Geis: A Matter of Life and Death Review
Written and Illustrated by Alexis Deacon
Review by John Dubrawa
You know how as a kid, Grimm’s Fairy Tales were just innocent little fictitious anecdotes but then as an adult you learned about all about the macabre, original German versions of the stories? Reading through the first volume of Alexis Deacon’s new graphic novel, Geis: A Matter of Life and Death elicits a lot of that same feeling, and it is a wholly sensational piece of fiction. Deacon lulls the reader with a visual style that suggests something akin to a whimsical bedtime story but then his narrative ultimately unravels into something resembling a nightmare. And it’s one beautiful looking nightmare.
Here’s the thing, though: Deacon lays his cards on the table before the story even begins by warning, “If you ignore or break the Geis the consequences are dire.” Nevertheless, I, as well as the characters within the story itself, suspect this to be a rather straightforward tale of a dying ruler choosing a new heir through a sort of lottery. These potential powers-that-be are instead scattered throughout the land and told to race back to the castle…or else. What that “or else” is I won’t disclose here but there are two characters who discover this forbidden secret–Councillor Nemas and a girl identified as the Kite Lord’s Daughter. Their journey to finding the truth and subsequently what happens to them after is the crux of the narrative and also where I found the most interest while reading. Other characters, like a magic-aware Eloise and the fool, Artur are spotlighted as well, albeit briefly, but their journeys never quite clicked with me. If there’s a weakness to Deacon’s story it’s in the scenes with these other characters.
As I mentioned earlier, Deacon’s artwork elicits a sort of bedtime story feel, but not in a way to suggest simplicity. It’s the complete opposite, in fact, with the amount of detail Deacon is able to inject into some of Geis’s more minuscule panels being insanely impressive. Even the panels themselves are noteworthy as they appear to be hand drawn by Deacon himself. Dialogue bubbles, too. Just flipping through this book gives you a sense of what it must take to make something like this as a solo creator. Lastly, I have to mention itself seems to be water colors, which not only looks gorgeous but lends the book a lot of its personality. It’s as if Geis: A Matter of Life and Death was actually a centuries-old fairytale book unearthed from a forgotten civilization.
BUY IT! Geis: A Matter of Life and Death is the start of what is bound to be an impressive trilogy of books from Alexis Deacon. Those readers that loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a kid but loved finding out what the real version was actually like later in life even more will love the sharp turns that Geis takes. But, above all else, just look at this book. It’s stunning. Seriously.