Compass: The Cauldron of Eternal Life #1
Writer: Robert MacKenzie & David Walker
Artist: Justin Greenwood
Compass, a new series from Image Comics, has just debuted in stores. The book focuses on the adventures of Shahidah El-Amin, a young scholar from Baghdad who seeks an artifact which grants immortality. The plot sounds like a Tomb Raider game but will it be as fun as one? Let’s have a look.
The issue kicks off with Shahidah breaking into a tower in Wales. The heroine of the story is searching for a mysterious ring. Unfortunately, Mongolian warriors are searching for it too which forces Shahidah to escape to a nearby village. That’s the bulk of the story in this issue without getting into spoilers and it’s not that impressive.
The problem with this story is that it leaves out too much information. There’s no backstory for Shahidah or anyone else within these pages. The story focuses more on emulating Game of Thrones than Tomb Raider which in this case is a bad thing. The issue is plagued by constant dialogue about interactions between groups that readers know nothing about at this point. The titular cauldron of eternal life isn’t even mentioned in the issue. The only way to know what’s going on is by reading the Image webpage summary for the issue. This is the start of a five-issue series so the writers aren’t going to have a lot of time to fill in this missing information. A debut issue like this should aim to hook new readers but Compass fails to even try.
Unlike the story, the art for this issue was rather good. The highlight of the issue is the initial action sequence which covers the first half of the book. Throughout the sequence, entire panels are coloured in shades of blue or orange to mimic lighting. It helps create a dynamic and exciting introduction to the book. The characters are also extremely expressive. It’s easy to tell the tone a character is speaking with just by looking at their face. I’d say the art is easily the best part of this book.
The lettering throughout the issue is fairly standard. Bold letters used to make important phrases stand out and good use of onomatopoeia to enhance the action during the first half. Compass also uses text at the top corner of panels to tell you where the characters are. It’s a fairly standard touch but an important one for letting readers know what’s happening. One aspect of the lettering that I hope continues in future issues is the use of coloured letters. Towards the end of the issue, a man is yelling for a priest and the text is entirely in red. It does a lot to highlight the rage of this man and the potential danger the priest is in. A simple touch that added an extra layer of drama to the book.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Compass to new readers. It’s hard to make heads or tails of what’s even happening in the story. The art is nice but you can find better art elsewhere and the lettering is mostly standard fare. The story also feels confused about what it wants to be. At the start, you see what could easily be the opening of an Indiana Jones movie. It’s fun, action-packed, and entertaining. By the end, you’re seeing assassins in golden masks and discussions about house sigils and paperwork. Compass had the potential to be a really fun book. It’s simply held back by poor writing and a clash of styles as it copies elements from multiple popular yet vastly different franchises.
Compass:: The Cauldron of Eternal Life #1
A mediocre book that could’ve been really fun in the hands of better writers. The artwork is genuinely good and the lettering is done to a decent standard. Sadly, that can only do so much for an otherwise disappointing issue.