Friday, June 4, 2010

Review - I Am Legion

I Am Legion: The Dancing Fawn
Written by Fabien Nury; Art by John Cassady
2005 Eisner Winner for Best Penciller/Inker

I should give you a warning up front that this is another instance where I have only part of the story and it is unlikely that I'll ever read the whole thing. I Am Legion started as a set of French graphic albums. DC comics published the first of those albums in the U.S. but in the long delay between the release of the first and second the division of DC which published it folded. Last year Devil's Due publishing broke the albums up into shorter comic books and started to release it as a miniseries but now they're vanishing fast to financial woes.

So I've got I Am Legion: The Dancing Fawn which was the part that the Eisner was awarded for but I haven't read the full story. It's unlikely that I'll get the opportunity to read it any time soon. There won't be a full collection available in the United States any time soon.

As I've picked through the Eisner winners who have won for their artwork I have been almost inevitably annoyed by the story. It's almost like the category was the dumping ground for the pretty but dumb books. That isn't the case here. This is a twisting, complex tale that isn't told in the most straightforward way. It's a story of intrigue and I want to find out what happens next.

In the early days of World War 2 a German research facility in Romania has made a supernatural discovery. There is a creature that lives in the blood, that can spread itself among many hosts, and use them as its puppets. This ancient being is responsible for the legends of vampires and Biblical accounts of demons and the Germans are trying to train it to be a weapon. The British spy network is already in motion looking to assassinate the head of the research project but they don't know exactly what is being researched and someone at the highest level has already been compromised.

I Am Legion is an espionage story and I can already see the hints at the edges of the plots and counterplots as more sides that are immediately apparent play off each other. The portion I have is all set up for that as the players move into position so that things can be overturned, plots collide head on into each other, and loyalties will be questioned as the story progresses. I can't judge it from the first third but I want to see if my suspicions are correct or if Nury has something even more devious in mind.

I did have a problem with the plotting due to Nury switching scenes mid-page with little transition. I would be watching one group of people and then things would suddenly switch to a similar looking group of people who were doing things that on first appearance are still part of the same scene. Since this is a fairly complicated plot the unclear storytelling was a hindrance. It wasn't enough to make me want to walk away from the book; it just made things a bit more confusing than necessary.

Cassady's artwork is nice to look at though I suspect that the Eisner was intended more for his work that year on X-Men and Planetary. He does tend to draw faces and figures for his men too much alike. There's a cast of dozens in I Am Legion and it can sometimes be hard to tell them apart. This book didn't have a lot of action in it which I think works against Cassady's strengths. Still he does a reasonable job of presenting the many talking head scenes that are used to establish things in an interesting way.

I can't really render a final judgment on I Am Legion since I only have one third of the story. As it is I'd recommend it to anyone who likes both espionage and horror stories but that's only assuming they can read the whole thing. You wouldn't want to get stuck like me with only one third of a spy story.