The first volume of Alexis Deacon’s Geis was a dark fairytale that saw an evil sorceress takeover a kingdom and challenge the residents to compete for the right to be chief. But with new volume Geis Volume 2: A Game Without Rules, the stakes are higher than ever as the sorceress reveals her deadly intentions to two of the competitors, and the games become more complex and dangerous. But will A Game Without Rules be another winner, or could it do with better instructions?
Writer: Alexis Deacon
Artist: Alexis Deacon
Price: £15.99 from Nobrow
**CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1**
At the end of book 1 the evil sorceress Niope revealed to Io and Nemas that only the winner of her contest would survive. As with all great competition based stories this adds an element of peril to this second volume that allows creator Alexis Deacon to really put you through the wringer as you continually ask yourself who will make it out alive? The stakes are raised even further with a new challenge which sees the prospective leaders divided into two teams, black and white, and pitted against each other with only one team making it through (and we all know what that means!). This sees various members of the court setting up challenges and games to defeat their opposition and win their coins, but also allows those who are in danger to engineer clever ways to escape from their rivals.
After the relative simplicity of Geis Volume 1: A Game Without Rules has developed into a complex and highly intricate story. It’s cast of characters is substantial and although you have the like of Io and Nemas as a focus they are not the driving force, as you would perhaps expect in a tale like this, and so you can never quite predict where it is going. The supporting characters are diverse and eclectic and operate away from the main narrative allowing Deacon to continually surprise you and develop a richly layered and very accomplished tale along the way with echoes of everything from classic fairytales to complex Russian political epics.
There are a number of flashbacks in this volume, mainly focusing around Nemas and his brother Toras, which help flesh out the action and make the set pieces feel much grander as a result – especially the final page reveal – and although this can make the book feel rather dense and unwieldy at times, you feel that he has grand plans for all involved and this volume is about taking the characters on a journey rather than resolving their story at this point. A such we cannot wait to see where they end up in the future and we fear the worst for some!
A Game Without Rules is the challenge which the sorceress sets for the wannabe chiefs, and as well as giving Deacon a fantastic structure to build his story around also gives him a visual device for his characters, as he changes their costumes to match their team. It contrasts nicely with the very muted colour palette of the main book (which feels like a paperback which has been left out in the sun too long), but it also allows the scenes involving Niope and her servants (who are now blue skinned druids) to really stand out.
Whether it is a tense court room scene or Artur being chased by sinister skull creatures (see above), Geis Volume 2 is a visual triumph, with Deacon’s loose European style managing to catch the exuberance and energy of the action, while still maintaining stunning detail in the landscapes and architecture. His use of a soft finishing line make it feel almost pencil drawn rather than having the hard edges of a ink line which continues to give it a classic and dreamy fairytale quality and a faded beauty to every page which of course is matched with he stunning production values of the book as a whole.
Geis continues to be one of comics’ best kept secrets, a fascinating mix of dark fairytale, Hunger Games style deadly game and a high class European ‘comics’ sensibility. This is one of those books that elevates itself above the medium of ‘comics’ and is more like a classic work of prose than a trashy pulp adventure, and worthy of being read as such!