Nico Bravo and the Trial of Vulcan

Writer / Artist
Nico Bravo and the Trial of Vulcan
Nico Bravo and the Trial of Vulcan review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: First Second - 978-1250218872
  • Volume No.: 3
  • Release date: 2022
  • UPC: 9781250218872
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

After two previous joyful excursions into the world of Nico Bravo we arrive at the Trial of Vulcan. Nico has been working as Vulcan’s assistant in supplying the miraculous creations of Vulcan’s forge to the wider celestial population. Recently, though, that work has been disrupted, primarily by god of evil Ahriman. Nico’s never questioned his past as a foundling deposited on Vulcan’s doorstep, but there are those who know the truth, and in Nico Bravo and the Cellar Dwellers Nico learned the truth himself.

That’s not relevant to begin with as Nico, Buck and Lula are dispatched to the centre of the Earth with a delivery. Nico becomes suspicious about all three of them being used, and rightly concludes Vulcan wants them out of the way, but not why. It’s to do with aether, the last remnants of a substance the gods can use to reshape reality, entrusted to Vulcan to keep from the others lest they be tempted, but coveted by Ahriman, who’s now called the trial.

Both previous Nico books have been a real treat, and this is no different in that respect, but it’s a different type of adventure, more along the lines of a quest than reacting to problems. The young adult readership at whom this is aimed will be carried away by the comedy adventure, but on another level there’s so much to be admired. One example is Mike Cavallaro’s neat solution for Nico being attracted to troublesome circumstances which might have been too coincidental otherwise. It’s not a problem that greatly needed fixed, but Cavallaro taking the trouble to do it displays the level of care.

The quest is combined with Nico having to outwit some admittedly pretty dumb gnomes, while Buck reunited with his fellow unicorns isn’t going at all to plan. The real mystery is what Vulcan’s been tasked with and why, the suspicions growing as Cavallaro seeds the clues amid far greater artistic experimentation this time round. Most pages still feature the accomplished cartooning, but Cavallaro will occasionally drop into interestingly fractured pages as Buck and the unicorns meet yetis or Nico and Lula have a strange experience. It keeps things fresh.

While Vulcan’s quest at first seems the most dangerous activity, Cavallaro ensures the other plot threads are connected, and there are some great funny moments. Late on Ahriman has to make a phone call from a stinky toilet. “What is this smell”, he bellows, “It’s like someone built a barn out of rotten marshmallows and then burned it down”. Such a delightful image is topped by his minion suggesting he look for potpourri. Great evil is afoot, and not just in the bathroom, but Cavallaro keeps the threat at a level where no nightmares will result.

Anyone who’s enjoyed the previous two books will treasure this just as much, and Cavallaro has one final surprise to drop at the end. The next book isn’t another starring Nico, but Eowulf and the Descendent Dilemma.