Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.
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The final issue of Boom! Studios The Spire has hit the shelves and our contributor, Darryll Robson, delves into the plot twists of this fantasy whodunnit.
Please note the following review contains major spoilers. Please read the comic first.
The end is near and Sha knows it, she can feel it in her bones and tendrils. She sets a trap to catch the killer that has been stalking The Spire but time is a constraint. The Zoarim are marching on the city and tensions are running high. The creators use all of their skills to keep the reader on the edge of their seats from the first page to the last.
A chase sequence between Sha and the killer is interwoven with images of the ominous, silent army as it closes in. The trap is nearly a failure but this itself gives Sha the final clue she needs to work out exactly what is going on and who is behind it all. Firstly she has to deal with the killer, or rather the weapon used to kill. This turns out to be Rikkit and their fight is as much verbal as it is physical. Sha uses the opportunity to sound out her theories and distract Rikkit from trying to kill her but it’s not an entire success. Yes, it reveals how he was able to kill and remain in plain sight from issue 1 but he’s no fool and isn’t the slightest bit distracted.
At the crucial moment, when the fight is going against Sha, Pug comes to the rescue. He piles out of an air duct and barges into Rikkit, forcing both of them to plummet to their death. A hero and truly great character is taken out of the picture and the shadowy image of Sha stood at the bottom of the tunnel is a fitting epitaph.
Captain Sha still has to face the true villain of the piece, the mastermind behind the killings but even then not everything is as it seems. Sha confronts Juletta, her anger almost consuming her as she forces the matriarch to confess. But when the confession comes it includes certain histories not only of the Pact but also of Captain Sha herself; or should that be himself? The biggest twist yet to the tale, and the one that no reader could surely see coming; Sha used to be the male lover of Juletta and Tavi is their daughter. Just before Tavi’s birth Sha underwent a Soulbreaking which changed her body and removed her memories. For her it was a new start but the results of her actions were still there, a dark secret kept only by a few.
The Zoarim are stopped via a cunning plan that Sha had implemented earlier. An explosion at the heart of their army not only stopped the invasion but also make it appear that the Sculpted have saved the day thus endearing them to the rest of the Spire.
And in high in the tower another sacrifice is made to save the name of the Barony and restore order to the city. In the end the people are united, stability returned and Proud Stands The Spire.
There are many twists and revelations in this final issue and Simon Spurrier piles on the jaw dropping moments. His script is tight and very well paced, eking out pieces of information and placing all of the final pieces of the jigsaw into place. By the time you reach the end, everything will finally make sense but you’ll have to recover from the emotional distress before it will sink in.
Spurrier has spent the best part of a year making the readers fall in love with these characters and the emotional roller-coaster in this final issue is testament to just how good the previous issues were. Without the bond that the reader has with the characters, the revelations and character’s sacrifices would be meaningless.
There are too many moments in the comic that will take your breath away to mention them all here. Pug’s death is heroic and just. An excellent comedy character who becomes something so much more, he becomes a martyr and a saviour. The panels where he drops down the shaft are outstanding with a clever use of dialogue. It’s brief but personal. Sha can see that she can’t help Pug so tells him exactly what he needs to hear, then there is barely any sound as the character falls away, out of reach and out of time. The horror on Sha’s face is spot on and as mentioned above, the panel with Sha in shadow is a moving moment in time. There are two mournful panels side by side which cause the reader to slow right down and take stock. This is comic book story telling at its best. There is nothing you, as a reader can do, you are totally in the hand of the writer and artist.
Comment also has to be made about Sha’s origin story. Her life is tragic from the start and this had been hinted at previously but even Sha didn’t really know why. The realisation that everything that has happened is in some way her fault is a massive blow to her but the trauma doesn’t stop coming. Spurrier holds nothing back as he adds transgender to hee evolving character. In this origin story the writer is reminding the reader that not everything is black and white. Even though the villain has been outed we can’t just accept that Juletta is to blame for everything. People are neither saints nor demons. Everyone has a part of them that they want to escape from. This is a theme not just for fantasy but also crime which has a large influence on The Spire as a whole. Often the perpetrators of a criminal act are doing so as a way to escape part of their lives: a crime of passion if you will. Sha commits such a crime when she runs out on her lover and in turn Juletta commits further crimes to protect her family.
The art work by Jeff Stokely is spot on as usual. He manages draw the reader through the panels effortlessly even as he shifts from wide, all-encompassing scene setters to tight, claustrophobic close ups. Raw emotion floods from the panels and in some cases spills out across the gutters to really draw attention to the suffering. The entire thing has a theatrical feel to it. It owes as much too classic Shakespearean plays as it does modern comic books. The Zoarim hoards are shrouded in stage smoke and the sets are simple to emphasis the narrative. This is a visual medium and Stokley’s work captures the tone of the narrative, shifting as it needs to as the reader is led through this exceptional story.
Simon Spurrier is on top form at the moment and he is working with some very talented artists. Spurrier and Stokley are perfectly matched for this title as they deliver a stunning finale to an exciting murder mystery story.
Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he might use his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson
A fitting end to a fantasy mystery story that has kept the readers guessing. One of the most engrossing comics of the year.