The Cloud

By K. I. Zachopoulos & Vincenzo Balzamo (Archaia)

ISBN: 978-1-60886-725-7

Writer Kostas Zachopoulos clearly has a great grip on classic themes and tropes. His previous comics releases – Mon Alix, The Fang, Mr. Universe, Misery City – have all memorably tweaked and refreshed horror, crime and other genres but his latest offering might well take him into the reading mainstream in a masterful fantasy saga of love, loss, search and renewal.

Imagine The Never Ending Story with sharp edges and harsh consequences or – if you’re an older, better-read aficionado of the extraordinary – remember the buzz you got the first time you read one of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea stories or a Jack Vance tale of the Dying Earth

The tone and topic of those wonderful modern legends ripple through this phenomenally enticing hardback tome, illustrated in a gloriously magnificent progression of painted pages by award-winning newcomer Vincenzo Balzamo (Immortal, Revenge: the Secret Origin of Emily Thorne), offering one more magical myth for modern questers to admire and covet.

In the far future the world has endured its final disaster and been radically changed by mankind’s sins. The entire globe is girdled in insulating, isolating, all-encompassing vapour walls which cut off the people who remain from each other and the strange new things that have evolved to roam the foggy vastnesses. The human survivors of the ancient catastrophe known as the Shine cling to high places in small communities eking out their pointless lives well aware that above the clouds roam ruthless pirates and slavers…

One day – which seemed like any other – a wild little boy exuberantly rode his giant flying wolf – named Cloud – through the roiling foggy blanket. He was on a quest and touched down at a mountain top citadel, seeking something in the skybound city. The boy was searching for a Wish in a Stone and, although the wise men claimed to know nothing of it, a beggar in the elevated street gave him sage advice. The enshrouded elder advised the carefree wanderer that to secure a wishing stone from the Great Before, he first needed to locate The Writer

Finding the sagacious fool was not as difficult as convincing him to help, but the boy had travelled far and found a great treasure the garrulous savant was prepared to trade for the incredible Dandelion Stone

This news caused the child’s mind to spiral back to the tragic last time he had seen his father but more advice from the babbling scribe brought him back to the present. Grasping the stone the boy took his leave only to have the precious prize snatched from his hands by a nimble thief. His pell-mell pursuit eventually resulted in the bandit’s capture, but the cornered foe was only a little girl who claimed her need for the wish was greater than his own.

The boy’s momentary confusion ended when both girl and Dandelion Stone were swept up in the nets of the constantly marauding sky-pirates and the chase was on again…

The Cloud is a superb picaresque odyssey through an incredible world of fantastic throwback kingdoms and floating islands, as our hero makes amazing new allies and mints fresh myths at every brief stopover. Most importantly as the boy gets ever closer to his heart’s desire – coincidentally liberating enslaved races and gradually unpicking the muddled history of the Before Time – he learns of the forces that have subtly manipulated him and realises there is a way to bring the tired, benighted Earth into the light, but only at a terrible price…

Epic, sweeping, enchantingly bemusing and drenched in potent tragedy, this is a sheer delight no fantasy fan should miss.
™ and © 2016 Kostas Zachopoulos & Vincenzo Balzamo. All rights reserved.

The Cloud will be released 20th July 2016.