By Scott Southard. Mirror, The Emma Rios-Brandon Graham powerhouse of weirdo innovation, continues its steady progress towards a world without normal. (The latter of which is not involved in this project, but helmed the original 8house, while the both concurrently attempt to steer the incredible, collaborative Island in whatever ways it seems to want to go.) As a spinoff of 8house, Mirror #1 is the kind of comic that makes you feel like you’re getting a window into the minds of its creators. It makes you wonder exactly what Rios and Lim are thinking in a metaphysical narrative sense. (And to be fair, I guess I’m always wondering what Rios, the undersung artist of the decade, is thinking.) You want to know why they made the character decisions or the panel placements or the single word choices, because it’s clear that they’re working within a larger theme behind the Redwallian world the story finds itself buried within. You question these creative decisions, because you know that they matter.
We get to the inner-workings of these minds through an unapologetically bizarre world of medieval magic and regal politics. We follow silver-spooned Ivan as he navigates a world of wealth and power of which he wants to play no part. His anthropomorphized mouse friend, Zun, has Vonnegutian wishes for a kinder world where folks just do what’s best for each other and everyone lives contented lives, but trouble seems to shadow his well-intentioned existence. There are also talking dog ladies, bears, cats, and a particularly buff minotaur filling out the periphery of Mirror‘s truly extraordinary ensemble.
But a lot of what makes these characters more than realized childhood dreams is the way they’re presented. Lim uses purposefully baroque watercolors that draw from a fresh, warm pallette that conveys a sense of youthful hope. Zun is given a look of eternal innocence while the evil minotaur looks consistently imposing and frustrated (with his constant duties, the protagonists generally causing him trouble, and his menial position of power). But besides their subtly humanized looks, the story itself is portrayed in amazing cathedral-esque panels, breaking each image into an intricate puzzle of picture shards (these come into play later as an in-panel cage, and suddenly a whole extra layer of metafiction is introduced). If you’re on the fence about this book, grab it from the shelf and open it to the first page to see a stained glass mosaic of ornately shaped panels that all make sense with a little bit of reader effort. It’s just a stunning thing to look at.
This brand of fantastical doesn’t organically click with my sentiments of anchored realism, but the emotional purity that seeps through the cracks of each panel is so sincere and powerful that it’s impossible to deny the viability of this work. There is love between these characters and love put into them, and those are probably the two most important factors to making a story work. Rios and Lim are building (on) an epic. Their beginning is bold and soft, but it is also powerful.
Written by Emma Rios.
Art by Hwei Lim.
8.5 out of 10