Leia Weathington and Zack Giallongo’s “The Legend of Bold Riley” #2 is a fresh, much appreciated voice in epic adventure comics, with an emphasis on the spirit of adventure rather than the burden of the epic. Narrated like a chivalric song and structured like a picaresque, this series injects pre-modern structure with modern warmth and sensibilities. Although the art in issue #2 doesn’t feel quite right for the story, and although Riley’s character arc isn’t smoothly executed, “Warp and Weft” is an enjoyable installment in an excellent series.
The story follows Riley to the Broken Head Moors, where an elderly woman offers her shelter from a torrential downpour. There’s something suspicious about the woman’s weaving, though, and after a few smokes of her pipe, Riley finds herself in a trippy journey through the scenes in a carpet.
It’s a fun premise that includes just enough foreboding hints at the upcoming three-part arc and references to past issues. This may be a sign that “Bold Riley” is moving in a less episodic direction, which has me both excited and concerned. I really do love the use of different artists and contained stories, and it’d be a shame to lose that exciting approach. “Warp and Weft” does a fine job of integrating the two, though, so I’m optimistic.
However, Riley’s great strength as a protagonist is occasionally an issue’s weakness as a story, and that’s the case with “Warp and Weft.” Riley is indomitably bold, capable and always up for a challenge or conversation with strangers, so when Weathington tries to tack on an emotional arc, it just doesn’t read with the rest of the plot. Both this issue and its predecessor open with panels about the death of Riley’s lover in volume 1; both emphasize that the loss has hardened Riley’s heart and saddened her deeply. However, she doesn’t act that way. For example, in this issue, she helps an old woman and trusts a stranger to shelter her and give her drugs. She doesn’t seem utterly changed by her sadness.
Going forward, Weathington will need to decide whether to fully commit to the lovelorn arc. Right now, it reads as two competing editorial desires: one to continue telling an adventure story, and the other to explore the implications of the death. If she doesn’t want to tell a story of trauma – and she doesn’t have to for the series to work – it should be dropped, or at least incorporated in a way that meshes with Riley’s behavior.
Giallongo’s art is bit of a mixed bag, despite excellent pacing throughout. He gets off to a nice start before the storm, portraying the creepy old woman and the rainy moors in a fitting brown color palette and shaky lines. However, when the story shifts to Riley’s journey through the tapestry, his style didn’t suit the subject matter. Things were a bit blob-like and grey, feeling neither fully fantastical nor determinedly drowsy – just somewhere in the middle. With a premise this fun, I’d have liked to see the art get more creative, but Giallongo does have a great sense of pace.
All told, I enjoyed “Warp and Weft,” but it isn’t one of my favorite issues thus far. Even with its flaws, it’s still a pleasure to spend time in this world with this character.