Continuing on from IDW’s monthly series The Spider King, this new one-shot follows the central band of misfits as they journey on to new adventures. Packed with humour, excitement and character, The Spider King: Frostbite is a wonderful blend of Sci-Fi and Fantasy that will appeal to a large section of comic book fans.
It’s an age-old story: a group of survivors head for a sanctuary only to discover an evil force has inhabited the land.
And so begins this one-off story featuring all of your favourite characters from the monthly run of The Spider King. But don’t worry if this is your first issue of the sci-fi/fantasy adventure comic because Josh Vann has written a story that contains everything you need to know about the world of The Spider King thus making it easily accessible.
The cast of Viking warriors and Alien friends travel through the snowy landscape, heading to a nearby settlement so that they can rest and relax. Unfortunately for them, but luckily for the reader, there are dark forces at work in the forest and an unprovoked attack by a possessed wolf is just the start of the adventure.
Vann includes enough creepy elements into the story to keep the atmosphere tense without it becoming a full-on horror comic. Instead, what Vann has written is an adventure story for all ages. It contains humour, action, suspense, and a collection of wonderful characters. The nature of The Spider King story means that there is an identifiable character for everybody and in this one shot they all get time in the spotlight.
But the real stars of this issue are the villains. A collection of alien-possessed animals who brainlessly attack the band of heroes. Vann makes the first attack scary and then ups the ante, introducing more and more creatures. Ultimately this leads to a threat that seems insurmountable for our heroes. Not everything is as it seems but the truth may turn out to be worse.
The artwork is the one thing that stops The Spider King: Frostbite from becoming a straight up horror comic, which it so easily could be; after all, the story shares similarities with some of the best horror computer games and movies. This comic definitely draws some inspiration from the Resident Evil franchise and John Carpenter’s movie The Thing. However, Simone D’Armini’s pencil work and Adrian Bloch’s colors reign it in and lean more towards the comedy element.
This is not a bad thing; The Spider King is a fun romp with large appeal, so playing down the horrific side does it justice in the long run. And it’s not to say there aren’t a few unnerving or scary elements in the comic. Contained in these pages is the scariest snowman I’ve seen since Doctor Who’s The Snowmen in 2012.
D’Armini’s inks are sharp and definite. Each firm, black line forms a defined shape within the panels which represents the warrior nature of the cast. The panels themselves have thick black boarders making each panel a statement in itself but D’Armini likes to play around with the layout. He shifts panels slightly out of sync or occasionally bleeds an image to the page edge giving certain images more narrative weight.
Across the top of this are Bloch’s colors which are a beautiful blend of pastel purples and pinks contrasted with the electric blue of the creatures. This initially gives the enemy a ghostly presence but there is also the feeling of technology written into the narrative. The color scheme reminds the reader that The Spider King combines both a fantasy world and a Sci-Fi world. There is also the sense of eternal twilight which doesn’t let up throughout the entire story. Bloch keeps it cold and dark without resorting to black shadows thereby keeping the images on the lighter side without diminishing the narrative.
Above all else, it seems that the creators of Frostbite want it to be a fun read. The lettering by Chas! Pangburn definitely reinforces this assumption. From Frodi’s weird hieroglyphics on a green background to the dialogue that breaks the confines of the speech bubbles; Pangburn enjoys breaking conventions to add humour to a page. The panel with the scary snowman, for example, contains the dialogue written so large it even breaks the additional frame that Pangburn places around it. The speech is given such emphasis that the uncomfortable moment is punctuated with a laugh out loud joke.
This issue also contains a back-up story. Called The Errand, it is again written by Vann and lettered by Pangburn but is illustrated by Daniel Irizarri. It is a quaint little tale with a cheeky demon-esq creature and an over tired Sigrid. Mimicking the main story, The Errand mixes mythology with science fiction to create a charming tale which finishes too soon. The build-up is great but the payoff is too easy and doesn’t really explain anything. However, the artwork is fitting and there is a more thoughtful tone given to this moment of Sigrid’s character development.
Overall The Spider King: Frostbite is an exciting romp packed with humour and entertainment. The heroes are suitably heroic and the villainous creatures are solid fantasy fare. This has a lot going for it and is easy to read and enjoy. Also, if you are new to this world, I would recommend picking up The Spider King volume 1 for more of the same Middle Ages adventures.