Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: Warlord of Io and Other Stories

Today, I'm looking at another book I purchased at San Diego. Bear with me, there's a bit of background to get through first.

Slave Labor Graphics (SLG)'s Warlord of Io and Other Stories was the next project by James Turner following Rex Libris. Those of you who know me know that I love Rex Libris. You would assume that when Warlord of Io came out I would have been lined up for a copy and that's a fair assessment...except it didn't happen.

Sadly, I, like most comics readers, did not buy Warlord of Io. Not for lack of interest, but because I didn't know it existed until it was too late. I only learned of Rex Libris back in the day because of an ad banner at Comic Book Resources and somehow, SLG wasn't able to reach me this time - whatever promotion they had didn't penetrate to me so the first I heard of it was the week it was released.

Well, that might be problem for most comic fans but not me, surely? I have a fine local shop - Another Dimension - which stocks everything. I could simply get a shelf copy, right? Uh, or not.

Then the dire news broke from SLG: orders on Warlord of Io and Other Stories were so low that they could not continue the series. I was mortified; had I but known, I would have ensured that Warlord of Io was on my file, just as Rex Libris had been. The fate of Warlord of Io inspired a lot of internet commentary from the pundits, eager for stones to throw at Diamond or to promote their "print is dead" agenda. It's sad to think that this is the biggest news story James Turner's work has made on the internet. Me, I was one of the few who was genuinely upset to miss out on what I knew would have been a good thing.

I was so happy to see SLG at San Diego so that I could purchase a few of their items (yes, they have an internet store but...well, that's another story). And they complimented me for wearing my International Order of Librarians t-shirt. Now I finally had Warlord of Io; so, just what is the blamed thing anyway?

The main feature, Warlord of Io, introduces us to Prince Zing, son of Emperor Zong. When his father decides on an early retirement, Zing is promoted to the throne. Zing has no particular ambition, but just to impress his ladyfriend Moxy he decides he'll bring about sweeping democratic reforms for all the races he rules over and cut the military budget in half. The military of Io aren't too pleased with this, as you can assume. And so, a conflict is set up...

It looks as though Warlord of Io was being set up with a stable line of antagonists, unlike Rex Libris which changed villains with each storyarc. I sense that Turner was looking to develop a more linear story here than Libris and it would have been interesting to see it play out. It's also interesting to note the difference in his art. It's still unmistakably James Turner, but while Rex seemed to be built from Lego, Zing and Moxy are as round and pleasing as a Hanna-Barbera creation. Just as Rex Libris#1 featured a "director's commentary" at the bottom of the page that most people didn't like (I did), Warlord of Io runs an encyclopedia at the bottom of each page which explains something about the scenery or terminology. I have to say, this time I'm not into it; it distracts too much from the story at hand. Perhaps I'll enjoy it on repeat readings? Click for legible version

Then there's the "Other Stories" part of the equation. These include "Hell-Lost," a tale of competing demons done in the style of Turner's book Nil: A Land Beyond Belief. Then there's "The Democrat of Globcorp," "Tales of the Inanimate Chair," and "Supreme Commander Dan in Terror of the Tiki Space Pirates!" So you get a bit of the wackiness Turner delivered in Rex Libris; the latter three use art styles nearer to his Libris days as well.

Although I've taken a somewhat funereal tone in examining this book, I should note that it's not necessarily the end - SLG is offering a pdf download of what would have been the second issue. Will the series continue on the net or as a graphic novel? Perhaps. At any rate, I need to buy a copy now before I miss out again...

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