How do you feel about reading? If you’re relatively keen on it, you’re going to want to look at Memorial. Let’s step back and take a look at what we have. A woman stumbles into a hospital, knowing nothing about her past. Which is a nice prod in the literary intrigue-o-meter. The real magic happens is once Em, as she comes to be known, starts to seek out answers to her stolen past.
I’ll tread around plot points, but Roberson begins exploring the lands of the sisters Memory, Moment, and Maybe. They each have dominion over a certain realm: what was, what is, and what may or may not be. Em comes to uncover that there is trouble in these lands, and through various fantastic happenings, is spirited away from Portland to uncover more. This is when we get back to the reading bit. Every one of these realms is up to its eyeballs in your favorite literary, fantasy, and historical references. Do you want to see Mulan, Robin Hood, Sinbad, and Scathach fight alongside one another? Yes, yes you do. There’s fantastic monsters, and imaginative manipulation of the trends that readers are familiar with. When Em needs help, who could ask for a more understandable companion than Schrodinger’s Cat?
Of course, no comic coverage is complete without giving equal airtime to the artistic arm of the venture. Memorial probably couldn’t have found a better artist than Rich Ellis. He obviously takes Roberson’s directions and runs with them. I’m a little biased, because I love artists that fill up a background with minute detail. There are so many group shots in these fantasy realms. A lesser artist would draw in a couple of bushes, but not Ellis. There are full ships, and huge group and battle shots. So if a script didn’t mention a reference, it’s likely that Ellis just filled in the blank himself. Ellis sells the imaginative world of Memorial superbly with a very practical line. Despite the content he’s working with, he doesn’t try to imbue the sensation of the ethereal in his art. It’s realistic, with a generous dollop of cartooning so you can get a lot of mileage out of a character’s expression. What’s so wonderful about this is that it allows the reader to transfer from reality to magical worlds without blinking. The style is real enough that you trust a Portland street to be in Portland. Likewise, you now immediately know that that griffin is from the land of Maybe.
In Em’s journey, the stakes are higher than in a young readers fantasy. It’s not necessary to have read enough that you catch all of Roberson’s references, but they really help the book come alive. As much as Memorial is a literary lovers paradise, it is also a genuinely captivating tale in its own right. Collected in a 6-issue trade, it nicely rises to the challenge of introducing a complex fantasy universe without abusing the readers’ attention. Even better, in the best of fantasy fashions, Memorial promises there’s more to come.