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Archive Binge: Necropolis

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on July 31, 2016

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There are very few comics that really capture the weight of history and mythology. The Sandman was one of them, but even that viewed events through the filtering lens of dreams and stories. Most modern interpretations of fairy tales very deliberately differentiate them from myths, they make a point to say “this is only a story.” They remove the spiritual to emphasise their internal moral logic.

Necropolis takes fairy tale and fantasy and injects mythology right back into them. Not just a single mythology but a casual blend of spirit creatures, magic swords and the fairy tale moral inevitability of an unhappy ending for a life built on the bones of your enemies.

The plot is simple enough, a girl’s village is attacked by raiders and in her vengeful fury she makes a deal with the spirits. She receives a sword that will make her unstoppable in combat for an unspecified cost. The rest of the story follows her as she first takes revenge on the bandits that wronged her and then refuses to return to her old life as a potential victim. She makes a living as a sell-sword despite her youth until her reputation begins to spread and fresh trouble comes to her door.

You do not get to see a young girl in a fantasy story or a fairy tale behaving in the way of Necropolis’ protagonist. You do not get to see a stubborn, angry girl choosing a path of violence to the point of her own likely destruction. That is a story that is usually reserved for the boys. I am not willing to reduce criticism down to the binary of “is this feminist or is it not,” because there is far too much complexity to both modern feminist theory and to story. But it is refreshing to see this story being parcelled out to someone different.

The art of the comic is incomparable, utilising a stained-glass appearance in the historical sequences and a soft palette of rich colours the rest of the time. Every panel is painted with a depth of detail that puts traditional comics to shame. In those parts where the detail is missing it is for the evocative weight of the colours to slide into its place. The character design is distinctive but holds onto the simplicity of old wood cuts and children’s book illustrations. The backgrounds give the world an unexpected depth and history without ever demanding attention. I cannot emphasise enough how beautiful this comic is. Even if the story was not doing remarkable things I would recommend it on the quality of the art alone.

Go read the damned comic. If I am wrong then you can come back and shout at me. If I am right then your life will have been greatly improved for the few minutes it takes you to plough through the archives.

It can be found online at http://necropoliscomic.tumblr.com/

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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