REVIEW: Reyn #1

Story: Kel Symons
Art: Nate Stockman
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Colors: Paul Little
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: January 21, 2015

Based on the cover of Reyn, you might expect a lot of action, perhaps a gratuitous amount, in the pages that follow. You would be absolutely justified in that expectation and in no way disappointed by the opening issue. It’s heavy on the fighting but in a way that still allows it to be a fun book with a compelling story.

I’d been eager to get my hands on Reyn since I first heard about way back in October, for two main reasons: 1.) It was billed as an homage to both Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons by creator Kel Symons, and 2.) The lead character is a black guy. While I’m pretty sure the first reason is readily understandable, the second may need some unpacking.

It seems like even now, in the 21st century, comic companies are reluctant to have black people as the title characters of books in certain genres. Yes, I know Marvel recently passed the Captain America moniker on to Sam Wilson, but Cap is already an established character and Wilson is more or less carrying the torch, not breaking new ground. If diversity is the goal, why not give the Falcon his own title or introduce a totally new book with an original character of color to that universe? Must we be forced to swallow a trite repackaging of a legendary figure for the sake of politically correct appearances?

Conversely with Reyn, we get to see a black guy in a role absolutely DOMINATED by white guys, but without the pretense; that is, the brawling but witty sword-for-hire, traversing a mythical landscape in search of adventure. I, for one, think that’s pretty cool and applaud the boldness of both Image and Symons’ creative team for taking what is still apparently a controversial approach to fantasy. Strange that in a category of fiction so open to the improbable that some things are still considered “unbelievable”.

Social issues aside, the book itself is pretty good. Imagine your personalized Redguard character in Oblivion or Skyrim getting his own graphic novel and you’ve got a good idea of how this comic feels and reads. Lots of fictional races, magic and thankfully, humor. It’d be easy, based on what I mentioned earlier, for this book to take on an air of condescension and try to teach us the merits of inclusion and the reserving of judgments based on integrity versus prejudices.

Fortunately, it does nothing of the sort and expresses Reyn, the title character, as a capable, if flawed, hero. He is skilled in his craft, and perhaps the last of the Wardens, a fabled band of warriors sworn to protect the Land of Fate. He is also haunted by his past and a bodiless entity that drives him to continually stand in the gap between the weak and the tyranny of evil, something that he’d much prefer not to do so often. The supporting cast is entertaining as well, and Seph, Reyn’s Warrior Mage charge, is shaping up to be a powerful ally against a their recently aware enemies.

While I can’t say that I was overly impressed with the artwork, that’s not because it was poorly done. On it’s own the work in Reyn is good, but in comparison to other books in the genre like  BirthRight  or Grimm’s Tales of Terror , it just doesn’t have the attention to detail and vitality that’s needed to set it apart from the rest of the field. Regardless, it’s still very much worth your time and hard earned cash, if for no other reason than to see just what Fate has in store.

By: A.C.

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