Pullbox Reviews – After Apotheosis, book 2: Guiding Hands

It is one hundred years since the Elven Uplift, a time of prosperity for all, when the Elven Empire stretched the hand of kinship beyond its borders and gifted technology and government to the developing races. Now the Elves sit idle on their thrones while their colonies eek out an existence on whatever scraps are thrown their way…

Two ancient relics have been found; mysterious in origin and colossal in size. One rests hidden away on the dry, sun-bleached dwarven capital world of Tark, the other lies half-buried in the voluminous snows of elven colony, Maxiss…

There are three issues of After Apotheosis available right now, and after reading two of them I think it’s fair to say that creator Ross James Harrison has taken a slow burn approach to his comic. His story is less about the action some might picture when they see a title populated with elves, dwarves, & orcs, and more about how these different factions might interact outside of their expected fantasy settings. The broad sci fi approach takes a step away from the norm, and it’s not a bad decision.

Much less Warhammer and more in line with Game of Thrones or The Expanse, Ross is looking at the political intrigue as these very different races operate under the watchful yet arrogantly indifferent eye of Elven rule. See, the elves believe they should oversee things, but apart from being in charge they don’t really have an interest in how their subjects get along. In truth, there are going to be readers who feel much the same and are going to have a tough time getting into such an involved storyline. The dialogue is pretty good, unique personalities shining through in the individual characters… not something that’s easy to find in a newer creator. But from conversations with him, Ross has been sitting on this one a while as he waited for the right time to send his work out into the world. No telling how long he’s been at it, so “first time writer” might be a little deceptive.

One pitfall for this kind of carefully paced story would be the 24 or so page length of the average comic. Ross has avoided that one by releasing his issues in longer instalments, the first two issues coming in at around 60 pages each. That’s a great decision as it gives readers more time to settle in, and Ross has more time to focus on his various point of view characters. Still, readers should go in willing and ready to pay attention. Comics in general work best as short form storytelling, mainly because of breaks between issues. It could be that After Apotheosis will work better as a binge, but in the meantime there are three issues available for your Kindle or through ComiXology (I know, it’s pretty much the same thing now, for better or worse).

Finally, I’d say that some are going to have a tough time getting used to the artwork. While I’ll say that it absolutely does its job, Ross doesn’t have the polish that some might want to see in a sci fi comic. What I can say with all confidence is that Ross has already taken steps forward in his style between issues one and two. His lines are cleaner, and his panels more organized as he settles into the work of drafting his world. Most impressive, Ross has moved away from standard designs in characters, creatures, and panel layouts, showing a good eye for perspectives and interesting settings. I haven’t taken a look at issue three yet, so it’s going to be kinda cool to see how that progression continues.

Without a doubt, After Apotheosis is a labor of love. Still new to the creative scene, Ross James Harrison is showing some impressive writing chops and some serious stones for being willing to pull double duty on the artwork. He’s made a thing that’s full of new worlds, populated by people who all have something going on in their lives as a mythology is created around them. If you have an interest in a star spanning comics full of conspiracies and mysteries yet to be discovered, and you have the patience to let a creator tell his story in his way, this title is worth a look.

Final Score: 10/13

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