Bera The One-Headed Troll
By Eric Orchard
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Scott
Bera The One Headed Troll is my fan pick of the year in graphic novels so far. When the evil wizard Cloote loses a baby she has stolen, and wants back badly, it’s up to a humble pumpkin grower Bera, a one headed troll (they can have up to three I gather), to begin an epic journey away from her remote island to bring it back to its family. An epic adventure is in the works, takes Bera to meet heroes of ancient times, in her pursuit to outwit Cloote. A charming tale, that was good until the end, Bera The One Headed Troll belies Eric Orchard’s somber writing, and skillful European styled art.
The writing was astounding for a work of 128 pages. The pacing was spot on and very little of the words were wasted. Told through expository text with dialogue at key points, Orchard weaves the Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey into the text with spectacular results. Monsters, talking rats, hedgehog wizards and, of course, trolls swirl together into a melting pot of speculative fiction. Each encounter serves an overall purpose, and those are the key points touched upon. A Tolkienesque take on trolls (such as turning to stone in the sunlight) and an almost Lord of the Rings like adventure, Bera’s quest draws the reader into its web, and captivates one with its magic. Dialogue is handled well, with the unworldly Bera finding elderly heroes who are hundreds of years old. Even her pet owl has a voice that is as distinctive as any of the others. It truly synthesizes dialogue and exposition into an almost short work of fiction, let alone a graphic novel.
The art is stylized and mesmerizing, never missing a beat of the overall story. Dark and foreboding, forests loom, swamps take on a frightening new meaning, and towers have never looked so ominous. The sweeping vistas and the manner in which Orchard draws the characters and their environs is truly grandiose. The fine line work and attention to the bizarre creations and creatures that inhabit Bera’s world are given character and life. Muted coloring makes the fantastic eerie, and the overall effect reflects the perilous journey of the protagonists. Panels are cleanly laid out, word balloons guide, and thus gives the art that much more of a presence. It’s the art and story combined that give Bera The One Headed Troll is allure, and captivation of its audience. Either holds its own but together is what makes this graphic novel magical.
The plot is a weaving maze of uncertainty, as we are pulled with Bera from her Pumpkin patch into the areas she only knows about from maps hundreds of years old. Like Frodo stepping out of the Shire, the reader is compelled to follow these adventurers on their noble quest. Through the well placed hooks and baits, one becomes a part of the tale, as most of the poignant dialogue is taken up by other characters in the true epic format. For such a short work, Bera The One Headed Troll, packs a lot into it and deserves a good second reading to catch the subtle nuances of the story.
For fans of Tolkien, heroic adventure and European artwork to a well told story, Bera The One Headed Troll is sure to delight. Playing on the hero’s journey, there is something for anyone from tweenies to adults to enjoy. It’s a remarkable work that you’ll read over and deserves a place on your shelf.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*