Review: Tales from the Age of Cobra
Writing, Art, Colours & Letters by: Enrique Fernandez
Publisher: IDW Comics
In Tales from the Age of Cobra, IDW have delved into full on sword wielding, middle Eastern tyrants and princesses territory. Having the word Tale in the title is telling in itself as this is very much a yarn that spans years and crosses many kingdoms. It’s also presented as a parable of sorts in that it’s suitably ancient enough for us to feel that it’s teaching us a historic truth or two. Think Prince of Persia meets Aesop’s fables. But the big question is, is this slice of ancient storytelling entertaining by today’s terms?
Plotwise, the story is a classic boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy becomes megalomaniac destroyer of kingdoms, hell bent on reeking revenge on a cruel world, type of thing. The beginning feels the most like a parable with its clunky set up that enables the boy to lose the girl. The remainder of Part 1 mainly consists of our angry protagonist teaming up with the Cobra of the title to bring fire and brimstone to all kingdoms within slicing distance. The writing is consistent in the sense that the sombre, serious mood created in the opening sequences continue throughout. The main difference with Part 2 is that the protagonist falls foul of the deadly Cobra and retreats to follow a new path, one that inevitably will lead him back to his one love. The swashbuckling tropes are kept up even if this makes the book a little predictable. We all know the outcome but the joy may come more in the journey.
As you can see, the art is very cartoony with over the top, stereotypical characters who leave us in no doubt about their intentions. The bad guys are very bad and the decent characters have to be streetwise to survive. This comes with the usual cartoon trappings of surprise lines and playful movement markers. The book has quite a dark look with many sequences taking place at night, in dark corners of the huge palaces we find, or in back streets where shady characters need the cover of shade to conceal their dirty work. While the book does stop short of looking like a full on fantasy extravaganza, there are enough swirling mists and shazaams to give it the feel. The colouring, being quite dark, is overall toned down to match the sombre mood. This allows for some excellent shadowing work with ‘up in the rafters’ character perspectives revealing a fly-on-the-wall narrative in places. Overall, it works well.
My major gripe with the book comes from the over-the-top nudity and sex scenes in the opening sequences. These felt like they wouldn’t have been out of place in the eighties rather than today. I can’t help but feel that today’s millennial readers are a bit more savvy than older readers, and thus want something that also feels more savvy. I guess if readers want misogynistic, Middle Eastern orgies, they can look elsewhere for it; there must have been more inclusive ways to move the plot forward rather than to rely on something that titillated single men years ago. Saying that, the princess in question does become independent but all within the paradigm of being a virginal prize for a prince. My final verdict on this aspect: could do better! Overall, a decent enough story for fans of historical romps of a sandy disposition.
Skully’s Corner: Why buy this book? Amidst the swords and cleavages there’s a parable of sorts. If you’re the old fashioned type that likes their parables with a splash of olde world misogyny, then this’ll probably be for you. The pretty art is quaint too.
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Review written by Arun S.
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