Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sojourn #8

TITLE: Sojourn #8

PUBLISHER: CrossGen Comics

COVER DATE: March 2002


22 pages


When the initial offering of CrossGen titles came out, I took a pass. The overarching mythology of the sigil ended up turning me off, rather than drawing me in. I just didn't feel like either a) having the sigil shoe-horned in to a title that otherwise didn't need it, or b) reading a bunch of stories with too much editorial control to make sure they all line up to the company fiat.

That didn't stop me from hearing good things that first year, however. So when they announced a second round of titles that were less central to the sigil mythology, I jumped all over it. It didn't hurt that one of the new titles would feature work by Greg Land, who I had enjoyed on Birds of Prey previously. Combine that with a Tolkien-esque world and a quest for mystic artifacts and I was in.

Say what you will about CrossGen as a company (and you can say a lot), but this series was an obvious highlight. Yeah, it was probably a little too Lord of the Rings for it's own good, but it definitely mined a niche that was going unfilled at the time.

You can also say what you will about Greg Land (and you can also say a lot), but this series was before he went balls-out with the lightbox and lingerie catalogs. After CrossGen went bankrupt and this title got cancelled mid storyline, Land ended up at Marvel. It's there that the style of his work really took a turn for the worse, so Sojourn remains the last title were I actively sought out Land's work.

So back to the issue at hand with our heroine Arwyn, and we're still early on in her quest for the fragments of the legendary arrow with which she will bring peace to Middelyn. From the cover, it looks like we're in for a bit of a barfight, so let's get to it...

No title given
  • Writer: Ron Marz
  • Penciler: Greg Land
  • Inkers: Drew Geraci, John Dell, Rick Magyar
  • Colorist: Caesar Rodriguez
  • Letterer: Troy Peteri
Well, the cover is no lie as the issue opens up in the middle of a barfight. Arwyn was apparently tossed through a window in the previous issue, so everything's up to her companion Gareth to sort things out. Needless to say, he's been in a brawl or two before.

They've come to this particular tavern to ask the locals about a rumored dragon who's supposed to be in possession of one of the arrow fragments. They're less than forthcoming, obviously, and just when things are looking their worse for Gareth, Arwyn makes a timely re-entrance.

Firing an arrow from her enchanted bow, she manages to distract the brawlers enough for her and Gareth to make good their escape. Leaving the bar with them is a female patron who was beginning to tell them what she knew of the dragon when the fight broke out last issue.

It's not until after they've put some distance between themselves and the bar that they stop for the night. While dining on whatever local critter Gareth caught, now turning on the barbecue spit, they trade stories about how each of them got to where we are now.

Here's the Reader's Digest version, for everyone keeping score at home.

Arwyn's on a mission to slay Mordath, the big bad in Middelyn, who is responsible for the death of her husband and child. He has now been resurrected and is the sigil-bearer of this title. While attempting to kill him in his castle, she met Gareth. Together, they manage to escape with their lives, but have now become marked for death by Mordath and are continually hunted by his trolls as they search for the legendary arrow that was used to slay him once already, and is rumored to be the only thing that will slay him again.

Their newfound friend, on the other hand, tells them of the legends of the local dragon and where the lair is rumored to be at. The fact that she doesn't really reveal anything personal, combined with obvious distrust that Arwyn's dog has for her, leads one to believe that she is not entirely human trustworthy.

Still, the quest will not be denied, so it's under her guidance in the morning to find the dragon's lair. She leads them to a place called Fayern Gorge and bids them good luck in rappelling down the cliff face, as she has no intention of heading into a dragon's lair.

Once they got to the bottom, it doesn't take long for Gareth to find a gem or two, which makes him think that there may actually be something to this dragon legend. Arwyn is suitably unimpressed, for she has found something a little bit bigger.

They begin to scour the treasure for the arrow fragment, as Gareth hypothesizes that there really is no dragon. It's all probably just a story cooked up by local highwaymen to scare people away from their treasure horde and stolen loot.

Unfortunately for him, that's just wishful thinking.

The dragon didn't get a treasure horde this sizable by being a dummy, and it strikes out at Arwyn to take her, and her enchanted bow, out of the action first.

So we close out this issue that same way it started, with Gareth in way over his head in a battle that he is unlikely to win by himself.


Two things struck me reading this issue that differed from my memories of it.

The first one is the obvious 500 lb. gorilla in the room, Greg Land. Maybe it's just because I'm so jaded to everything that's come to light about his working process, but this issue looked alot stiffer than I remember. I couldn't help but see underwear models throughout the whole issue everytime Arwyn had more than one dialogue balloon to deliver.

Still, there were flashes of greatness, and that's what frustrates me about his work. Take the last half of this book for example. Unless he traced the dragon, which I suppose is entirely possible, this is some of the best stuff I've seen from him. The weakest parts was the figurework, where to put it politely, there was obvious inspiration. Oh well, all art is subjective, so if it works for him and his fans, more power to him.

The other thing about this issue that differs from my memory is how light the drama and tension felt. This was still good, but seemed a little more bland than I remember. It definitely felt Tolkein-like, which I didn't remember feeling this strongly the first time around. Although after Peter Jackson's insanely detailed LOTR films, the bar is admittedly set pretty damn high.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) CrossGen Comics

Related links for your surfing pleasure...
  • Ron Marz's blog, or follow him on twitter
  • A Comic Bloc forum thread about Sojourn. Yeah, it's a couple of years old, but features participation from Ron Marz himself.
  • Kirk, over at The Weekly Crisis, has a nice post up about the history of the CrossGen line of titles

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