June 19, 2014

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Legend of Bold Riley 2.1: The Talking Bone

Written by Leia Weathington
Illustrated by Jonathan Dalton
Published by Northwest Press

A heartbroken Riley lingers in a town, drinking away her loss, when a finger bone calls to her, setting the young adventurer off on a quest that's not all it appears to be in the start to the new set of stories of Weathington's titular heroine.

After giving the reader some recap pages in case they are new to the character, Weathington opens with a series of narrative boxes that quickly bring us to the present day. Riley is not in a good place, and only some strange story will snap her out of mourning.

A talking bone that can match her drink for drink? Just the ticket. After telling Riley a tale of woe relating to a pair of lovers torn apart, she can hardly resist, especially given her alcohol-infused enthusiasm. But it's not long before she realizes that her good deed isn't as straightforward as it first appears. By the end of the story, Riley's back on track, taking to the road to see what awaits her.

Despite being something of a breather story, Weathington once again captures the feel of the classic sword and sorcery tales. Our heroine is temporarily broken, but once placed back in the game, her juices are flowing and the desire to return to her nomadic life appears again. She'll never forget her lover, but the idea of drowning in her cups, dying by inches as certainly as the young man in the bone's story did, is long gone. The concept works as a great transition between the volumes but also works on its own because Leia doesn't linger on the point too long. We get that Riley is hurting, we know she has to get over it. Dragging this out at length, while popular in modern comic book storytelling, isn't the way of the pulps. And given this is very much a pulp tale, Weathington charts the course of the plot accordingly.

We have another new artist this time, Jonathan Dalton, who gives his own take on the character and the images in her world. Riley's face is more circular here, as are those of the people she encounters. This gives him a bit more room to explore facial expressions, but unfortunately Dalton doesn't take advantage of that. The range of looks, especially on Riley's face, are more limited than might benefit the story. When facing the villain of the piece for example, Riley's manner and posture don't change as much as they have in prior issues.

On the other hand, Dalton's detail work on the backgrounds, from showing carbonation bubbles in the alcohol to drawing each individual leaf to making the plants and trees in the forests varied, show a lot of skill and care. I especially like how he used colors to add additional life and detail to both the city and the wilderness. Instead of just sticking to "green," we have olive, forest, grass, and pine. The water is varying shades of grey-blue, and the items in the water change the coloring subtly. Little touches like that more than make up for a few limitations in the body language of the characters.

The Talking Bone starts this new set of Bold Riley stories off on a strong foot, combining that which has come before with the promise of new adventures among the bizarre and the magical, with a strong female lead who's tough enough to handle anything thrown her way--at least so far. I'm eagerly awaiting the next issue, and fans of the genre should be, too, once they've devoured this issue as eagerly as--well, that'd be telling...

You can purchase this issue here, directly from Northwest Press.