You gotta hand it to Ake’s Trial for not wasting any time getting started. Rolling out a title page depicting a man’s reflection, subsequent panels zoom back for the loaded reveal that the reflective surface isn’t water but a dead fish’s eye. Ake’s Trial takes a ship’s ordinary catch of the day and turns it into an issue-spanning metaphor about “seeing is believing,” and how the simple act of seeing something others didn’t can place you on trial. The second outing in Madius Comic’s Viking Trilogy, writer, Robin Jones, and artist, Gareth Sleightholme, are low key delivering a magnum opus of grim beauty that, luckily, still has one more chapter to go.
Much in the same way Amma treated her young charges to tales in King’s Leap, Ake’s Trial presents a father regaling his daughter with stories, after a long fishing trip abroad. The similarities in structure between the two issues make the ways in which they diverge extra noteworthy.
While King’s began in the middle of a story, Ake’s takes it’s time to set-up the relationship between teller and listener. You never knew where you stood with King’s’ Ama, until the end, but Ake’s‘ family ties create a sense of safety and trust that your stomach needs, after meeting dead fish eyes.
Ake’s was the story King’s Leap interrupted, because the children had heard it before. Here Ake is the main event and the reason the young girl wants to hear about him, over the alternate story her father proposes, runs much deeper than familiarity. Like Ake, she’s fighting a jotun called assigned gender roles, tellingly exposed in her dad’s question of, “Have I lost a daughter and gained another matriarch?” In defining the path of a woman as going from childhood to motherhood, he discredits the idea of her pursuing any different kind of life for herself. Her being able to handle the adventures of male warriors is doubted.
Art sometimes peeks at the strength it takes to fight but less often the strength it takes to survive (another great recent example: the Alamo episode of the TV show, Timeless). Jones’ bubble lettering, for moments of authority, add sound, while Sleightholme continues to find exciting angles for his drawings. A scene where father and daughter appear on the edge of a panel, reflecting how a well-told story can envelope you into feeling like you’re actually there, makes for a magical touch. King’s Leap’s fight sequences still reign supreme, and the closing twist was stronger last time, but Ake’s Trial provides riches for new and follow-up readers alike.
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