The thrill of the Hunt. Something that most convention goers are no stranger to. For many, Conventions, like the upcoming Fan Expo Canada, are a place where fans can get their hands on that “hard to find” item, whether it’s a comic issue we’ve been missing, a celebrity signature we’ve been dying to get, or even a cool story to tell to our fanboy peers. For me, it’s the hunt for that cool new indie comic. What will artists’ alley have in store? Where’s that cool book hiding? It’s a thrill that can be rewarding if it leads to a reading experience that is new and fresh and full of energy. It’s a tough journey and the outcome isn’t always promising. Thankfully, as an editor for a site that reviews comics, I get a bit of a jump start on this hunt before I even hit the convention floor as many indie creators send me samples and preview copies in advance. Some are not worth mentioning and others are exciting pieces of excitement that I feel the need to sing the praises of on this here website. Of Stone is one such book.
With story and art by D.A. Bishop, Of Stone is a glimpse into a mythical land and also a deep character introspection piece. The story focuses on Gan, a rock-like creature who is the leader of a tribe known as the People of Stone. Like Gan, these creatures are completely made of smooth rock. They are big and powerful looking beasts. But to them, it is the humans that live in the villages below their mountain territory that are the true monsters. But their interaction with the world of man is minimal. They stick to their own kingdom and surrounding wilderness. It is in this wilderness that we find Gan, out on a hunt. It’s an annual tradition for him to go into the forest and kill a Vraithunde, creatures who are natural enemies of the People of Stone. It is on this annual hunt that Gan has time to reflect on his position in his kingdom and the events that have lead him to where he is now. Life has not always been easy for him. There have been hardships he’s faced. But the hunt helps him deal with this as this is something he knows he is in control of.
There is a lot going on in the 18 pages that make up this story. It’s essentially a character piece but there is also a great deal of world building. An entire race of people with specific customs and hierarchy are introduced to us in a way that one can absorb their culture and identity. Bishop presents their rich history to us without banging you over the head with it. We can tell that these people are of a traditional hunter colony with a slight flare for the majestic. Gan, who narrates the tale himself, treats us like the intelligent readers we are and explains himself without spelling out every little detail of his past and present. This gives us more insight into Gan as well. He’s large and strong and a warrior but there is more to him than that. Through the course of the hunt, his mind switches back and forth between the task at hand and the things that he and his wife have had to deal with as family and as leaders of the People of Stone. It’s like this hunt is for him to put things into perspective while also reasserting himself as the leader of his tribe. For a giant “rock man”, Gan is pretty deep. His openness to the reader makes it very easy to get invested in his quest.
The art and design of the book is great example of using negative space to it’s fullest. With the right amount of shadow, the world of Of Stone feels vast and mysterious. Over the course of the past year and a half, I’ve gotten to see Bishop develop and improve his art style and was really impressed with how visually pleasing this book is. What’s also well handled is his character definition. It’s just the right amount of detail to Gan’s face and body to display his stone body and make it feel like it really is hard rock. You can see the weight and power in every movement as he jumps down mountains and bounds into forests. The movement is also very fluid and really helps keep the pace tight on what could easily have been a very slow book.
So, if you’re attending Fan Expo Canada this week and you’re on the lookout for an interesting indie book, you might want to find Mr. D.A. Bishop’s table in Artists’ Alley (A313 in the South Building) and pick up a copy of Of Stone for yourself. It will be very fruitful hunt if you do. A very fruitful hunt indeed.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!