Penultimate Quest

Iron Circus Comics. Aug. 2020. 352p. pap. $25. ISBN 9781945820502.
Gr 8 Up–On a dark and mysterious island, a dungeon lies waiting to be conquered. Day after day, adventurers rush, swords in hand, to fight perilous monsters and foil deadly traps, all for the promise of eternal riches and glory. Death is certain, but the adventurers always come back to life at the entrance of the dungeon. Harry’s companions, the flame-wielding Alma and sword-brandishing Jimmy, are content to pillage and rage, but Harry urges them to consider the reality of their quest. Why are they risking life and limb for an impossible feat? Why doesn’t anyone have memories of their past? Are they in Heaven or are they in Hell? Realizing that the cyclical nature of his task—fight, die, regenerate—is not yielding the adventure fantasy that it promises, Harry embarks on a new quest, one that may be even more perilous. Brown’s epic fantasy imbues traditional role-playing game elements with existential philosophy. His use of ample shading highlights the enigmatic nature of the island, while colorist Bex Glendining takes Brown’s story—initially a black-and-white webcomic—to the next level with a dark palette that weaves between warm and cool colors, emphasizing each character’s unique journey. What begins as a twisty fantasy adventure ends as a call to action, empowering readers to question the status quo and create a world in which we are stronger together.
VERDICT Combining sword-and-sorcery RPG elements with social justice themes, this is a must-have for all collections.

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