She Said Destroy #1
Corallo, Kangas, Nalty, Ujimori
May 29, 2019
I’ve been trying to think about how to approach She Said Destroy. I suppose I’ll start with “it’s a book of its time.” The world that its team is creating here has a fairy tale sort of quality. Looking at the first panel of the first page, if you told me this book was set in the same world as the new She-Ra cartoon, I’d believe you. This isn’t a knock—the choices made throughout this book are smart. It’s reminiscent of a few different things, and what it borrows it reinterprets in interesting ways, presenting a product that feels both familiar and new at the same time.
The story has a lot. A rebellion and the last outpost in a war between two deities is on the verge of defeat, with the other deity’s forces closing in. A young girl, skilled with a weapon and “most blessed” by her god, must commune with that god, the Morrigan, Queen of the Faeries, for guidance as the end seems near. The other god, Brigid, commands the larger forces, as they travel through … space? The planes? On the way to extinguish this last pocket of resistance. If the Morrigan’s land reminded me of the world of She-Ra, the journey of Brigid’s devotees put me in mind of ODY-C (again!), sailing through a multi-colored, star-speckled sky, swirls of pinks and oranges dancing around the ship. ODY-C also carried a crew tasked with the tribulations of a god, though there the crew simply wanted to get home, like their ancient Greek namesakes.
You begin to understand my point when I talk about what this book borrows from; I can’t tell if it’s just been long enough that I see these things repeating throughout media or if it’s a direct sign of new trends emerging in creator-owned comics; either way, I’m happy to see more in the vein, to see what gets explored. In this world, gods are kept alive by the power of belief (as in the world of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods), thus the war, and the established menace of Brigid bearing down on the Morrigan’s outpost; this is the Death Star at Yavin IV (the review copy mailed to us literally had the elevator pitch of “The Wicked + The Divine meets Star Wars, by way of Final Fantasy“). If the Morrigan’s people lose, that’s it.
The question is, do I care if they lose? I’m not sure yet. Because of the stakes involved, because of the sheer amount of mythology established in this first issue, actual character sketches are light; I don’t know a thing about our apparent protagonists except that their names are Winona and Raul; Raul has a moment where he displays some insecurity, and Winona, the headstrong, “most-blessed” one, is eager to meet the Morrigan and learn how they might save their people. This is fine; when entering a story this way, there are more pressing concerns than a picnic over which the pair might share their long term hopes and dreams. I do hope we’ll see some more from them as the story progresses; I think it would do a lot to strengthen a reader’s connection to the plot.
Art duties are handled by Liana Kangas, whose zine I talked up after Emerald City Comic Con. I mentioned there that she’s capable of a range of styles, and here she’s employed a loose, sketchy approach that, while it can feel unfinished at times, nonetheless carries a breathless sort of energy with it; it suits the momentum and the “time’s running out” nature of the story. It works against her in a few spots; splash pages where she has the chance to display more thoughtful detail instead have that same loose approach, which makes them feel out of place, as though an image is taking up a whole page just because it can, rather than because it needs to. That said, she’s adventurous with panel arrangement in a way that’s charming to see; a few pages have the sort of popular widescreen approach that has defined modern comics, but she flirts with descending panels to depict an uphill climb for our characters, and inset panels for movement detail over a fight scene. There is an enthusiasm in her work that is fun to watch unfold.
Kangas’ work is buoyed by colorist Rebecca Nalty, in a way that makes my earlier comparisons to other works almost unfair; it would be easy to color this book in darker tones and convey an entirely different tone, but Nalty’s palette here sets the mood; this is a fantasy story about girls and powerful goddesses, and the color choices here assign a softness to those characters that both feels appropriate and offsets the hard, angular edges of Kangas’ pencils; everyone carries both within them. It’s the sort of work that I’ve been taking my time with each page, drinking it in, and if it feels a little too light in places? Well, that’s fine—given the stakes of the story, I’m certain that Nalty will have the chance to veer the other direction.
Alongside this team is Melanie Ujimori on lettering duties, who favors word balloons sans any kind of solid border for contrast. I haven’t yet decided how I feel about this; the border-free approach makes the balloons feel weightless, as though they’re disconnected from the the artwork of the page. It’s distracting at first, but I don’t dislike it, it actually makes me think of sound and the way it moves, which I suppose isn’t the worst thing to consider when reading character speech. Ujimori is also having fun with sound effects here, and I appreciate that; dialogue bursts from its balloons occasionally, characters make huffing noises outside of speech, and the arc and kerning of her letters is careful in each case to display exactly the kind of sound it intends to. Another small aside is the choice to switch type faces for captions that establish location, to differentiate those captions from character voice; something that wasn’t necessary, but that I appreciated nonetheless. It’s strong work.
Overall, She Said Destroy is a book that, like its protagonist, wants to be something. Whether it’s successful at that only time will tell, but I enjoyed this issue’s energy, even if I didn’t quite connect with its characters.