The Aspen relaunch of the BDI label continues as Shahrazad is released once again to a wider market. The series was one of the last ones that was published by BDI before the rights to its works was purchased by Aspen, and while its concept was an attractive one which presumably was meant to draw in new readers and give a boost to the former company’s profits, it never really fully coalesced into something meaningful. The series features the titular Shahrazad as something more than the famous narrator of the the Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Instead of describing the action she takes part in it, as an immortal character that lives a multitude of adventures across a variety of genres.
While it is a concept which sounds promising – imagine a character that has lived as a version of Maximus, Elizabeth Swan and Furiosa – it ends up being far too confusing. She does play the pirate here, except it is never really made clear where or why the giant bats come from. She is also a gladiator, but the means by which she is thrust into combat is poorly explained, nor is the reason for her to do battle. This shuffles back and forth with the steampunk pirates who have now found an airplane, which is an anachronism of one kind or another. Then back to the arena, then back to the pirate island where there is a giant rhinoceros/crab hybrid, and then back to the arena again. There is a bit of a narrative to hold it together, but it is evidently confusing.
While this might have been the series that could have saved BDI, it is a strange choice for Aspen to republish. The visuals here are fascinating, with an engaging heroine (though maybe a bit too much of the obvious) and with creatures and settings that are full of lush imagery. The problem is that the story never really catches up to it and furthermore almost seems to sacrifice itself in the name of the visual treats. If Aspen really wanted to do well by this series, they would let the creative team have another round of writing it and perhaps give them some guidance, because as it is, this series is lost in its own concept.
Story: Kim Hutchison and Kari Castor Art: Mike Krome Story: 4.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass
Aspen’s rollout of the previously printed Big Dog Ink materials continues with this second issue of Shahrazad. Earlier this year Aspen acquired the rights to the entire range of BDI characters, and in a bit of a surprise move decided to lead the way with this series that left a lot of readers a bit confused. After the story of Shahrazad as told by BDI was a short one and one that was confusing at times as opposed to other BDI properties like Legends of Oz or Penny for Your Soul. Shahrazad might have been the last big push by BDI to establish a mainstream character but based on the first issues it evidently didn’t really work.
As much can be seen from the plot in this story. It is somewhat incongruous as the titular character is taken through a sequence of almost non sequitur events, some of which transpire in the past and some of which occur at present (whenever that present it?) The underlying concept behind this series is a fascinating one, that the narrator of the One Thousand and One Nights became an immortal and lived not only her own stories, but the stories of many others, across multiple genres and time frames. As shown here the majority of that focus is on her time as a pirate, even if this is poorly explained as it deals both with mermaids and giant flying bats among other parts of its story.
The underlying concept behind this series is also where it gets lost. The character and setting are never really explained and thus as numerous flashbacks are shown to other times and places it is hard to put together the story of the overall narrative as the mixing of genres and inspirations is hard to keep track of. If there is one thing to be said for this issue it is the artwork, which is unfortunately far more enticing than the story. For instance, the second page tells a story in itself through a relatively simple presentation of the main character. Interestingly enough, there is also one scene which is fairly exploitative, but the writer addresses this in the comments at the back. The art ends up being the best part of this issue, which is a shame because of the story was a bit more logical is its approach, the art might compensate for the muddied approach. As it stands though, this ends up being confusing, and raises again the question why Aspen led with this particular BDI property.
Story: Kim Hutchison and Kari Castor Art: Mike Krome Story: 6.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 6.7 Recommendation: Pass