The latest series from Black Mask Studios (joining the likes of Critical Hit and The Forevers), Everfrost sees the fantastic team of Ryan K Lindsay and Sami Kivela (last seen on Chum and Beautiful Canvas) reunite for a highly ambitious and emotionally charge sliced of science fiction. But will we warm to its charms or will it leave readers out in the cold?
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Writer: Ryan K Lindsay, Dan Hill (Editor)
Artist: Sami Kivela, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell
Price: Coming Soon
As huge fan’s of Lindsay’s previous work with Kivela – especially the delightfully bonkers Deer Editor – we were ridiculously excited about the prospect of a new 4 issue series from them, and based on the initial cover and artwork we were at fever pitch with anticipation. However, having read Everfrost several times now, we have struggled to get into the book in the way that we had hoped.
On the surface, it is out of this world and more than delivers on its early promise. Lindsay has crafted an ambitious and glorious world for Kivela to bring to life – and he delivers this in abundance. From the cold landscapes full of mysterious giant skulls, to the dragon riders and then on to the weird ice creatures who inhabit the Mos Eisley-like Downs, it is a fusion of sci-fi, fantasy and human drama that feels both very familiar, but also utterly unique.
The world mixes genres superbly, at first it’s like a futuristic sci-fi, but as it goes on there’s more elements of classic fantasy, with quests and dragons galore. But there is also a very human story at the heart of it, involving our heroine Van’s family. We see this through flashbacks to a different time or world, something which isn’t fully explained but definitely piques our curiosity about who this character is and where she comes from.
This mixing of genres is where Lindsay and Kivela excel. The character designs are exceptional from the enigmatic Van and her daemon-like sidekick Eight, via the mysterious injured dragon rider and through to the icicle like Pragg at the end – who feels like he stepped out of the Guardians of Galaxy. Kivela’s line work is intricate and beautifully realised, while his layouts are also truly exceptional with panels blending into one, to create interconnected elements – such as the scene on the boat where Pragg walks up a ramp across multiple panels, or the shot of a dragon rider falling through the page via concentric square panels.
The colours from Lauren Affe are also exceptional and really bring things to life (along with the always fantastic lettering of the impeccable Jim Campbell). Affe manages to capture the coldness of the environments with the cool blues, before giving the whole thing a vintage, almost Bronze Age feel in the latter half (reminding us of a million Marvel UK reprints from our childhood) with muted, simple colours schemes that are only really missing some newsprint and page folds to really round the whole thing off.
While the book may look spectacular, and the world feels rich and detailed, the story underneath it is a challenge. While the world is clearly very well considered and the visual side of things handled with aplomb, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious direction for Van’s story, based on this opening chapter. We found a similar problem in Ryan’s last book She, which seemed to lack a context and we struggled to get our head around what kind of book it was trying to be. We put that down to it just being a one shot and we are hoping that this is just the case of a debut issue struggling to get all the ideas across in an opening instalment.
In both this and She, you can see the ambition and intention from Lindsay, which is why we won’t give up on this book just yet! He is a writer who is not afraid to push the envelope, (after all he bought us the likes of Deer Editor, Head Space and Eternal). But for us in Everfrost, it needed a bit less innovative, have less exposition-ary dialogue and a more obvious direction for the story. This doesn’t mean it needs an obvious A to B path, but a little more signposting and intention, would have helped us piece together this world and the events within it. This of course may be an entirely subjective thing, and for fan’s of ambitious and complex sci-fi it may be a triumph, and so we would love to be proved wrong once the 4 issue series has run its course.
Fortunately for Everfrost, this is just the beginning. And with time, further development and focus, then it could be a book that we find ourselves warming to. With the quality of creators involved and the ambition they have, this has tons of potential. However for now, it is a book which left us feeling a bit cold, and not just because of the amazing images of arctic tundra and the ice-like residents of the Downs.