Fame! Fortune! A map to pirate treasure! What more could a couple intrepid adventurers like Pogo and Rex want? Tentacles perhaps…or maybe not? Take the jump for the Major Spoilers review of Ruinworld #1 from BOOM! Studios.
RUINWORLD #1 (OF 5)
Writer and Artist: Derek Laufman
Letterer: Warren Montgomery
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: July 11, 2018
Ever had one of those days where things don’t go quite as planned? You can’t remember anything important. You accidentally summon tentacle monsters. Your new treasure map gets stolen. What else could go wrong?
ADVENTURE AND CONFLICT ABOUND
In RuinWorld #1, Pogo and Rex are a pair of adventurers following a treasure map and exploring ruined keeps, hoping to find more treasure. Rex (a fox) is clearly the fearless one, but he’s getting tired of doing all the work, so he makes Pogo (a pig) explore Rygone’s Keep. This is an all-ages book, so the pacing is a mix of a longer story arc punctuated by short gags. There’s nothing wrong with that – while Pogo losing his lunch when he sees something gross is not aimed at me, I could totally identify with the stair-climbing gag. Pogo finds a treasure chest, sealed with an enchantment. He calls out to Rex, who is enjoying a nap, for advice. Turns out he would need a spellbook. How fortunate – he just happens to have one he apparently stole. He finds out the enchantment’s symbol is that of Koolu the Destroyer, and as he learns the three words he needs to break the enchantment, he trips and loses the book. Indeed, Pogo is the nice, but rather hapless, one of the two. He escapes with the treasure chest, but not without letting loose a giant tentacle monster. (Aha! So “Koolu” is indeed a nod to Cthulhu, much to my delight!)
Rex is quite the fighter, hacking off tentacles with maniacal glee. He orders Pogo back to town for help, but Pogo has forgotten which way town is. A last tentacle grabs Rex, who loses his sword. Pogo may be hapless, but he is a good friend. He gets Rex’s sword and grabs his hand to keep him from being pulled into the pit. Rex slashes the last tentacle and frees himself. Then he tries to open the treasure chest with no luck, even breaking his sword. Of course, Pogo happens to have a skeleton key that he forgot about. What’s in the box? A new treasure map. Pogo may not be able to remember anything useful, but he recognizes the island on the map from his Grampy’s stories about Rygone the Dark Pirate.
Then another adventurer, Barri (a bug), happens by, looking to share camp with them for the night. He’s been beaten up. Pogo takes pity on him; Rex doesn’t like him and can’t wait for him to leave. We get a flashback to Barri’s story. This is a world of anthropomorphic animals, but there is a notable prejudice against bugs. We see a bug vendor in town selling smaller bugs for food. Barri is in town to meet someone, and he is kicked out of the shop around to the back entrance. Barri is presented as a mooch and a hanger-on, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. He’s in a tough spot. He owes a gang a bunch of money or treasure, and hasn’t found any. He has three days to come up with the dough, or his legs get thrown into the cookpot. It is no wonder that morning after he meets up with Pogo and Rex, he is gone, and so is their new treasure map.
The characters in RuinWorld #1 have some serious things at stake. I like Pogo; he is kind, although he can be frustrating. Rex is irascible and all action, not my favorite kind of person, but it is fun watching him fight. And poor Barri. He’s not all that likeable, but like I said, he clearly has a tough backstory and he’s in a bad spot. I don’t like that he’s a thief, but we understand that he is desperate. It’s a rather sophisticated blend of serious story and outright gags.
HOW CAN THIS WORLD BE BOTH GRITTY AND FUN?
RuinWorld #1 is populated with a wide variety of animals. As we would expect, the art tends more toward cartoon-like, which is fine. In fact, with some of the sight gags, realistic art would not work. And as such, the facial expressions can be dynamically exaggerated which enhances the flavor. Pogo in particular, as our innocent, has the best downcast faces. The fight scenes do a good job showing tentacle-fighting action. We see some neatly chopped tentacles and a bit of green ichor; as an all-ages book we don’t see tons of blood. (Or blood-equivalent, as the case may be.
The flashback to Barri’s backstory shows us more of the world this is set in. Trader Town is a densely populated port in a sort of medieval-looking world. It is crowded, the bully-boys are big and threatening, and the shopkeepers are tough. These few pages really show us how gritty this world is.)
I’d like to make special note of the lettering in this issue. It’s clear, it’s expressive, and it makes good use of larger and colored text for special emphasis of some words. This is used with a lot of variation, and in a different kind of book, it might be a bit much, but in this book it is just right.
BOTTOM LINE: OFF TO A SOLID START
We’ve all read stories of quests and adventures, and this one is decidedly fun. Characters are simple enough for young readers to identify with, but complex enough to be interesting. The story has its laughs but there is a significant plot behind it as well. I think a lot of readers will enjoy RuinWorld #1.