Graphic Novel Review: Phenomena Book One: The Golden City Of Eyes by Brian Michael Bendis and André Lima Araújo

Phenomena Book One: The Golden City Of Eyes by Brian Michael Bendis and André Lima Araújo. Abrams ComicArts, 2022. 9781419761690.

Something happened, and now our world is a place filled with strange creatures large and small, plus anthropomorphic animals and alien beings as well as humans. It feels like technology doesn’t work anymore, like it’s been replaced by living (possibly magical?) vehicles that fly, a place for swords and armor and such, but that’s all not quite true and the truth of the world feels both elusive and stranger. (If that sounds like an homage to the work of French artist Moebius, it is, which Araújo makes obvious at times though he also more than makes this book a unique and beautiful thing all its own.) Oh and stories are a form of currency in the book, which is a lot of fun.

After Boldon (a boy) sees the Cyper warrior Spike fight for a meal, Spike’s blade is stolen by a thief, Mathilde, who escapes on a jetpack. Boldon tries to help Spike, and the pair end up setting off after blade together, toward The Golden City of Eyes, despite the fact that Spike absolutely hates Boldon’s voice. Along they way they run afoul of an otherwordly, villainous posse whose members are also after Matilde, and there’s a more powerful enemy or two later in the book as well.

The violence is fairly cartoony, the plot is lighthearted, and characters’ banter feels genuine. If you don’t know Bendis’s work you should check this out, it may make you love comics again — or look for his Ultimate Spider-Man or Powers, they’re also great places to start. Araújo has worked on comics for Marvel, DC, and others, and I enjoyed the series he created with Rick Remender, A Righteous Thirst for Vengeance. His art is spectacular, and never more so than when he’s working in black and white like in Phenomena. This graphic novel will particularly appeal to anyone who loves Last Man or Bone, or who has gotten a little old for Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet.


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