Writers: Robert McKenzie & Dave Walker
Artist: Justin Greenwood
Colourist: Daniela Miwa
Letterer: Simon Bowland
The real aspect that hooks you in with Compass is the art. The first few pages are entirely action based and done really, really well. You can feel the dynamic movement, the tension, as our central character, Shahidah El-Amin, breaks into a castle and then not long after finds herself in a fistfight with Mongols.
In case you haven’t realised historical realism isn’t perhaps at the forefront of this plot which weaves together medieval Wales, Mongols, an Arab explorer thief and an Asian thief. It’s not perhaps the most obvious combination so you’d be forgiven for wondering about the hows and the whys.
We get some explanation as Shahidah El-Amin is after a ring (taken by an acquaintance of hers to the Mongols) which points the way to a mysterious something. The Mongols are also after it because, well, judging by the title it’s to do with finding eternal life?
After the excellently arted fight (the character movement, expressions and colouring is well done indeed) our heroine gets caught in a river and ends up chatting to some local Welsh folk who are suspicious of a woman who can read (medieval times also means they aren’t sure they can trust her as she might be English). We find out Shahidah has a letter from a local priest, but how, why, and whether or not she knows Welsh? are questions that aren’t answered yet, we’re only in the first issue after all.
Personally I took the book not as an accurate reflection of history (because it isn’t) but as a fantasy land that happened to have the same names as some places and peoples in this reality. For me it reads more like a fantasy than anything historical but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
I will say props to the lettering. It conveys the different languages spoken and the tone of the speech pretty darn well too. It’s really nicely done and the variety in the dialogue makes it interesting.
Overall there’s some setup but as with most first issues there’s also plenty more to come. I really did enjoy the dynamic and fun art and hopefully we get more of that. I am not as convinced by the mishmash of cultures and plot (it’s the archaeologist in me) but it is nice to see a capable, Muslim, female protagonist.
On the Indiana Jones scale of artefact stealing protagonists it’s not a Crystal Skull but isn’t quite a Last Crusade either (eternal life themes notwithstanding).