Among all of the big releases, the special Walking Dead one-shots and comics that inspired Netflix’s latest blockbuster movie, there are a number of, for want of a better phrase, smaller titles. Comics that slip out into the world with less fuss, waiting to be picked from the shelf. On September 2nd, Image Comics will release Inkblot #1, a fantasy adventure by Emma Kubert and Rusty Gladd. It is an unassuming comic with a simple opening premise that is packed with charm.
In a world of magic and mystery, it only takes one little cat to shake the foundations of the kingdom.
Emma Kubert and Rusty Gladd’s opening to Inkblot is grandiose and majestic. A number of tall thin panels represent an array of ideas and concepts. These are placed over beautiful vistas that engulf the page, bleeding off in every direction. Within the first four pages the creators have displayed a world full of history and wonder. There are already so many avenues that the story can take, even before the reader has been properly introduced to the main character.
When we finally get to see The Seeker, she is tired and hard at work behind a desk. There is nothing out of the ordinary about her and only the roof of tree roots in the library reveal this to be a fantasy world. The captions that accompany the introduction to the series reiterate The Seekers dedication to her work, making us notice the size of the library which she has created.
The first third of Inkblot is about establishing the world in which The Seeker lives and her role there in. She is like the creators of the series themselves; a custodian of stories and a scribe of ideas. There are elements of Lucien from the Sandman but with the dust blown from his shoulders. Kubert and Gladd make their heroine as relatable as possible, which is no mean feat considering the family history she relates in the opening of her tale. We identify with her immediately and, like the companions in Doctor Who, we will follow her wherever she leads.
This bond to the character is important so early in the comic because of what happens next. Via an accident, The Seeker creates a strange and magical cat. The cute little black creature becomes the catalyst for adventure and the tool the creators use to drag the Seeker, and the readers, into distant parts of their world.
The beauty of Inkblot is that everything works so wonderfully together. Emma Kubert and Rusty Gladd created it, and are writing and drawing it. It starts with Kubert’s pencils, then to Gladd for inks, back to Kubert for colours before a collaboration on the letters. This synergy between the creators and the process creates a single voice on the page. Each element of the comic comes together perfectly. Everything matches with a singular style so that it feels like it is the work of a single person. The Kubert/Gladd team inject Inkblot with energy and a well of visual quirks only possible by working so closely together.
The artwork is highly detailed with scenery fully rendered to create a sense of location. The design of the backgrounds and habitats is alluring and perfectly set the scene for this fantasy adventure. Comics such as Elfquest and The Sandman have clearly influenced the visuals but Kubert/Gladd give everything a little twist. There are dynamic scenes that burst from the page and intimate moments that resonate peace and calm.
Page after page, Kubert/Gladd reel out a world of wonders and yet their central two characters are straightforward and down to Earth. The Seeker, as mentioned, is not strikingly different in any respect, she could be any of us. The Cat is almost just a black shape, a shadow on the landscape with adorable eyes and mischief in it’s step. The Seeker is partly the reader and partly the creators, with the Cat playing the role of unrestrained imagination.
This opening issue of Inkblot reminds me of the first issue of Shutter, released back in 2014. It has a mysterious cat-like figure leading the central character into a world of wonder and discovery. But it also has the same sense of wonder at the world and a cheeky humour that is impossible to ignore. This is a comic that makes you smile.
In fact, I would go as far as saying this is exactly the type of comic we need right now. You can keep your end of the world stories and your obsessions with violent, evil characters. Inkblot is a breath of fresh air. It mixes comedy and adventure in a beautiful setting to create perfect escapism. You will often hear certain comic fans say they want less politics and more fun, well this is it; Inkblot is pure, unadulterated fun. It has fun with the tropes of fantasy tales, fun with page layouts and design, and above all else, the characters have fun that the readers can share.
Inkblot is a surprisingly entertaining and inclusive comic that will steal your heart at a time when the world at large could do with a bit more fun.