Review by Ian Keogh
For some reason there’s no reference here to Curse of the Chosen being previously published under the title Geis by associated imprint Nobrow. The choice of a more sensationalistic title in preference to one meaning a Gaelic curse with dire consequences is probably for the best, but the story remains just as intriguing.
When the ruling matriarch dies she’s already prepared by having fifty people sign an agreement to enter a competition that will determine her successor. However, the process is well beyond their expectation, even on a world where magic is known, and the consequences of failure can be fatal. Furthermore, a very powerful figure is attempting to rig the contest. With such a broad cast available Alexis Deacon restricts the attention to a few of them, with Io, Nemas and the scheming bully Toras being the most prominent. Io, the most reluctant participant in the tournament, is also the most resourceful and adaptable, helped by her knowing something most others don’t.
Before starting work on Curse of the Chosen Deacon was a children’s book illustrator with a respectable CV, but no experience with comics. You’d not know that from the confident storytelling, although it might be betrayed slightly by the impressive designs and world building. From the start Deacon establishes a loose style with cast and locations bringing the work of Christophe Blain to mind, the looseness helping greatly when it comes to the cast moving through threatening locations. With the first chapter ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ under his belt, Deacon becomes even more ambitious. ‘A Game Without Rules’ places even greater emphasis on colour, an interesting use of black and white figuring into the story, and the pale variations on a single shade used for pages thereafter.
To begin with Deacon’s writing isn’t as confident as his art, the impression being given that everything is consistent in his head, but not quite transmitting to an audience, but where he’s successful from the start is propelling events at a rocket pace that never slows. However, the longer second chapter is more impressive, with the tension constructed far more effectively, and readers constantly wrong-footed. There are games within the primary competition, meaning Deacon is able to alter the mood, and the arguments involved in a legal paradox make for an absorbing sequence. Deacon includes many standbys of the fairy tale, including temptation, transformations and magic, and like fairy tales there’s the occasional lack of sentimentality, an understanding that for a story to be strong an author can’t always be attached to his characters.
Thrills, suspense and adventure increase throughout this opening volume, and Curse of the Chosen concludes in the equally dense Volume II.