Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends ‘Mirror: The Nest’ TP, out now from Image Comics.

Cover to ‘Mirror: The Nest’ TP. Art: Emma Ríos/Image Comics

by Arpad Okay. A dream of a future so distant humanity has moved beyond ideas like body and death. Yet where men are in power, still there are those who sleep on empty stomachs. All of this is Mirror: The Nest, where home is sought for refugees when ancient power sleeps, the stars.

The Nest is a second act, but a fascinating companion rather than a mere continuation of The Mountain. The story moves to the edges of the first narrative and then into its past. Ghosts step into the spotlight and with history comes intrigue. A story about the magic that ties the universe together. An eclipse—new dawn on cursed rock.

It’s a tough read. Dense. Amorphous. Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim aren’t going to explain it to you, but if you immerse yourself in their world, everything becomes clear by the end. Time gives way to theme, past and present dance out a message of who people truly are instead of their usual march of cause and effect. Put in the work, reap the rewards.

Part of the tough is the wildly imaginative post-humanism. Not just animal-person hybrids or future caste androgyny. Magic powers so great bodies become unnecessary, eidolons of rolling surf or night. The memory of one’s face as decomposing landscape.

Ríos and Lim’s art, split between past and present, flow together more subtly than one would expect. Lim’s now is solid if sketchy, call it trembling with life, a gesture more than a declaration, and beautiful in that flexibility. Isao Takahata comes to mind. Lim’s Mirror is drama of people overcoming intense obstacles. But these people are minotaur, harpy, mouse, and kobold made in labs, sphinx and dryad.

Hers are gentle visions of future. The mining planet glows peach skies on coral platforms. The alabaster columns of the school are painted opal blue in twilight. Lim’s soft touch gives the animal-people the humanity denied them by circumstance, the moneyed structures of those who control the universe an air of elegance, a god of balance the quiet substance of pure wonder.

Lim is silver and glass unbiased, and Ríos is the scrying pool. The history of creatures outside our perceivable universe and the space that binds us is as swirling and troubled coming from Ríos’ hand as divinations of a fortune teller.  Frequently defiant of panels, hers is a twisting journey searching for buds blooming in a rosebush of fairy-tale proportions.

Vines, waves, branching crystalline growth weave their way thought the tumble down the page. Children come face to face with beings older than history. We, too, are made to witness the forces outside space, their chess game of survival, expansion, and control. Ríos shows us what raw magic looks like.

Nontraditional storytelling styles applied to genre work. If Image had a connecting thread, this is it, and Mirror is its paragon. But the “nontraditional” doesn’t just mean “of quality,” in this case it is storytelling that eschews the linear model. Explanations come at the end, not the outset, and the path there moves through time like Billy Pilgrim. Genre work, too, gets elevated by Lim and Ríos, who have with this book concluded a sprawling epic of magic and technology, space and humanity, intrigue and politics, violence and passion and ascension.

A creature of limitless destructive power is given a choice, chooses life. This sets it at odds with bureaucratic machinations of mankind, even if we have evolved to occupy nearly every corner of the universe. We failed at our first attempt to connect, The MountainThe Nest is our second chance, made possible by a woman and the community of peers her life has woven together working together. Perhaps also by a god of the scales.

All points past and present are drawn to her, a hero.

Judgment.

One door closes, another opens.

Image Comics / $19.99

Written by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim.

Illustrated by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim.

Lettered by Emma Ríos and Hwei Lim.

Check out this 6-page preview of ‘Mirror: The Nest’ TP, courtesy of Image Comics!

More Required Reading…

‘Die, Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker’ a Romantic idyll of dark deeds and unbroken bonds

‘Twice Fated, Thrice Tried’ a mix of magic and inner DIY strength

‘Grunt: The Art and Unpublished Comics of James Stokoe’ a fierce resource from a raw mind

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