PrimordiaNot unlike the thin slivers of clothing worn by the green-skinned elven princess whose agency-free romantic vacillations provide the book’s initial conflict, Primordia is full nearly to bursting. The book’s diaphanous pretense of narrative structure neither supports its voluminous amalgam of ideas as they strive for respectability nor allows those ideas to spill forth into a riotous bacchanalia of pulpy fun. Author John R. Fultz and artist Roel Wielinga attempt to bridge the gap between J.R.R. Tolkein’s epic myth and Robert E. Howard’s lurid sword and sorcery, but end up bogged down somewhere between the two shores.

The story begins when a pair of cavorting satyrs discover twin human babies within the elves’ magical forest. With the permission of the elf king, the female satyr raises the boys, whose extraordinary natures soon shine through. Alleyar, who wakes and sleeps with the sun, grows to be a great hunter with power over flame. Driniel, who sleeps during the day and roams the forest at night, unlocks the secrets of a mysterious shadow magic. The brothers woo the same elven princess, found warring kingdoms, and then get dragged into a bloody power struggle between a pantheon of Greek-inspired gods.

This book is chock-full of traditional elements of fantasy and mythology, often presented with some interesting variation from the norm, but we’re pushed from one plot point to the next too quickly to discern the motives of either the characters or the author. There are some glimmers of promise that might have come to fruition if treated differently. If the plotting weren’t so slipshod Fultz may have been able to play up the grand fates and classical pantheon for something more stately. Or if the book didn’t take itself quite so seriously, the mass of swords, loincloths, and bosoms could have been the foundation for the sort of breathless tale of adventure that can support a plot of dropped threads and ninety degree turns.

Wielinga’s art is unquestionably vibrant, with a bright and varied color palette and a lot of flash and fire. However, the sheer exuberance of the art, combined with Weilinga’s use of lots of small lines to define space and shape, leave many pages cluttered and confusing. He certainly achieves a few striking images and I give him credit for having a distinctive style, but his visual storytelling still needs some refining.

A bit more time, care, and polish would be welcome throughout the book. Both Fultz and Wielinga demonstrate inspiration and vision. Hopefully future works will temper that raw energy with a bit more technical mastery.

by John R Fultz
Art by Roel Wielinga
ISBN: 9781932386264
Archaia, 2011

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