Writer Mariah McCourt and artist Soo Lee join forces to create a comic about a pair of retirees charged with saving the planet from Lovecraftian annihilation in “Ash & Thorn” #1. With colors from Pippa Bowland and letters from Rob Stein, this first issue offers an intriguing and lever start to this comedic horror comic, despite some missed opportunities in the writing and plot.
“The apocalypse is nigh! The world needs a Champion, and the only heir to a sacred mystical lineage is…a little old lady? Meet Lottie Thorn, reluctant savior of the world, and her also-elderly trainer Lady Peruvia Ashlington-Voss. They might not look it, but these women are prepared to take on any Big Bad that comes along. But first, perhaps a nice cup of tea?”
Writing & Plot
Mariah McCourt‘s self-proclaimed mixture of The Golden Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in “Ash & Thorn” #1 is a clever and inviting premise. The overt comedy and irony of this pair of old women tasked with defending the world from eldritch horrors while bickering and baking makes for a charming read. The dialogue between the two leads is sharp and fun and sells the notion that these are two very different women. Peruvia stammering out spells and instructions while Lottie bashes giant spiders over the head with an iron skillet is a good time. The arch-villain seems like a stereotypical doom-and-gloom monster at this stage, but that’s perfectly okay for a comic such as this. Despite the positives here, it has to be said that there was a missed opportunity with this opening issue in terms of character building. The comic shifts between starting out a week after the two leads meet, and the exact moment when Peruvia came to Lottie in the first place. While origin and training montages are an old cliche, such sequences would have worked wonders in developing the plot and shaping the dynamic between the two women. As it is, the story itself feels a bit rushed and scattered. This could have been a decision based on the fact that this is only set to be a 5-issue mini-series and fitting so much story in that span can be a challenge, but it is worth noting. Regardless, this is still a fun experience in the reading department.
Artist Soo Lee and Colorist Pippa Bowland craft a detailed yet suitably lo-fi visual style for “Ash & Thorn” #1. Lee’s pencils provide a neat mix of simple overall design for many of the monsters and characters, yet also hold an impressive amount of visual detail. This is especially noticeable in the facial details of the lead characters. Simple adjustments like smirks and brow lifts provide even more characterization than the dialogue and bring the two women to life in a remarkable manner. Bowland’s colors are what make up much of the lo-fi aesthetic I mention earlier, mostly relying on single shades for most objects. However, this adds to the charm of the comic and is almost reminiscent of something out of Mike Mignola’s library (this comic actually reminded me a bit of Mr. Higgins Comes Home and Our Encounters With Evil). A style more focused on high visual fidelity would have cost this comic some of its inherent charm and the effect of its humor. Finally, the letters from Rob Steen provide considerable tone and character to the dialogue, with considerable changes in fonts and bolds to highlight specific speakers or shifting tones. The purposeful sketchbook quality of the visuals here do great service to the storytelling style “Ash & Thorn” is attempting to convey.
“Ash & Thorn” #1 is a slightly messy but overall promising first chapter to this horror-tinged comedy. The concept of these two very different old women being put in charge of saving the world from ancient horrors is a fun premise, even if this issue stumbles a bit in delivering much characterization. The lo-fi but detailed art works wonders in establishing the tone this comic is reaching for. Hopefully, the minor storytelling flaws will prove to just be first issue woes, and the series can reach its full potential as it continues its run. If watching the Golden Girls take on interdimensional monsters sounds like your kind of fun, then be sure to grab this debut issue when it hits stands at your local comic shop on 6/24!