Review by Jamie McNeil
Thorgal, his wife Aaricia and their friend Tjall have travelled over sea and through the dangerous jungles of Qa. Kriss of Valnor, a beautiful, devious and greedy warrior manipulated them into a mission to overthrow the warlike king of Qa. Now in Qa’s capital of Mayaxatal, Thorgal is seeing an even darker side to Kriss’s treachery. With allies turned enemies and surrounded by a fanatical army, Thorgal and company will pay a high price for family in The City of the Lost God.
Since the beginning of the ‘Qa Arc’ in The Land of Qa, the quality of work by Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosiński has been phenomenal. As writing goes, this is arguably among the best work of Van Hamme’s early career. Treachery, mysticism, valour and heartbreak add a driving quality of good tales – palpable human emotion. Rosiński had crafted magnificent pantomime villains but lacked consistency with normal human expressions. This has changed over the series and he has total mastery of it here. Equally impressive is how his artwork has improved with each section of the Qa arc. There’s always something to admire and here it’s the regimental headdresses. One scene shows the assembled might of Mayaxatal, the varied detail for each regiment amazing. But it’s those subtle movements- a clenching fist, a spreading frown- that fascinate. Bear in mind that the Qa arc was originally printed in four separate albums. The first three of these (The Land of Qa, The Eyes of Tanatloc, The City of the Lost God) were all published within a year. One year!? The quality of ever improving detail over many changing environments is staggering!
This edition combines two French albums, and the art improves again in ‘Between Earth and Sun’ (published as Entre terre et lumière). The emotions are stronger, the environment atmospheric and it has the air of a political thriller infused with the classic fantasy tropes of magic and curses. The action is far more contained, often occurring off-page as Van Hamme closes plotlines swiftly. While it cheats us of the potential awesomeness Rosiński could have unleashed on the pages, it isn’t messy. It makes perfect sense, avoiding an uneconomical and prolonged ending. Of the two stories this is the more predictable and almost pure swords and sorcery. With Thorgal Van Hamme demonstrates that distinct genres (science fiction, fantasy, romance) can be blended for the most exquisite results. There’s no statement to make, no real hidden social commentary. Van Hamme writes Thorgal to entertain and entertain it does! The predictability of ‘Earth and Sun’ aside, there are pleasant surprises with satisfying results.
City of the Lost God (La cité de dieu perdu) is mysterious, epic, disturbing and beautiful. There is joy and sorrow, madness and fear. Whether you love sci-fi or sword and sorcery, Thorgal has plenty to entertain fans of both. The saga continues in the superb genre bending The Master of the Mountains.