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Panel Mania: The Spectacular World Building of ‘The Swords of Glass’

The latest Panel Mania is out and boy is it a good one! Laura Zuccheri's work is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the world building that she and Corgiat have achieved here is first class.

This is a gorgeous book that I've already re-read twice, and would recommend to anyone on the strength of the art alone. It's a 200+ page sci-fi/fantasy epic with strange critters, costumes, and architecture a plenty.

A dying sun, four cosmic swords, and a young girl determined to become a warrior in the name of vengeance. In this alternate world the rich rule over the weak, killing the poor and stealing women. But with the waters rising and the weather becoming more and more extreme, even the privileged find themselves locked in ivory towers to escape the solar wrath.

The oversized deluxe edition of The Swords of Glass (Les Épées de Verre) clocks in at an impressive 212 pages from Humanoids, collecting the complete four books in the series: Yama, Ilango, Tigran, and Dolmon. A chapter for every sword, and all bound in the generously opulent French style.

Once upon a time an artist named Moebius, one of the most influential pop culture icons of the 20th century, founded a comics art group that grew to be the publisher Les Humanoïdes Associés. Publishing infamous magazine Métal Hurlant and plentiful graphic novels by French creative legends, the company also birthed Ah! Nana, an innovative female-led magazine in the late ‘70s.

After troubled times and a resurgence for the industry and publisher, that spirit of equality and diversity is very much alive today in the form of this newly translated epic from Sylviane Corgiat.

The last ten years has been a busy time for the celebrated fantasy and science fiction writer, with Elias Le Maudit (Elias the Cursed) and Lune d’Ombre (Shadow Moon) winning particular acclaim, but it is due to the ethereal and delicate work of artist Laura Zuccheri that The Swords of Glass is such an unmissable treat.

Zuccheri is no newcomer to comics in her native Italy, with multiple contributions to Giancarlo Berardi’s Julia, but collaborating with Corgiat has perhaps given her the most high profile and award-winning platform to date, and Humanoids have certainly done the work justice.

Yama, the young village girl, is our first and main protagonist. In a Conan the Barbarian type intro, the world that she knows is stolen from her in brutal style, driving her to a life of fervent training in the name of vengeance. Unlike Conan and others though, while Yama is uniquely intelligent and hot-tempered, she must also face the additional perils of being female within a barbarian land.

Luckily for Yama she just happens to have been chosen by the sword that fell near her home, and lies imbedded in rock, awaiting her command. Yet the man who took Yama in as his own, and who has trained her all these years, seems to know far more about the sword than he is prepared to tell.

Characterisation is given in broad strokes, with actions rather than words defining the nature of our cast, but flashbacks are well placed when needed to avoid large spoken expositions. The world building is slow and almost sensual, large views are broken down into more thorough and highly detailed panels, and the wildlife and variation on humanoid races is a startling and successful choice.

In a story of fantasy and science fiction, albeit with a timely environmental angle, where vast cities dominate the page with their expert architecture and a theatrical array of superb costumes with shades of Japanese culture and Moebius in influence, it is the sheer beauty of this natural world that elevate the tale into something rather special.

Dense lush forests with strange creatures, spectacularly lit giant humanoid creatures striding across the dusky horizon, endless fields of green that the pig-tiger pet lollops across, even a cute monkey-like critter ably scampering up brickwork… it is rare to find an artist so comfortable with depicting such disparate scenes as well as composing striking character and expressive work. There is something so nostalgic and yet progressive about Zuccheri’s art as she realises Corgiat’s imaginative world, the comic is a pleasure to return to countless times.

Every blade of grass is painstakingly in place, every fantastical creature consistent in each appearance, and all anatomy precisely where it should be. The story is indeed gripping as the tale unfolds and new characters are introduced, but above all, Zuccheri’s work is simply breathtaking.

Read the full preview here: The Spectacular World Building of 'The Swords of Glass'

The Swords of Glass The Swords of Glass

The Swords of Glass

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