THE SPIRE – Review
THE SPIRE – Review
THE SPIRE TPB. BOOM! Studios, first edition release December 14, 2016. Originally published in single-magazine form as THE SPIRE #1 – 8, 2015-2016. 2016 Eisner Award nominee for Best Limited Series
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Jeff Stokley
Colors: André May
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely are the creative team behind SIX-GUN GORILLA, and their teamwork really shows in the way that story and art are integrated in THE SPIRE, a murder mystery set in a far-future post-apocalyptic dystopia.
The titular Spire is a vast multi-leveled city hewn from a mountain of metal and stone, rising from a radioactive desert. The Spire is home to many thousands of human beings – and to the Sculpted, genetic chimeras originally designed to be slaves but now living in tribal groups, both in the Spire and in the desert, where they are unaffected by the radiation. Many humans call the Sculpted by the pejorative “Skews,” and they suffer pervasive racism from humans. Even worse, a human religious sect called the Zoarim preaches the annihilation of the Sculpted.
The basic story line is a simple one : the captain of the Spire’s city guard, a Sculpted woman named Sha, must stop a mysterious killer, who is targeting people associated with the city’s ruling family. Another mystery is Sha herself : she is an amnesiac, with no clues as to her own origins.
However, THE SPIRE is somewhat lacking as a murder-mystery story, although saying why would be spoiler-ish. No matter : the story is primarily a vehicle for showcasing the Spire and those in it. For this reason, complex characterization is central to THE SPIRE.
In fact, in this title characterization feels like an end in itself. For example, Sha is revealed to the reader in a very measured way. By contrast, the lovable messenger-imp Puggannini offers us an ongoing stream-of-consciousness monologue that lets us look inside his very heart and mind.
I would even go so far as to say that the Spire is itself a central character, at least in the broadest sense, both as a physical space and as a community of humans and Sculpted struggling for racial coexistence . Finally, the creation of the various Sculpted races demonstrates a boundless inventiveness.
So it is that we come to the art of Jeff Stokely and André May, because it’s the art that really makes this book so good, and the most amazing part of the art is the visual design of the Sculpted. Some other elements of the art-work might be called derivative, and Stokely readily admits in the afterword interview that “…I like to think there’s a bit of Heavy Metal and manga in everything I do.”
Nonetheless, Stokely is able to integrate these diverse influences into a pleasing whole, primarily because of his strong core skills, not just in production design but in draftsmanship and frame composition. The colors were a little subdued, but this seemed just about right for a story about a bleached-out wasteland.
In conclusion, then, I found this book to be a solid effort in nearly every respect. I couldn’t find an age recommendation anywhere on the book, and in most ways, it’s clearly an all-ages title. It contains a love scene with Sha and Meera, who loves Sha for what she is, and yet this scene mostly just seems like a way to showcase Sha’s anatomical “secret weapon.” In any case, second-graders have so much access to porn that I can’t imagine how colored-in line drawings could corrupt any child today.
Hence, I would recommend THE SPIRE to just about any comics reader, and particularly to fantasy-genre enthusiasts. I had really hoped that this series would be further developed, because the milieu had so much potential, but maybe a studio like Amazon Prime will pick it up eventually.
ART and COLORS 5
I’d like to thank the Seattle Public Library, for providing me with internet access through the SPL Mobile Hotspot Program.
I would recommend THE SPIRE to just about any comics reader, and particularly to fantasy-genre enthusiasts.