In the mood for a fantasy based tale featuring kids facing off against witches, zombies, and other monsters of a rough and complicated wilderness? Is that hankering for a tale which isn’t as fluffy as many Disney tales but isn’t as grimy as THE WALKING DEAD or some other third party publishers? If so, then Massachusetts creator Zack Giallongo has spent four years of his life creating just the story for you. BROXO is his first graphic novel, and is published by First Second Books, which strives to create a library of creator owned work for a variety of ages. Giallongo and the staff of First Second were on hand to sell copies of this freshly offered work at this year’s New York Comic Con, but it is now available to order from the company outright or other vendors such as Amazon. It was at the NYCC where I nabbed this work, and it was among the shining jewels of material for me (alongside Raphael Moran’s FLEE).
BROXO tells the story not only of the titular barbarian boy and his monstrous pet Migo, but of a runaway princess named Zora as well as a wayward witch named Ulith. It is through Zora’s eyes that readers are introduced to the cast as well as the weird, wonderful, and often dangerous woods of Peryton Peak. Zora, who is the princess of a warrior clan called the Granitewings, has run away due to her impetuous nature as well as some desire to find the Peryton Clan of whom she has heard many a tale about. While very bright and creative, Zora is spoiled and inexperienced, which quickly contrasts greatly against the blunt and impulsive Broxo, who has the lay of the land and his own hidden past. He and Ulith are all that remain of the Peryton Clan, which suffered a tragedy which is gradually revealed as the work reveals itself. Other characters include Ulith’s ferret familiars, a ghostly grandmother, as well as the sinister Gloth, whose cowardice merely makes him a more vicious opponent. Initially like oil and water, throughout the course of the adventure Broxo and Zora compliment each other as they seek to uncover the mystery of the Peryton Clan and fulfill an ancient prophecy in order to put an end to the hordes of zombies that plague the peak and are unable to rest. The underlying theme of the work is that as people go about their travels they wind up making new families for each other and learning how to accept both themselves and other people; if not, they can wind up down a dark path.
It took Giallongo a reported four years to write, draw, and color this 240 page adventure, and that effort and attention to detail shines through. In an interview with Newsarama, Giallongo mentions among his inspirations the “DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS” cartoon of the early 1980’s. Some of those designs – in particular the helmet and wardrobe – shine through as Giallongo has an illustrative style which seems to take the best of both Disney house style and some manga artists into something truly unique and expressive. The characters emote perfectly with their dialogue and an attention to detail in the background and all the creatures within it is noticeable. Despite all the other characters Broxo and Zora are the lead characters and they are simple yet engaging, and compliment each other nicely once they get past their respective demeanor. Broxo ends up teaching Zora how to apply skills to action as well as to be more alert to danger, while Zora reminds Broxo of a family and legacy he had before he was a lonely barbarian and helps him back towards accepting people again. The story has a perfect pace in which nothing is revealed too soon, but the reader gets answers to their questions about the tale as it unfolds. Scenes of beauty often are met with ones of horror, and their are action sequences as well as tender scenes and even slapstick. It is a perfectly well rounded adventure which is suitable for kids of all ages, from eight to eighty. The finale offers both a satisfying resolution as well as hints of another story to tell with these characters and this world.
First Second recommends the book for an age range of 10-14 (fifth to ninth grade) but in truth this is a story for readers young and old. Were it faithfully adapted to a feature length animated film, it would either be rated a hard PG or a soft PG-13. There aren’t any swears or full frontal nudity, but there is some violence and some ghosts who don’t feel the need for cloths. Considering what most 10-14 year old’s see on TV, movies, or video games this might actually seem mild in those regards. It is a work which creates its own simple yet elegant and dangerous world on its own terms and is brilliant in a manner that isn’t pretentious or redundant. There are familiar dynamics and details here, but Giallongo puts his own spin on them and creates a story which is accessible and timeless. “Instant classic” is a word sometimes too broadly used, but BROXO many very well fit that description to a T.
Run, don’t walk, and grab up a copy of BROXO. It fits on the shelf of any fan of good comics or timeless adventure.