Sage of the Riverlands lives in the legendary city of God’s Helm. She moved there after school for a life of adventure – but ends up working in a cubicle, doing data entry for a boring old company. Through a series of unfortunate events, her roommate’s boyfriend steals an ancient amulet, said to have incredible powers. The mob who bought it illegally in the first place will do anything to get it back – up to hurting anyone who gets in their way. To recover the amulet and save the world, Sage must team up with her friends and coworkers for an epic modern adventure.

This one disappointed me. I thought I’d like it, considering it’s fantasy, but this was just too much. It’s like a D&D campaign set in an almost-real world. There are computers, cell phones, dating apps, student loans – but the pharmacies sell herbs and crystals, the gyms have archery targets instead of weight machines, and the phones are tiny scrolls. It’s… odd. And not in a good way. It all clashed together in some haphazard, half-baked, Millennial high fantasy.

It didn’t help that your typical fantasy stereotypes were present in this graphic novel. Of course the cleric is a nerdy med student. Of course the elf is an artsy, wannabe actor. Of course the barbarian is a meathead who speaks in simple phrases. And worse. I like fantasy and it’s tropes as much as the next girl, but again, this was way too much, and was incredibly detrimental to the plot and character development. Everyone stays the same by the end. There was no sense of urgency or grand purpose to the story at all.

The art does it no favors. It’s rendered relatively simply, as there is a lot going on. Sometimes, there is too much going on, as if this slim volume needs to show everything about this world, all the time, all at once. The reader struggles through as opposed to moving intuitively from one panel to the next.

I am honestly struggling to see how this was so acclaimed. It’s trying to be too much at once, and trips over itself in the process, leaving the reader highly unsatisfied at the end. Big skip.

– Kathleen

Roberts, Rafer, and Kristen Gudsnuk. Modern Fantasy. 2019.