Imprisoned in a tower within the walls of the Pale City, Kroma is believed to be the most evil creature alive. But a chance meeting with the mysterious orphan Zet creates an opportunity for Kroma to escape her cruel fate; that is if they can survive the strange dangers within the city walls and the monstrous threats that lie beyond! Mild Spoilers Ahead
Written, Illustrated & Colored by Lorenzo De Felici
Lettered by Rus Wooton
The Pale City, cut off from the rest of the world has been cursed with existing without color. Every part of it, organic and man made has been thrust into a mono-chromatic scope of shades of whites, grays, and blacks. After many years of living this way, the people within the Pale City have taken on a specific ideology, believing their way of life is the correct way and that there should be no return to the world of color. Using rituals, and a creature known only as Kroma, the city elders continue to pass down these teachings to the citizens making for a guilt-ridden way of life that a young orphan named Zet has been all but happy to be a part of, until a chance encounter with Kroma gives him a vision.
Zet realizes that his vision may lead him to the truth about his mother, and in the grander scheme of things, the truth about the outside world and the Pale City. During the annual ceremony in which the leader of the city unleashes Kroma in a ritualistic hunt, Zet catches a true glimpse of this ‘creature’ and finds that a change is overtaking him. As those within the Pale City believe, many years ago, a man who loved the colors of the world so much thought he could create a new one to compliment the rest, and upon doing so, angered The King of Colors, who not only made the city devoid of color, but looked to wipe out the citizens of the now Pale City, unleashing great beasts to wipe out the remaining survivors. After the encounter during the hunting ceremony, Zet becomes obsessed with learning more about his past, the truth behind the hows and whys of the Pale City, and the truth Kroma; whoever or whatever she turn out to be.
Lorenzo De Felici (“Astonishing Spider-Man”) is taking us on a classic adventure with “Kroma.” It is an adventure similar to many others out there in fiction, but with his very specific spin on elements taken from “The Hero’s Journey” or “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.” Zet is the classic hero who comes from nothing. An orphan within the Pale City with no recollection of where he comes from, who his parents are, etc, he has no established past or history to openly determine what kind of path his life should be on. And yet, when the call to do the right thing is sent out into his little world, his moral compass unwittingly points him squarely in the direction he is needed.
Yes, part of this journey is looking inward in a somewhat selfish manner, to discover who he is and where he belongs, but the longer he is breaking free of his everyday mundanity the quicker he begins to take on the role of a hero. De Felici does an excellent job of implementing the typical angle of everything you know is wrong and using it to great effect in this premiere issue. The way he writes the dialogue and the directions in which he moves the story are used in a way that even when you feel like you know exactly where it is going; as new information is given, you can’t help but be sucked back into the narrative. You may have a general sense of how things are going to play out, but the storytelling is compelling in a way that most readers will find themselves getting taken along for the ride as they understand that it is more fun to briefly question or assume the next step and be a part of the story rather than to pull it apart thread by thread.Continued below
That said, this story is streamlined in a way that makes breaking down the plot nearly impossible. De Felici keeps the blinders on for the majority of the issue, keeping us on track, never allowing for unnecessary details or plot holes to form in which he needs to quickly cover up before we set foot in them. It is a neat and tidy package of the hero’s call to action and not everything is going to spin off in any number of directions, but things may also not play out as one might expect.
Mostly known for his artwork, or dabbling in writing in short form, De Felici is new to this world of having to fully create and write the script for a comic series, even a mini or micro series like “Kroma.” That said, his dialogue is paced well, and has a bit of zip to it, even for being so beholden to the classic fairy tale hero storytelling. He builds this world up and out in a way that sets solid groundwork, history, rules, and an understanding of the universe in a quick fashion. We aren’t here for a history lesson, we are looking for a brief guide to this adventure and, so far, his work delivers on it by all accounts. At 48 pages, “Kroma” #1 is a bit bigger than your average comic book issue and De Felici knows how to fill it out without it getting stretched thin, nor stacking detail upon detail to make this an unbearable slog. He also never feels the need to include a science fiction element to the story (thus far). While I am all for genre blending in any medium, there has been a major push in comics over the last 15-20 years to really keep fantasy and sci-fi together, and it’s nice to get something that mostly feels like it could take place anywhere in space and time, in a technologically devoid era. Is it past? Future? Who cares? It was nice to not have laser spears or vine covered robots and spaceships off in the distance. The medieval vibe really helps sell this city that is literally cut off from the rest of the world.
As co-creator of “Oblivion Song,” De Felici is no stranger to illustrating other worlds and while the setting for this isn’t as crazy as Oblivion, his work on this Pale City and its inhabitants is full of interesting chances and experimental ideas. Especially in the way color and space is played with on every page. His talent for messing with shadows and negative space can not be understated, he is a master at what he does and the creation of the world of “Kroma” is something special. It may have similarities to things you have come across before, but have you seen it like this? Probably not. It’s no mistake that this work should remind us of great adventures throughout literature; the classic fairy tales, the stories set within King Arthur’s court, or the works of Homer, Joseph Campbell, J.R.R. Tolkien, George Lucas, and so many more. I was reminded more than once of Stephen King’s “The Eyes of the Dragon,” a dark adventure with someone locked in a tower in a realm that purposefully calls back to some of those great fantasy authors’ bibliographies. That’s what brings us into these stories, that subconscious pull that grabs us by the heart and the hand with the familiar and then delivers the fresh and exciting details to drive it all the way home for us.
If it’s entire run is as successful as the opening issue, “Kroma” could end up being one of the best creator owned fantasy comics in years.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – When “Kroma” is really firing, it feels right at home amongst the great fantasy adventures.