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Friday, April 10, 2009

This Week's Suspended Animation - Anne Steelyard: The Garden of Emptiness


Anne Steelyard: The Garden of Emptiness, Act One: An Honorary Man, published by Penny Farthing Press, 96 pages, $14.95.

Most comics fans have somewhere within them that insecure enthusiast who desperately desires to prove the merit of comics as an art form. I manage to keep mine under control for the most part. I hope you do, as well. For those occasions when you are unable, however, I would like to suggest a very impressive work to utilize in proving your point.

Anne Steelyard: The Garden of Emptiness is a graphic novel written by Barbara Hambly. In it, she treats readers to a sweeping epic, the quality of which hardly ever makes it to the big screen, much less your local comics shop.

Into an amazingly well-crafted story rife with archeologically- and supernaturally-based adventure, the author drops main character Steelyard, who is equally enthralling. A young woman from a fine family, she struggles with the expectations which loved ones and high society have of her, while fighting to keep her independence and adventurous lifestyle. It is good fortune, indeed, that Hambly is successful in involving the reader in the adventure. It is also a testament to her talent.

Artists Claude St. Aubin, Alex Kosakowski and Ron Randall infuse Anne Steelyard’s world with every bit of the sense of mystery, excitement and awe that such a tale should host, their realistic styles meshing seamlessly so that the reader is never jolted by a sudden art change. To be honest, I never even realized there were multiple artists until I read the credits..., AFTER reading the story.

Colorist Mike Garcia’s work never overwhelms with garishness, or underwhelms with washed-out hues. His work, like that of the rest of the artisans on this project, is very near perfect.

And the best part of it all? This is act one of three.

Encased in a beautifully painted (and admittedly cheesecake) cover by Glen Orbik, Anne Steelyard waits to be discovered by all but the youngest comics fans.

My only regret is that I never met Gertrude Bell, on whose life the story is based.

Mark Allen

Click the links below for more on Gertrude Bell.

The Gertrude Bell Project


NPR

The Atlantic