Fred Patten Reviews City in the Desert

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City in the Desert. Volume 1, The Monster Problem.
Author: Moro Rogers
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
ISBN-10: 1-9363-9355-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-9363-9355-8

This 142-page hardcover graphic novel from Archaia Entertainment is an exotic adventure set in a fantasy desert land. Irro Zaiang-Marda and his assistant Hari are professional monster hunters based in the desert oasis city-state of Kevala. Irro is an apparently mature man, while Hari looks like an adolescent girl with a long prehensile tail and sharp claws. They patrol the desert around Kevala, killing the zaiang/monsters that attack the caravans.

“There used to be a lot more of us”, says Irro about the monster hunters. “We rode with the caravans, protecting them from attack. We saw the world. Then the monster attacks became more frequent. Whole caravans were lost. And our fellow men refused to go beyond their city walls.” (p. 44)

When the acolytes of a religious sect, the Way of Sacred Peace, led by Darga, come to Kevala offering to rid the land of monsters for good by capping the city’s central Spirit Fountain, Irro and the High Priest of their god, Iriaze, are the only ones distrustful enough to vote against giving it a try. It seems to work; the monsters in the desert sicken and die. The Way of the Sacred Peace is acclaimed, and Irro and Hari are reduced to taking on odd jobs. But soon Irro notices that everyone else in Kevala is losing their memories and falling into a deep sleep, except Darga and his followers. After an unsuccessful confrontation with Darga, Irro and Hari flee Kevala into a temporary exile. The story will continue in Volume 2, The Serpent Crown.

City in the Desert, Volume 1, the first graphic novel by Moro Rogers, is a fascinating fantasy-mystery recommended by the publisher for “teen plus readers”. In these days of full-color, hyper-realistic costumed superhero comic books, it is refreshing to see Rogers’ individualistic sketchy monochromatic (black-&-white fine-pen outlines against tinted one-color pages) artwork. The background religion of the god Iriaze is intriguing; the mystery of what Darga’s cult really is will keep the reader turning pages; the personal relationship of Irro and Hari is sweet (she obviously has a crush on him, while he considers himself a foster father/guardian); and Rogers’ semi-abstract artwork is visually pleasing and, hopefully, an inspiration to would-be artists whose talents are not up to the splendor of an Alex Ross or a Brian Bolland. The story includes subtle clues to background information; for example, Irro’s surname of Zaiang-Marda presumably literally means monster-hunter. City in the Desert. Volume 1, The Monster Problem, is definitely recommended for adolescent readers.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

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