Icarus (The Longest Fall #1)
By Gregory A. Wilson (author), Keith R.A. DeCandido (script), Athila Fabbio (illustration), Kris Siuda (lettering)
Atthis Arts (130 pages, $24.99 paperback, $11.99 eBook, Nov 10, 2020)
A lot of speculative fiction these days is focusing on class conflict and subjugation, especially out of the United States – and rightfully so. With Icarus, Gregory A. Wilson and his co-creators present Vol, a world where magisters with arcane powers are the tyrants, fire demons and lava floes are the daily hazards, and digging for flamepetals is the factory or labor work offering basic subsistence.
Jellinek the flamepetal digger is our window into this struggle, and it’s through him that we meet angel-winged savior Icarus, who arrives with no memory but an impulsive drive to learn about Vol and stand up to its bullies. It’s a familiar concept but one that strikes a chord with a lot of us, I think, as we look for people and symbols to get us through difficult times.
There are nuances to the way Wilson and scriptwriter Keith R.A. DeCandido explore these familiar concepts through these characters. Icarus has some innocence to him as he approaches truth and justice, but he’s far from a wet blanket, especially as he learns more about his role in Vol’s history.
Jellinek’s wisdom and pragmatism get them through some tricky situations, but he’s willing to go down fighting after “living half-afraid” and stands up for things the way a lot of people probably wish they could. Throw in some intense action and adventure, and I’m hooked.
The artwork in both books is particularly striking. I love the balance between reds and blues that Fabbio and Pizzatto use to separate different aspects of this world, especially the way they show that even the antagonists are still grounders (Vol natives) and separate from Icarus.
A lot of the panel shots are intriguingly cinematic, too; one in particular focuses on Icarus and Jellinek’s feet while they’re walking and talking, and a brilliant shot of a fire demon’s surprise shortly before being crushed is one example of the entertaining expression work throughout both books.
While the action is solid, the pacing and plot reveals happen quickly, which is one of my reader pet peeves but seems to happen a lot in comics. Obviously this isn’t a 90,000-word fantasy novel, but even though Icarus is the start of a trilogy (with a Kickstarter for Book Two coming in 2021), I could see Icarus and Jellinek’s journey in Book One stretched even longer and given more room to breathe.
I think it’s a testament to the world Wilson and company have created that I wanted to spend more time there. Most importantly, the journey ends on a hopeful note, which I think we all need more and more in our fiction.
Even in a world of demons, monsters, grueling work and oppression, there are hints of light throughout Icarus, and that alone makes it worth the read.
An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon has been published in On Spec, Pulp Literature, Electric Athenaeum, and elsewhere. His latest publications include his first comic, “True Balance,” available on Comixology and DriveThruComics, and a reprint of his short story “Rainclouds,” in A Dying Planet from Flame Tree Press. You can follow Brandon at brandoncrilly.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @B_Crilly.