There are a couple of sure-fire ways to catch my eye when it comes to reading something new. Use the colour purple, feature a gigantic cat somewhere and run in the fantasy genre. Rose from Image Comics actually manages to tick all three of those boxes or at least the cover of #1 certainly does!
In the world of Rose giant cats or ‘Khatz’ as creator Meredith Finch refers to them as, may embue warriors with immense power and magical abilities. These creatures helped not only to aid their champions but were integral in maintaining peace and prosperity across the land. Queue the but…
But then they began to disappear and so too did the magic that maintained their tranquil reign. A great evil took this opportunity (as they so often do) to seize control and began slaying all future potential warriors and wreaking chaos and destruction. This evil works in the guise of Drucilla, a sorceress consumed with amassing power and ruling all. Our titular hero, Rose, manages to evade the culling of young warriors but only for so long. Drusilla’s army sacks her village and home and Rose finds herself swept up with a rebel force.
Establishing a world in a single issue can be a daunting task. Finch manages it though. Rose #1 has a balance; there’s just enough going on, just enough information for it to establish itself without going overboard.
While Finch’s writing coordinates all of that the work of artist Ig Guara and colourist Triona Farrell help to make it that bit easier to step into. In particular Rose’s time in the forest harnessing her gift and then running for her life pull a lot of detail with some really nice use of shadows and light.
Rose feels very much like a nod to old school fantasy. Great evil, struggling youth with power/destiny to overcome it and a band of rebels pushing our hero on. Drusilla feels like a nod to He-Man’s Evil-Lyn, just with a bit more sadism thrown in. Her goon squad of hunters at the end reminded me of the LOTR’s Black Riders. The issue isn’t without it’s hooks either; effective and simple as they might be, I do want to know what happens to Rose and just where her story takes her! Also the distinct lack of giant cats has me hoping that issue #2 crams more felines in than possible!
A strong issue in terms of world establishing; just not enough Khatz!