One of the most delightfully original series to come out of IDW in the past year, Chris Roberson’s Memorial is a psychedelic pastiche of popular characters and genre tropes that manages to read as refreshing rather than clichéd. In the hardcover edition’s introduction, Bill Willingham (“Fables”) writes that Roberson once described Memorial as “a catalogue of all the cool stuff I want to do” and it shows. It’s no small feat, combining elements of Disney, steampunk, and Biblical legend, but Roberson pulls it off with startling aplomb. His unabashed joy in the world he creates, and the characters with which he populates it, is undeniably infectious. Artist Rich Ellis joins Roberson as they create the outlandish world of “Memorial,” where disbelief is permanently suspended.
WRITTEN BY: Chris Roberson
ART BY: Rich Ellis
RELEASE: September 26, 2012
“Memorial” follows a woman who stumbles into an Emergency Room with no idea who she is or how she got there. The only clue to her identity is a simple golden pendant inscribed with the letter M. The hospital’s nurses take to calling her M – or Em – for lack of a better option. Despite her amnesia, Em goes on to build a relatively normal life for herself, with a job at Roberson’s Books and a small circle of friends. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment of foreshadowing, Roberson reveals that Em finds it comforting to be surrounded by the dreams and memories held in the pages of all those books.
Em’s journey begins when she stumbles across a mysterious green door that’s seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Inside, she finds a sundry assortment of curiosities and meets Peter, the elderly but young at heart gentleman who runs the shop. Em finds herself inexplicably drawn to a golden key that tickles at her memory though she can’t remember how she recognizes it. When Em touches the key, she triggers a ripple effect through the Everlands, setting off a series of events that leaves her, Peter, and the sassiest cat this side of Maybe, Schrödinger, catapulted across dimensions as they try to keep one step ahead of the villainous Moment’s statuesque foot soldiers. Over the course of these six issues, Em learns not only what she’s made of, but who she is and why Moment, Queen of the Everlands, has it out for her.
Roberson’s mythology pulls elements from both history and fiction to create an expansive and wonderfully original universe, the likes of which we don’t often see. The creation story behind the realms of Maybe, Moment, and Memory is appropriately iconic and the depth of the world makes Em’s adventures as firmly grounded as they are fantastical. “Memorial” is like a delicious parfait – each layer is more scrumptious than the last as Roberson riffs on themes and characters borrowed from fairy tales and folklore.
The beauty of Rich Ellis’ art is in his obsessive attention to detail. When Em first sets foot into Memorial Curiosities and Antiques, it’s easy to lose yourself in the abundance of items crammed into the tiny shop or to pause to try to identify individual characters in a crowd when Em meets the Lost Souls of the Everlands. Though Ellis’ art brings the densely packed world of “Memorial” to life, Grace Allison’s consistently vibrant colors leave something to be desired as she generally shies away from extremes of light and dark. In a book that deals so heavily with shadows (the denizens of the Court of Shadows , located in the aptly named Darkness Falls are just that – shadows), it seems like a missed opportunity.
It’s almost hard to believe that this collected edition includes only six issues as the universe Roberson creates is so massive that it does indeed feel like you’ve fallen through the rabbit hole into a fully developed society. For those of you who hadn’t been following the series on a monthly basis, reading the first six issues of “Memorial” altogether is like riding an unpredictably winding rollercoaster into the the mind of a storyteller.
Reviewed by MelissaGrey