Roberson and Ellis Open The Memorial Door

Once upon a time there was a girl and a key and a door and a talking cat…

Ironically, I forgot to buy Memorial #1 when it came out. But even more wonderfully I remembered to buy it this week when issue #2 stood on the shelf and wolf-whistled for my attention. Memorial is a new creator-owned series by Chris Roberson, you see. That’s right – the man who made Superman likeable for the first time in what seems like years whilst simultaneously (well… roughly) turning Cinderella into the World’s greatest super-agent joins forces with artist Rich Ellis for a new series published by IDW. Yes! Memorial continues the pleasing recent upswing in comic-books featuring a talking cat as one of the main characters. And it turns out that Schrodinger, as this kitty calls himself, is a deft hand with mysterious doorways and keys, which is handy. The basic premise of the series is that a girl – Em – is given a key to a doorway. When she steps through it, she finds herself in a totally different dimension – one where shadows come to life, fairies and gargoyles and monsters exist, and cats can talk (did we mention that already?) However, this land is also in turmoil, as three different realms are currently at war with each other, and only Em has the key to get them out of it.

Roberson is obviously enjoying the book, as the writing creates a carefree attitude where he can throw any mad idea onto the page and see if it works. In issue #2, for example, we see the introduction of the three warring realms – called Maybe, Is, and Was. Within the story we’re told that when an idea is created, it comes to life within the realm of Maybe. When it’s made a reality, is heads over to the realm of Is. And when the idea has been used up, it goes to the land of Was. There’s clearly going to be some metatextual stuff coming up, the kind that gets English students into a right old tizzy. And to that effect, the clever use of the fourth wall in page 5 of issue #2 basically works as a pitch for the reader – if you want to read past it, then the series is something you’re going to really enjoy. But for the moment, the title is mostly still occupied with building up the world that Em and Schrodinger live in.

They’re helped in that regard by a sterling artistic team. Rich Ellis’ pencils are reminiscent of Pia Guerra’s work on Y: The Last Man (another title which can send English students into tizzy-fits), centred around a well-defined main character. Em comes across as a very realistic character – covered up, sensible figure, and a wide range of small tics and facial expressions which recur. She’s especially prone to waving her hands about while she tries to grasp onto an idea. Schrodinger is adorable, and is also a talking kitty-cat. And while we’ve only been given a few looks at the three realms, Ellis and colourist Grace Allison give them a depth and range which stands each one apart, and makes the reader excited for future issues. This is a book which has a long-term plan, and it’s evident in every page that the creative team have marked out where they’re going with all this.

The book is a modern-day fairytale, obviously, but it’s the modern-day aspects which most grab the attention. As more and more bizarre characters make their way into the real World, the grounding of reality starts to become more and more precarious. Also, a rock monster tries to eat a rucksack at one point. This contrast between real world and imaginary concepts is likely going to become more and more important as the series goes on, but there’s also a simple pleasure to be had in watching a talking cat eat a hamburger. Seeing Em try to adapt to this new blending of the imaginary, make-believe and now-real is incredibly entertaining – you can almost sense her sigh when a character tells her that she can teleport to another land if she “jumps over a candlestick”. Time and again, Ellis nails the facial expressions of his main character. And Schrodinger has a surprisingly wide range of facial expressions too, actually.

Memorial is a very good comic-book indeed. We have a writer literally throwing ideas into thin air, while the artistic side of the book take those ideas and make them into grounded, real images. If this series can keep up the momentum it’s currently building, then we could be looking at a future classic. ANDITHASATALKINGCATINITANDITISADORABLE


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