Oh, crazy myth mash-ups! Who doesn’t love those?
Primordia came out five years ago or so, but Archaia has a nice new hardcover out and they were nice enough to send it to me, so here it is! This book is written by John R. Fultz and drawn by Roel Wielinga, with nice colors by Joel Chua.
It costs $19.95, and as usual with Archaia’s hardcovers, it’s a really nice package.
As with a lot of comics I find I don’t love too much, I wonder about why I don’t love them, and I don’t love Primordia. I look at it and I don’t see any obvious flaws – the writing and the art are solid – but I don’t see anything that blows me away, either. Fultz tells a story of gods and men and “woodfolk,” mashing up all sorts of myths – it’s easy to recognize the Greek influences in this book, but there’s some other stuff here too. We’re introduced to two babies, who are found in the forest by Philometra, a wood nymph, and raised by her as her own. One always falls asleep at dusk and awakes at dawn, so she names him Alleyar (the word for “sun” in her language), while the other always wakes up at dusk and wanders around at night, falling asleep in the morning – she names him Driniel, which means “moon.” If you think the brothers will be polar opposites and that they will fight throughout their lives … well, you’ve read a myth before. Congratulations!
Fultz isn’t just interested in this, though. As the two boys grow up, they take different paths, naturally, with Driniel gravitating toward darker forces while Alleyar remains a golden boy. Both are strong and powerful, and both fall in love with the same wood nymph – the princess of the kingdom, Vega. Vega is supposed to be representative of the difficulty in choosing pure light or pure dark, but she’s still kind of a weak character – she’s always betraying Alleyar (with whom she falls in love first) and then coming back to him. Alleyar and Driniel are supposed to be two halves of a whole, so that Vega is in love with the totality of the brothers, but it’s still annoying.
As they grow up, the two brothers engage in perpetual warfare, as Driniel is always invading Alleyar’s lands in order to throw down the light.
It’s then that we begin to learn about their backgrounds, as revealed by Neptor, the god of wisdom: two gods were lured by a human sorceress, who had sex with them in turn and became pregnant by both of them. Neither god will acknowledge that he has a half-human son, but Neptor has a plan for the boys – he introduces them to the god-king, Madror, and asks that they receive godhood. Madror becomes so incensed by this that he throws Neptor out of paradise along with the brothers. This seems to be part of Neptor’s plan, as he tries to bring the two brothers together to fight against Madror to overthrow him. It becomes very epic toward the end, as the cycle of gods overthrowing the older gods is a big part of myth, as is the idea of men claiming their birthright.
Fultz doesn’t delve too deeply into the characters – they’re archetypes, after all – and that’s part of why I don’t love the book. Alleyar and Driniel seem to go through their paces – I do appreciate that Fultz doesn’t make either all bad or all good, but they do seem to follow the dictates of the plot rather than any character traits that make them act the way they do. Myths aren’t generally known for having well-developed characters, and that’s fine, but it’s not really my thing. For what he’s going for – a grand story about a rebellion in “Heaven” and the dichotomy of men – Fultz does a good job, but I guess I’m just not his audience.
Wielinga is a decent artist whose style, like Fultz’s writing, isn’t to my taste. It’s very intricate and detailed, but a bit too cartoony for me, and I don’t think it works perfectly with the kind of book Fultz is writing. I’ve been trying very hard over the course of this year to write more about art, but occasionally, you come across something where you think, “That’s just not for me.” I don’t mind Wielinga’s idealized men and women, because this is a myth (the women’s breasts are a bit too high and round for a world without plastic surgery, but other than that, the figures are fine), and he does a nice job laying out pages and with the action scenes in the book.
One thing he and Chua do very nicely is give Driniel and his dark realm a nice, almost photo-negative kind of feel – the creatures are black but the lines delineating their muscles and hair are bright, almost glowing, so they’re set apart from each other and Alleyar’s bright world very well. I don’t know – something about the art bugs me, and while I can recognize that there’s probably too much hatching, for instance, I don’t think it’s that. That’s why I provide scans – so you can see it yourself!
I will say that Primordia does what it sets out to do, and I suppose it’s up to you whether you’re interested in that or not. Myths are hard to do well, because they’re so primal that it really is hard to make the characters unique when they’re so universal. The ideas Fultz works with aren’t new, and because he doesn’t really write this all that subtly, it’s easy to find the stereotypes. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, just that it’s more simplistic than it could have been because of what it is. This is, perhaps, why we don’t often come up with new myths – the ones we have might be good enough! I will Mildly Recommend Primordia because there’s nothing that really leaps out and screams “This is bad!!!!”, but it’s just not something I tend to gravitate toward. Such is life!
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