Geis: A Matter of Life and Death (Nobrow Press)

Geis_cover_rgbIn case you were wondering how to say it, Geis is pronounced ‘Gesh’ (at least according to the notes in the front of the book) and is a Gallic word that that means taboo or curse. But don’t be put off by the hard to pronounce name, Alexis Deacon’s exquisite new book is a sublime mix of classic fairytale with bande designées styling and top quality production values (courtesy of Nobrow Press) that create a wonderfully entrancing first entry in an exciting new trilogy of books.

Geis_cover_rgbPublisher: Nobrow Press
Writer: Alexis Deacon
Artist: Alexis Deacon
Price: £15.99 from Nobrow Press

Our rating: [star rating=”4.5″]

When Chief Matarka is on her death bed she summons the 50 most important people in the realm to sign her will and choose a new chief. Little do they know that the will is cursed (the Geis of the tile) by an evil Sorceress and all who sign it have to complete a series of challenges to prove who is the most worthy. Like every good story, there can be only one, and thanks to the evil sorceress you have to compete or die!

The signees are sent to the four corners of the realm and we begin to meet the various groups competing for the chance to be chief. The first to make it back are the Kite Lord’s daughter Io and the snidey Councillor Nemas who begin to learn the dangerous stakes of the contest. Elsewhere we meet an eclectic bunch of other characters who are roped into this deadly game including nerdy Artur who ends up stuck in quicksand and village witch Eloise who tries to find out more about the evil death magic which she begins to realise is being wielded by the sorceress.

Geis has a beautifully old fashioned feel to it, like a classic Grimm Brothers or Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, but with a dark and unsettling edge to it. It reads like it should a vintage book that has been given a new printing rather than a new work seeing the light of day for the first time and inevitably with a Nobrow book this is the point where we compliment the production values – but it bears repeating as in this case it really helps maximise the timeless quality of the story being told on the page. (As well as making it feel more like an arty European bande desinées comic rather than a more mainstream graphic novel.)

Set in a beautiful post-medieval, romantic world with epic castles and sweeping landscapes, it avoids being a cliched world of yore by sneaking in surreal scenes involving dinosaurs and rune-speaking yokels to give it more fokelorey edge. It also has a slightly anime meets 80s Japanese/French cartoons look to it at times (especially in the final act with Io’s kite!) that give it a charm and a uniqueness that we didn’t expect in this kind of book.

Writer/artist Alexis Deacon has a beautifully organic feel to his artwork that mixes pencils and charcoal with watercolor washes and brushed ink. Everything feels very hand drawn and sketchy (especially the lettering) and you imagine the original art looks exactly as it does on the page. (Although he told us differently in our recent interview!) The characters he has designed also have a very iconic feel to them, especially the evil sorceress who is a dark and malevolent force that would give Maleficent a run for her money in the sinister stakes!

A Matter Of Life and Death is the first part of the Geis trilogy and it builds to a very satisfying conclusion and darkly violent conclusion, wrapping up this first chapter nicely but leaving the story open for future volumes. Deacon is definitely creating something very special and wonderfully epic in the world of Geis and we would consider ourselves cursed if we didn’t find out how it was going to resolve itself in future volumes!