Image #1’s are consistently my most anticipated books. Every time I see one on the shelf I have to pick it up, and most of the time I’m completely satisfied. Unfortunately, Reyn #1 by Kel Symons and Nate Stockman doesn’t fall into that group. It might be my least favorite Image debut in the last year.
The book opens with a storybook style narration that describes a group of warriors known as the Wardens. Their singular purpose is to defend the people from the forces of darkness. However, they haven’t been seen in a thousand years. Until now. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A man named Reyn rides in on a white horse to save some farmers from a monster. The man is the first Warden to be seen in centuries and after a pretty uncomfortable scene with the farmer’s daughter, he sets out to wander into a group of antagonists. We’re introduced to Seph and she battles the same group of antagonists. An uneasy alliance is eventually formed.
The book wins no points for originality. A few pages in, I found myself wondering how Symons was planning to subvert these fantasy tropes and make the story his own. The short answer is that he didn’t. The book plays out exactly how you would expect, complete with a female healer and oversized reptilian antagonists. The character of Seph has potential to be interesting, but that potential is squandered in this issue.
Reyn is a boring character. He rides into town on his horse as the mysterious stranger who would rather drink than fight. Unfortunately, he lacks any charm that might win the reader over to his side. The dialogue is stiff and the narration a bit too heavy handed. I think the pacing of the issue works well, but that might be because it unfolds in ways we’ve read before in other works.
Stockman’s art is functional, but I’m not a big fan of the character designs. The villains are goofy looking and the farmer’s daughter seems to be around only for her cleavage. The action scenes have some cool individual panels, but they read more like a series of snapshots than a flowing battle. It’s disappointing, because Seph has some really cool moments.
The entire scene with the farmer’s daughter reads offensively. She’s never given a name or any hints of motivation outside of being ogled. At one point, in an attempt to convince Reyn to stay at his farm, the farmer sends his daughter to fuck him in the barn. That’s the last we see of her, as on the next page Reyn has already moved on. She exists to prove that our hero is virile man and little else. It’s offensive, but it’s also a pointless cliche that adds nothing to the book.
Reyn #1 doesn’t fail because of technical execution, but because it tells a boring story fantasy fans have seen a dozen times. If you’re looking for a stereotypical sword and sorcery book, look no further than Reyn. If you’re looking for something original or a book that takes risks, I’d suggest looking elsewhere.