Zack Giallongo's Broxo is compared to Shadow of the Colossus, Bone, and Elfquest. For sure, if you put those into the shaker, and pour the mix over dry ice harvested from a spooky Celtic backwater, you'd get something much like this excellent graphic novel. But Giallongo's debut is no imitation. It's a a tight, gorgeously-illustrated journey of its own, a story of zombie-chopping action, homesickness and deeply-felt loss.
On a bleak and blasted mountain plateau, barbarian princess Zora searches for a distant clan thought to reside there. Why she searches, so far from her own family, is her own business. But all she finds is Broxo, living alone in the desolation, the last survivor. A friendly but feral teenager, Broxo rides a huge furry beast, eats baked lizards for dinner, and cuts a sharp path through the region's infestation of the walking dead.
The mountain has other, even more dangerous inhabitants, including Gloth, a vicious talking wolf, and Ulith, a sinister witch. Zora's arrival upsets Peryton Peak's uneasy peace, but an unexpected ally puts them on the right track. Broxo's unsocialized naiveté–and her quest–are both doomed from the outset. By the end, though, they find what they were looking for.
Giallongo draws with a loose hand, and the palette is tightly controlled. The result perfectly contrasts the mountain's desolate, subdued landscape against the youthful, bickering exuberance of its explorers. Broxo is driven by instinct and savvy, Zora by reason and fear, but they work well together and know how to handle danger.
The story moves brusquely. Giallongo is decisive, too, ready to invest page after page into quiet scene-setting or tension, yet unafraid to blast through developments at a breakneck pace when they come. Sometimes, I felt this economy tended toward the abrupt, demanding too much of a panel, a facial expression, or a moment of action or grief. I wanted it to linger more, to head a little deeper. This spareness is hard to fault, given all the bloated, soapy fantasy out these, but this book would have borne extra weight well.
Its G-ratedness keeps the monomythic waters a little too clear, too. The draugr-dicing gets repetitive, after a while, and hints of dark, fairy-tale sexuality–consider Ulith's femininity, her tragic interest in Broxo–are sanded Saturday-morning smooth.
A third longer, and I would have found it harder to evict Zora and Broxo from my mind. But the story is so sweet and so sad, and the art so perfect, that I want them back, ASAP, to show me more of Penthos.