In Crone #4, from Dark Horse Comics, all Bliss wants to do is return to her home and die in peace.  But the return of Vor the Lion unveils a hideous secret, one that will ravage Gaspar the Rogue’s family, and call into question everything Bliss ever thought about her past.  Will Vor convince Bliss to be his queen, or has Bliss one more ace up her sleeve?  Find out in your Major Spoilers review!

Crone #4 ReviewCRONE #4

Writer:  Dennis Culver
Artist: Justin Greenwood
Colorist: BradSimpson
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Editor:  Brett Israel
Publisher:  Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
Release Date:  February 5th, 2020

Previously in Crone: Bliss was once the greatest sword-maiden of her generation, taking on and defeating the dark lord D’Kayde, with the aid of her liegemen Vor the Lion and Gaspar the Rogue.  With victory, comes the peace, and Bliss hoped to return home with her love, Ella.  But life isn’t a fairy-tale, and neither is the fate in store for Bliss.  Now, decades later and nearing the end of her life, Bliss comes face to face with her past, in the most horrible of ways.

A SERVING OF REVENGE

There’s a hint of the #metoo movement in Crone #4.  In the campaign to defeat D’Kayde, Bliss and Vor have fought, with Bliss beating Vor seven times and securing his continued adherence to her campaign.  But Vor has harbored a secret lust for Bliss, a belief that she is destined to rule by his side as her queen in a kingdom he will forge.  Bliss refuses his advances in the most cutting way, exerting her agency and desire to be free to choose her own mate and life.  Vor’s sullen agreement to allow her to leave masks a rampaging ego and belief in his own destiny that will see him pursue her down the decades.

Crone #4 looks backward as well as dwelling on the present as it explores Vor’s madness and Bliss’s refusal to go along with his insane plans.  It looks at the purposelessness of revenge, how Vor’s need to fulfil a destiny has led him down byways and paths that indicate his growing insanity.  How that need to be a somebody contrasts with Bliss’s desire just to live her life by her own lights, to return to a normal existence free from grand themes and epic adventure.  Crone #4 is indeed an interesting commentary on the tropes of epic fantasy, where the heroes are bigger and better than the humans around them, where the stakes are end of the world level, and where the victories are greater and the defeats far worse, than anything experienced before.

Writer Dennis Culver handles all these elements deftly, weaving a story that is not only exciting, but if the reader digs a little deeper, a thought provoking critique on a genre and a smart use of sexual harassment in a fantasy setting.  At times he might hammer home his points, but his overall depiction of Vor as a monomaniacal crazy man is compelling, as is Bliss’s noble suffering and contempt for those such as Gaspar, who have betrayed her.

FANTASY ART

There’s a lot to like about Justin Greenwood’s artwork.  The flashback scenes have a different feel to the present day – the artwork is somewhat similar, evoking the feel of a simpler time when everything was in black or white and the world had no shades of gray.  Flash forward and the more complex emotions and characterisation is rendered in more refined, complete art.  There’s something compelling in seeing Vor’s more Conan-esque visage in the earlier scenes evolving into the licentious, spoiled killer in the present day.  Bliss’s older form is no less vital – her lushness has been debrided down to a lean, mean killing machine, all skin and bone, but no less lethal for the ravages of age.  Greenwood’s art shows that storytelling doesn’t have to rely on words or narration – it’s the use of art that makes comics a unique form of communication.  Strip out the word balloons and most of Crone #4 would still be a comprehensible experience.

BOTTOM LINE:  DEEPER THAN IT LOOKS

Crone #4 takes a hard look at the way people change over time, and how those changes impact others around them.  Vor is a compelling monster, a big man with such a fragile ego he trusts not to his own abilities to find his fortune, but to an obsessive disorder devoted to a nebulous destiny that might or might not be real.  The ending to Crone #4 also demonstrates Dennis Culver’s ability to surprise, with the last panels upending the entire storyline.  It’s quite the cliffhanger.


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Crone #4

80%
80%
Deep

Epic fantasy with a number of novel twists, compelling characters who shape the plot, not the other way around, and a fascinating critique of a genre in desperate need of close examination, and a clever use of a modern cause in a fantasy setting. Crone #4 has it all!

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  • Art
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  • Coloring
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About Author

Romantic. Raconteur. Kangaroo rustler. Sadly, Rob is none of these. Rob has been a follower of genre since at least the mid-1970s. Book collector, Doctor Who fan, semi-retired podcaster, comic book shop counter jockey, writer (once!) in Doctor Who Magazine and with pretensions to writing fantasy and horror, Rob is the sort of fellow you can happily embrace while wondering why you're doing it. More of his maudlin thoughts can be found at his ill-tended blog https://robertmammone.wordpress.com/

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