What sets Geis apart is that it is quite unique – featuring a cast of very nuanced (even sometimes thoroughly unlikable and self obsessed) characters. The plot is deceptively simple – so much so that it will likely take the next two volumes to fully understand the depth. As a result, this first volume (which does end on somewhat of a cliffhanger) feels more like a prelude than a full story arc.
Story: When the chief Matarka dies without naming a replacement, her funeral is attended by all the dignitaries in the city – many hoping to secure the position. But things soon go very awry and a powerful magic is invoked, sending all the contestants into the areas around the City. They have until sundown to return or forever lose the chance to rule. But as they begin to return, several find out there is much more to this ‘geis’ that they unwittingly signed.
Most intriguing about Geis are the characters: they are a very realistic and grounded mix of conflicted individuals. Whether grappling with parent issues, greed, ambition, or ambivalence, they are all quite intriguing. Yet author Deacon keeps them from being too heavy or unlikable by remaining firmly within a cartoon fantasy milieu.
The artwork serves the story in a distinct way – contrasting a full page single panel with a heavily divided partner page (often 14+ panels on one page). The color palette is quite monochromatic and line drawing loose, nebulous, busy but not detailed. The looseness of the drawing style did make it difficult to distinguish characters at times and I relied heavily on dialogue in order to not get lost.
In all, I found the story intriguing but strangely unsatisfying as well. The tale is more about the people than the plot – and the large cast of characters could have used more than the book’s 49 pages to establish the arc better. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.