Saturday, 7 November 2015

Retro Review/Preview: Cannon in the clouds

Writers: Daniel Woolley, Anne Gresham.
Artist: Jorge Donis
Colourist: Kirsty Swan
Letterer: Peter Simeti
Release Date: January 27th 2016

This week I've had the opportunity to look at the upcoming graphic novel from Alterna Press 'Cannon in the Clouds' which is a fast-paced and fun adventure romp from the first panel.

Against a backdrop of floating islands, Sela Windbourne, a rebellious heiress of high society, is plunged into a world of violent conspiracy, subterfuge and swashbuckling.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this sounds a little familiar. Cannon in the Clouda does follow some rather common stereotypes and conventions. For starters you've got the highborn daughter of prestige desperately trying to live life her own way. You've got the impertinent war hero trying to do right by said daughter. Then of course the buccaneering female pirate captain, who is the very epitome of strength. All of this is set against a tapestry of war, conspiracy and rebellion, so it does seem a little tried and tested. 
Honestly though, that doesn't matter. This book knows it's following a certain trend and it has great fun doing it. There's a fantastic series of panels with a tongue in cheek pastiche of famous pirate captains (a particularly obsequious Jack Sparrow is a treat) that had me howling with laughter. 
The writing duo of Woolley and Gresham have laced the script with a fevered enthusiasm that draws you in and keeps you turning pages. The characters are well fleshed out and so despite the familiar conventions, they seem fresh and stand out. You care about Sela's plight and are helplessly drawn to the allure of Captain Avery. To feel this way about characters that quite easily could of just been more listlessly stereotypes churned out onto a conveyor belt, shows the skill that these writers have, making something original and exciting. 
The story moves towards its conclusions without stalling. Occasionally I like a break between my comic reading stints, especially with my young son, separrating each chapter into a readin session. With this book though I struggled to do so, as each chapter ends with such a hook, a cliffhanger, that you can't help but conitinue reading. 

The artwork is lavish, to be frank. The characters are distinct and Donis had a nice, slightly cartoonish style that works well here. Sure there are a few minor inconsistencies, but nothing outrageous or distracting from enjoyment. For me though the scenery is one of the most salient things about the art. This is a story set on floating islands, of great cities in the sky. Donis creates a detailed and beautiful backdrop to take in, filled with detail and ornate buildings and scenery. It's a majestic sight to behold at times. Kirsty Swan's colours match the artwork well with a chemistry that adds to the flow of the book. Swan matches the colours to each individual panel, allowing the tone of the writing to influence the mood of the colours. Needless to say it works well. 
Peter Simeti, the father of Alterna Press, is responsible for letters and does a stalwart job. You almost begin to question if there's anything he can't do. 

So really this is a fantastic graphic novel to delve into. It's well written, well drawn, well coloured and well lettered. Despite the seeming familiarity, that maybe this story has been told before, this isn't the case, this story stands apart from any stereotype. So come January 2016, give consideration to adding this Novell your collection, it would be a richer bookshelf (digital or otherwise) for it. 

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