Tyler Chin-Tanner (writer), Doug Garbark (colourist), Claudia Ianniciello (cover artist), Thomas Mauer (letterer), Josh Zingerman (artist)
A Wave Blue World
October 2, 2019
The land of Mezo has known peace for many generations, but the Tzalekuhl Empire has ended that peace in the emperor’s quest for power, revenge, and submission from the tribes around his kingdom who once refused to help in their time of need. The story begins with an attack on one of those tribes, and a young girl named Kyma watches as her father, the chief, falls to the blade of the conquerors.
In the back matter, writer Tyler Chin-Tanner explains that this is a concept that he’s had brewing for many years, but couldn’t shape into exactly what he wanted to tell until artist Josh Zingerman returned from a trip to Peru, sharing his desire to draw a story that takes place in the Amazon Rainforest. This was the key to unlocking the Mesoamerican-inspired fantasy story that begins here.
The first issue establishes the key points: megalomaniacal emperor who may or may not be justified in his wrath, resistant “savages” that he must bring to their knees or sacrifice to his god if they refuse, a soldier identified out of the faceless crowd that is likely to be the sympathetic voice of reason, a priest working questionable magic, and a young girl who must avenge her father’s death and unite the remaining tribes to stop all of this. We’ve seen this story before in many epic fantasies, so, having established this groundwork, Mezo will have to work harder to prove itself different from those other stories.
Fortunately, the artwork certainly helps define its status as an epic fantasy, and does the heavy lifting for the world building of this issue. Geographically speaking, Mesoamerica is no small chunk of land, and Zingerman succeeds in expressing that vastness, as well as the lush environment. Up close, the trees and foliage are rich with detail, with grandiose mountains rising in the distance.
But when battle begins, focus shifts to actions and the detailed expressions of faces of those involved. Though many of the emperor’s army are intentionally dressed in the same armour so that they can’t be told apart, Zingerman easily pulls out the main players through a few choice differences (such as Roden’s helmetless head) and differentiated armour. Despite the chaos of battle, the art is careful to make each panel clean and clear, and Doug Garbark’s colours set the mood.
Though the first issue establishes its plot largely through some common epic fantasy tropes, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does so effectively, with the implication being that, now that the pithy introduction is dealt with, future issues can dig deeper into the characters and discover what really makes them tick, learn how all of this will come together, and venture deeper into this beautiful and deadly kingdom.