Pullbox Reviews Mezo, Battle at Cobán Rock #1- An epic adventure continues, in a massive fantasy world

In the land of Mezo, the Tzalekuhl Empire sets out to conquer all surrounding territories, disrupting the peace that has lasted for generations. Only Kyma, the daughter of a fallen chief who refused to yield, stands in their way. Now, the day of the solar eclipse approaches and, with her father dead and her people driven from their homes, Kyma reunites with her estranged mother and forms an alliance with the mighty Huax’kin Warriors. But will the combined strength of both tribes be enough to hold back the fervent Tzalekuhl? They’ll find out as they make their final stand at Cobán Rock.

I’ve been reading comics for a while, and I’ve been writing for thePullbox for a minute or two. I’ve read hundreds of comics from independent publishers at all levels, some of whom many casual readers have never heard of. Creators regularly send me their comics, either through a PR rep or directly, at every perceived level of quality you can think of. Along the way, I’ve learned one thing that’s changed the way I look at comics: You’ll never understand how impressive the urge to make something awesome truly is until you start paying attention to the indies.

I don’t know where the team behind Mezo came from or what their aspirations are, but I believe that they deserve all of the success it’s possible to achieve in the comic book industry.

Mezo, volume 1, by Josh Zingerman

Starting with Mezo’s first volume, there’s an example of epic world-building on a par with anything else you can think of, on page or screen. Based in Mesoamerican mythology & culture, the fate of the people of Metzalpotek and her neighboring tribes is being carved into the stone of their temple walls. With the opening of volume two, we find the Emperor Vuh sending his armies out to convert or eliminate all enemies in the name of his god the Almighty Kuhl and we see just how much more of this world there is to explore.

From the beginning, the art in Mezo showed that there’s a big difference between using perspective to show distance and using it to show SCOPE. The world of started out massive and has only gotten bigger as the series went along. Artist Val Rodriguez picked up the pencils for issue 3, where Josh Zingerman left off, and with maybe the smallest of hiccups he made it all his own. Heading into the second story arc, Rodrigues holds onto the grand visual design and carries it forward as he builds his own skillset to fill the huge world-building spaces. The Mayan & Aztec influences in the style of the buildings and the design of the characters big & small must be a challenge as an artist, and Rodrigues hasn’t visibly flinched once. Colorists Varga Tomi & Gab Contreras take the world laid out in Rodriguez’s lines and give it depth. The use of lighting to set a scene, whether it’s beneath a thick jungle canopy or looking out over the city under an approaching eclipse, makes a rich world richer.

Mezo: Battle at Cobán Rock #1

Writer and co-creator Tyler Cin-Tanner has taken a deep dive into the Mesoamerican culture, the extent of his research obvious in the depth of Mezo’s world. He took the historical, built on that to create a very cool fantasy world, and then populated that world with people of a common culture but hugely different backgrounds. The people of Metzalpotek live structured lives, holding to the value of their civilization as a point of pride and enjoying the security afforded them by regular human sacrifice. The surrounding peoples outside of the city place the same value on their own independence, but as Tyler’s narrative builds, we start to see how intertwined they actually are. I don’t like making easy comparisons, saying one thing is like another thing, but Mezo is an epic story that I’d hold up next to Game of Thrones without any reservations. The bonus is that, so far, Tyler Cin-Tanner is actually still writing his story (looking at you, Martin). More than a series of really cool full page splashes (which it has), Tyler Cin-Tanner is creating a fully populated word, teeming with people of all kinds. All of them have a past, and all of them are fighting toward their place in the future.

In the category of Excellence in Execution, I have to offer up the sincerest admiration for the level of storytelling on display here. The entire creative team has been on point, delivering an epic fantasy without relying on familiar settings & tones, and they’re doing it with skill you don’t always see, even with larger publishing companies. I’m going to gush a little here- and no matter what you might think I’m not on anybody’s payroll- but as an ongoing series, Mezo is seriously a gorgeous piece of work.

Final Score: 12/13

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