There are so many good things to say about this I'm gonna need to keep organized to get it all down...
The writing: Great! Really. It's hilarious and political and leaves you with a good, creepy mystery that promises to be as engaging as everything else in this first issue.
There are fantasy worlds that have an element of racism to them, but The Spire nails it in dropping readers into a world where racism is built into the system and naturalized; where racist terms are used in everyday speech without a second thought until the speaker is confronted by someone of the non-dominant group - and stammers to correct herself; where the racialized other grits her teeth hearing the way the oppressed are spoken of; where even a higher ranking individual of the minority is constantly made to feel like a fish out of water... I think you get the point. Racism doesn't just exist here. It's real and alive, and it's reflective of people's experiences in the real world. Thank you, Simon Spurrier!
This racism is experienced by our stoically snarky protagonist, Commander/Captain Sha of the City Watch. Sha is unexpectedly entertaining with her determined, take-no-shit, subversive attitude. She does her job, but that doesn't mean she has to take her oppression like a mute lamb. Everything she says is gold.
Speaking of... She's a gold star lesbian in what appears to be a healthy relationship with someone who loves her "other"-ness along with the rest of her. Their scene together involves sarcasm and playful banter (okay, fine, and some almost sexy-time), which is always a winning combination in my book. Thanks, again, Spurrier, for more representation! And for a strong female protagonist with an eyepatch!
The lettering: This isn't something I usually pay attention to unless it's horrible enough for me to notice. In this case, it's the opposite. Steve Wands should have his name on the cover with what a superb job he's done. Dialogue placement feels natural, but that's expected. What's over and above is the use of different fonts for the various personalities and species inhabiting the world - of which every font is easily readable. Font sizes change, and darkness/lightness of font colour change, depending on how a character says something. If a single character code-switches, his font style switches with it. If he whispers, the text is grey-coloured and smaller-sized. When he shouts, it's bigger, in black, and in bold. This is lettering! Why haven't I seen anyone else do this before?!
*takes a deep breath*
The art: It matches perfectly, complementing the fantasy world with an art style that could easily be found in a children's fairy tale book. Jeff Stokely's lines are sometimes simple, and other times almost realistically detailed. Andre May's colours are beautiful, from the sepia tones of a flashback, to a green/blue-and-orange toned skyscape, to the grey-brown eeriness of The Smokewood. The art just fits.
The takeaway message: I am thrilled to be reading The Spire. It's smart, funny, mysterious, and set in a fascinating world that feels complex and rich enough to analyze from socio-cultural perspective. I like Sha and want to see what she uncovers as much as I want to learn more about her backstory. There's a lot of attention to detail in this first issue, and it all comes together to form a fantastic book that truly feels special. It feels like the creative team cares about the characters and the story they want to share, and that they care about the people they're sharing that story with.
READ IT, ASAP!