In “Brass Sun” #2 by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard, Station Master assigns Conductor Seventeen to accompany Wren in the Rails into The Keep, where they become immediately entangled in the civil war between the Scarlet Duke and his sister the Grand Dame.
Edginton and Culbard’s world-building is exceptional. The first four pages of “Brass Sun” #2 are styled as a conversation but the dialogue is primarily a lore-telling by the Station Master. It’s an information dump, but Edginton’s diction contributes to the tone of the story, Culbard’s art make it pass quickly, and the rest of the world is smoothly revealed through action and dialogue. The pacing doesn’t feel rushed, even though Edginton introduces a new setting and several more people in “Brass Sun” #2. All the characters are vivid and memorable, although some of them are caricatures of English feudalism, like the conservative and bloodthirsty Scarlet Duke who exclaims “Hah! Consideration, begad!”
While the Orrery has great texture, the characters don’t yet have the same complexity. The world-building is still out-pacing the depth of characterization. Wren and Conductor Seventeen are developed a little more in “Brass Sun” #2, including a conversation at the end in which Wren gives him a real name, Septimus, but they don’t feel like flesh and blood just yet.
The Orrery is a steampunk creation, a clockwork sun set in a world that speaks exaggerated Victorian-era English, but Edginton enriches ideas borrowed from mythology and influences like Mervyn Peake’s “Gormenghast” epic. The quest structure, with a hero who must save a dying world, is classic, but the execution is original. The action doesn’t have a single boring moment, and there are several plot twists hinging on betrayal. With all the warring institutions, each with their own agenda and hidden motivations, every offer of assistance in the Orrery means a possible but not guaranteed double-cross later on. The level of intrigue in “Brass Sun” is already enjoyably thick.
Culbard’s artwork has excellent facial expressions for the more subtle talking heads scenes. Each character has a distinctive appearance. His linework is flexible enough to handle both action and understates changes of camera angle that aren’t flashy but keep the action nimble. The artist’s backgrounds for the interiors and exteriors of the world of The Keep are stunning. A building with an open mouthed three-headed singer in the place of a chapel’s steeple is not only beautiful, but it graces The Keep with scale and history within only one panel. Culbard’s art gives this imagined culture and society a level of dignity and reality that would be difficult to achieve otherwise. His coloring approach seems to begin dominant color for each scene, with accent colors to highlight details. The olive green of the park grasses and the tangerine orange of the sky are particularly subtle and memorable.
“Brass Sun” #2 is worth picking up just for the masterful exposition and art. If the rest of Orrery is as well-built as The Keep, readers won’t be able to put the series down.