Crowded bar tonight

Publisher: Vault
Writer: Brian Schirmer
Artist: Elena Gogou
Colourist: Rebecca Nalty
Letterer: Andworld Design

You may recall we covered issue #1 of Quests Aside in our May Round-Up. We all liked it. It was a good book. So what about issue #2? Well, the beauty of issue #2 is that we already know who the characters are so we can now start to get to know them a little better. We delve into various pasts, mostly Barrow’s, but we also get glimpses of Ray’s and Jodan’s. There’s also some emotional developments with Zuzanna.

It’s a lot easier this issue to focus on a few of the characters. The cast of characters seemed rather large and confusing last issue but here we spend a lot more time with individuals and I feel more confident about who is who and what is going on with them. Some of the characters are more memorable than others and Barrow gets the lion’s share of the focus, but it makes sense as he does have a heroic past yet gave it all up for a bar.

There’s still some great humour which was something we liked about the first issue. We open with Boon coming into the bar to recruit four strong men for a quest. I love the idea of him using the bar as somewhere to recruit folk for quests. Barrow asks him to deliver a letter to the king continuing the plot thread from last issue though it’s more of a background thing. I also love the AA meeting – Adventurer’s Anonymous about a bunch of heroic questers who have given it up and yet can’t let go.

Those little touches are fun. I am also still very much enjoying Ray the skeleton and Clive the cleaver as the former loudly complains there’s nothing to cook. It’s one of my favourite sequences as it segues into a flashback of Ray and Jodan basically turning up on the doorstep looking for work. I really want to find out how they ended up together doing that but who knows maybe we’ll find out in the future. We also find out that Zuzanna is struggling with her relationship with Ray as the shine of first being in love is wearing off. Her struggles in that regard provide a neat little subplot running through the back half of the issue.

The main focus is still Barrow of course. We get more tales of his past exploits from Krayn who is hanging about the bar. Then of course there’s the ghostly version of Barrow who we still don’t know much about, Clearly no-one else sees him but why is he a ghost? We see Barrow wrestling with the not so literal ghosts of his past, distracted and not really engaging with his friends/employees. It’s clear that he was a born adventurer but something changed and part of him still wants to do that adventuring. We get some really interesting looks into Barrow even though there’s still much about him we don’t know.

Much of what we do find out is via flashbacks which are really nicely integrated into the issue through the art. There’s Krayn telling tales of Barrow’s past, the flashbacks as the middle panels on the page, with the faded colouring and slightly less detailed art. You can tell its Barrow in the flashback tales but he’s drawn a bit more abstract. Then there is Barrow opening up to the AA group and there’s him sat in the corner of the panel with diagonal panels across the rest of the page showing what he is describing as he runs through some of his heroic feats. It’s a very impactful page, probably one of the best in the issue.

The rest of the art is of a high standard. Whether it’s a bar brawl or just characters at the bar it’s always colourful and interesting. The bar is home to a rich and varied clientele and that is very much reflected in the art. It gives the whole place a distinct atmosphere. An atmosphere that feels very quest-y for the lack of a better word. There’s a nice mix of details too, from the swords and pictures adorning the walls to the candles on the tables and barrels. It’s a lot of fun to try and pick out the detail.

So issue #2 of Quests Aside is as enjoyable as the first, perhaps more so now we know more about who these people are. There are a lot of questions to be picked up in the future – what is up with the ghost? Why did Barrow really give it all up for running a bar? Will Zuzanna stay with Ray? Will Ray ever get to cook with decent supplies? Also more than anything what is up with that last page with Jodan? There’s plenty of questing to come with any luck.

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