Review: Legend #1
“In a scant 21 pages, Sattin and Koehler have made me care more about a new cast of characters than those in long-established series on the newsstands in quite some time. And I want to know ‘what’s next.'”
Publisher: Z2 Comics
Writer: Samuel Sattin
Artist: Chris Koehler
Release Date: Wed, May 4, 2016
The Road, based on Cormac McCarthy’s tale of a post-apocalyptic Earth, is a difficult film to watch. Its grey tones, an intentional stylistic and narrative choice in order to set mood and atmosphere, wheedle their way into my heart and pull my emotions this way and that. The dying man and his son, making their way across an America in winter, trying to “carry the fire” of civilization, produce a cauldron of anticipation in the maw of my stomach that stops short of my throat.
But every time I catch The Road on TV, I inevitably watch it. I want to know what’s next for the world. And I want to see the man and son carry the fire.
That’s why I was already hooked with writer Samuel Sattin and Chris Koehler’s Legend #1, out today from Z2 Comics, before I even saw the first page of the book. The yarn the two have spun is a post-apocalyptic tale of carrying the fire of civilization long after it appears that this world has given up the ghost. However, instead of humans stewarding “what’s next,” canines and felines pick up where a decimated humanity left off. Cats and dogs attempt to rebuild what they can of a fallen civilization.
My wife and I have two basset hounds. Without sounding condescending, if you’ve never had a pet, you might never fully appreciate how intelligent dogs and cats truly are. Otto and Igor know our moods, become exuberant and excited when we’re happy, come to comfort us when life is heavy. They’re sneaky, tricking me into giving them second breakfasts when I’m groggy and have forgotten about their 4AM feedings, and have made it necessary for certain foods to be placed in certain cabinets because the pair can open doors. The trust we place in one another is unshakeable, produced by an understanding that is only there when a keen intelligence is present.
Storytellers have tried, with varying degrees of success, to capture that intelligence in the framework and personalities of the animals themselves. The best exemplars we have are Watership Down and Brian K. Vaughan’s graphic novel Pride of Baghdad.
That is, until Legend joined their ranks. Sattin recognizes not only that intelligence, but that dogs have personalities uniquely their own, something that lesser animal-driven tales trip up on, instead lazily placing blanket personality templates on whole swaths of animals. By contrast, in Legend, different breeds have different personalities, and individual animals within those breeds vary. Their reactions to adversity and sadness—as when their leader Ransom is murdered—are alternately refreshing and heartbreaking.
Those reactions are what made me come back to the book time and again prior to writing this review. Dogs remember when they’ve been given love and recoil at memories of pain and cruelty. When the dogs in Legend discuss the long-gone humans, their responses are indicative of their interactions with Earth’s absent stewards and their opinions of their masters. Some of the cast’s trepidation at waging war on the Endark, Ransom’s murderer, is revealing in and of itself, not just of their personalities, but hinting at their pasts as well.
It’s a testament to Koehler’s art abilities that he makes every page have a narrative sense that is readable, but tailors it to the cast of Legend. When the dialogue between characters is measured and calm, that stillness is reminiscent of dogs lounging serenely in the sun, despite the darkness of the events swirling about them. However, there are times in Legend when the dogs become agitated with one another, and the erratic (yet still readable) chaos on the page reflects that discord. In depicting their gait and demeanor, Koehler never forgets or lets the reader forget that these are animals, but he also doesn’t let their distinct personalities become subsumed in the process.
Legend #1 is a slow burn and, largely, is stage-setting, as many number one issues are. However, in a scant 21 pages, Sattin and Koehler have made me care more about a new cast of characters those than long-established series on the newsstands in quite some time. And I want to know “what’s next.”
Legend #1, written by Samuel Sattin with Chris Koehler on art, is on sale now from Z2 Comics.
From the official issue description:
What if a biological terror agent wiped out most of humanity, and our domesticated animals were left in charge? How would our dogs and cats set about ruling and rebuilding the world? Ransom, the leader of the Dog Tribe, has been murdered by a creature known as the Endark. An English Pointer named Legend reluctantly rises to lead in his place, vowing to kill the monster once and for all. From acclaimed novelist Samuel Sattin and award-winning illustrator Chris Koehler comes LEGEND, where cat technology rules, dogs partner with hawks, and humans may be the most beastly creatures of all.
Also check out the trailer for Legend #1!