"City in the Desert: Volume 1 - The Monster Problem" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Archaia Entertainment
Written and Illustrated by Moro Rogers
2012, 148 Pages
Graphic Novel released on November 14th, 2012
Monster hunting is serious business and business is good for Irro Zaing-Marda. Unfortunately, no one can afford to pay for the bounties that monster carcasses once brought in. Now he's trying to scrap by with enough to feed himself and his monkey girl companion, Hari. It wasn't always like this. Long ago, monster hunters used to ride with the caravans across the desert, protecting them. Now the caravans have dried up, but there are still plenty of beasts out there.
City in the Desert, the latest from writer / artist Moro Rogers, creates an interesting mythology right from the beginning. Rogers comes up with everything, including how these people came into existence in the first place. There was a god named Iriaze who created man. One day, the Evil One tried to kill man and the blood spilled from their battle created the monsters that now hunt man. Ages later, people still live in fear of these creatures, but there's a strange relationship between the two. The beasts exist because of the sorrow of man that's sucked up into the sky to come back down again like rain. It's an intriguing setup.
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There is still much to explore in City in the Desert. Rogers lays the groundwork with this first volume, entitled The Monster Problem. You get the basic mythology down and understand how some of the things work. These people have chosen to live in the middle of this barren wasteland as that is where the spirit fountain is. No one knows what this thing does or why it's here, but it's important to them. When a traveling priest comes to town and suggests closing the fountain to destroy the monsters, things get weird. People start acting strange, like they don't care about anything.
Rogers has a playful art style. There are some serious issues brought up, but they never feel too scary as the artwork is light. You could see this as a cartoon. Even when blood is spilled or monsters are attacking, it doesn't feel like there's a real danger. This took me out of the book a bit as it never felt like there were any serious consequences for the characters despite them facing death at times. Rogers' artwork does make the book easier to read for a younger audience though.
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The Monster Problem ends just as things are getting interesting. I understand that this is just the first volume and the next chapter, entitled The Serpent Crown, is coming soon, but I felt like I was left hanging when I finished this book. It's not an ending. It's like Rogers set up all the pieces on a gameboard and then knocked them all over just when we were about to start playing. I'm interested enough to keep reading when the next volume comes out though, as there's definitely a unique story at work here. I want to see where this is going. I just wish it had been done in one book instead of (at least) two.