Review: Arclight #1

cover of Arclight #1“Oh my god, this is beautiful”- me, aloud to myself upon viewing the new comic book Arclight by Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland.

Arclight is part of a 4 issue mini-series within 8House, Graham’s new comics universe for Image. 8House is a brand new inter-connected, fictional universe by a singular creator and his equally singular crew of talented artists whose styles stray far from the tired (and usually ugly) house styles of other publishers. Graham’s crew are building quite an innovative fantasy world together with their own aesthetics and language. They are inventing a new flavor of fantasy world.

From the press release, “ARCLIGHT will bring readers the chilling story of a high-ranking lady of one of the houses who has her mind trapped in a monster’s body. She will soon learn that the monster trapped in her body has taken over her old life in her absence.”

Arclight’s world is preoccupied with blood which is considered precious and is essential for magic but is also used as a form of identification. A reoccurring theme this far is switching bodies and transforming bodies. A Lady is transformed into a creature made of twisted tree roots. An animal that looks like a magical sea slug is merged with a storybook goose.

In issue one, this book is setting up a magical mystery story. Everything in this issue is en-media-res, and you just roll with it.

The atmosphere of the book — the look and feel of its colors and even how light itself is portrayed on the page are central. I love how Churchland draws hands– you can see the bones inside them. I love how she draws skin– it has texture but it seems to glow. And I love the clothes she invents– where can I buy them?!

The back of the book includes a glossary of the symbols used in the art — a runic alphabet. We also get 1 page of Graham’s own art showing part of the story from the perspective of a farmer.

The official description of the book states it is about a woman who’s mind has become trapped in the body of a monster. That feels heavy with symbolism. And the knights who surround her wear etherial gowns and address each other as “sir”.

So, are the characters in Arclight transgender? 

In an interview with Churchland a journalist calls the knights genderqueer and the artist didn’t challenge that description. They look androgynous to my eyes, are referred to as “Sir”, wear sheer gowns, some have breasts, some don’t, and they all have ambiguous names. Until I’m told otherwise I’ll use the pronouns their/her/his to refer to them.

In the world of Arclight, for all we know, genderqueer could be the most common gender. Maybe it’s just the norm for members of the knight caste? Maybe, these characters have a completely different relationship to gender then we can even imagine. And after last week in particular that’s pretty fucking cool. 

What is an Arclight?

I had assumed it was a form of theatrical lighting because it sounds like one. There are theaters that go by that name. But the actual term is an arc lamp which wikipedia says is a gas discharge lamp. It produces light by an arc between metal electrodes through an inert gas in a glass bulb. In other words it’s a light that is a bit steam-punk. This comic is far far more unique then anything steam-punk. So let’s pretend I didn’t look that up.

Story: Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland Art: Marian Churchland and Brandon Graham
Story: 8 Art: 9.5  Overall: 9  Recommendation: Read (and also frame it)

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review