, thankfully, not an indistinct blur of browns and blacks. Instead, the reader is treated to vivid characters, in the literal and figurative sense, with Hickman’s colouring of them bringing this land of death somewhat ironically to life.
There is some fantastic comic timing in the way panels are used, and Garcia’s art is generally evocative, with subtle and sometimes not so subtle character expressions. It all adds a sense of absurdity to the proceedings. In one panel, though masked, Wini somehow manages to knit her eyebrows at the increasing depth of Val’s foolishness.
A common complaint I have with the female characters in Pathfinder and many RPGs is that they are often drawn as “well-proportioned.” This is a polite way of saying that they have large breasts and slim everything else, usually in skintight clothing. This proves to be the case once more, though there is thankfully only one humanoid woman to breast boobily anywhere.
Issue #2 also contains a Starfinder backup story, continuing on from Spiral of Bones #1. The new Starfinder RPG, a mixture of sci-fi and fantasy, is finding its feet after being released last year. This story aims to give a taste of the universe and, whilst interesting enough, it will take time to get as invested with these characters, especially when these are much shorter tales. However, a similar vein of humour runs through this story. This includes a neat Teletubbies reference with a group of aliens, who seem to be brightly-coloured, terrifying cousins of the Ewoks.
Pathfinder: Spiral of Bones #2 depicts a world that Pathfinders cannot themselves chronicle. It’s an intriguing journey as we learn more about the rules of death. Frasier’s writing about Val’s reluctance to accept these rules make for a fun read, with imaginative use of colour and design also fleshing out the characters. The Boneyard is a unique setting, and one that I hope to see explored further.