In “The Spire” #1, Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely take the best parts of their previous work and combine it into a new creation that is packed with unique character designs and visual charm, with clever designs in the lettering and a script that may take a reader a few moments to adjust. Once they do, readers will discover a world rich with ideas, something of which the writer has never been lacking.
The opening issue follows ShÃ¥, a police officer in a desert construct/monarchy for which the book is named. Spurrier’s familiarity with Mega City One and the caste system there allows the writer to quickly establish the various strata of the new world with more efficiency than would be expected in a story trying to introduce both a complex world and a compelling protagonist. ShÃ¥’s gruff exterior belies her loneliness as the last of her species, which extends to her desire to connect in real and intimate ways with her lover, who she also keeps under wraps. As she’s pulled further into a murder that affects the highest offices of the Spire, she also finds herself being dragged into the darker parts of the construct.
Stokely expertly handles the see-sawing between worlds in both design and environment, giving readers a clear sense of where in the world they are through his work. It’s gritty and detailed, fitting for the alternate desert reality. There is some vintage manga influence in his faces and reactions, as he strikes a unique balance between Japanese, American and European storytelling that blends well. Spurrier and Stokely switch tones through the tale and match with pacing and storytelling style; what is an action romp turns into a suspenseful thriller and the creative team goes from full-on action to just-off-panel menace, knowing just what information to deliver for maximum impact. Colorist Andre May works just as hard, cooling and brightening the color palette as the story travels up the Spire. May’s work is particularly excellent during the brief scene in ShÃ¥’s bedroom, using the sunset to gently hue the post-coital peace in gradient tones.
Letterer Steve Wands puts his mark on the book as well, as the font in the balloons shifts as the person speaking it changes their accent or tone. As ShÃ¥ whispers an insult under her breath, the dialogue switches to a hazy gray font; as a group of Antiki-Talk Punks dress and rhyme in a Shakespearean manner, the font becomes antiqued, reminiscent of script associated with the colonial era of Britain or the United States. Some of these shifts happen within the same balloon, and it’s never jarring and only helps to display aural changes. It’s a great idea and, with Wands’ abundant work at the larger companies, it’s a head scratcher that this device isn’t used more often.
There’s a lot to like in “Spire” #1, but so much is happening that it’s hard to connect right away. Spurrier does a great job of organizing the story and making it flow well, but it’s a problem of volume. The good news is that the team is clearly invested in this world and this story. As ShÃ¥ continues to work the Spire, it’s easy to see how she can easily grow on readers. As an opening chapter, it’s still putting in the necessary work to give readers the chance to sink into this character. “Spire” #1 is a promising start to a new world and a great effort by all involved.