Massimiliano Frezzato’s Keepers of the Maser comic

Fango lives alone on an island, the only survivor, or so he thinks, of a disastrous civil war on Kolony, his only companion a teaching robot. His life will be changed when an old man, Zerit, and his daughter Erha unexpectedly show up on the way to find the Tower, the former base of civilization on the hostile and largely uncharted planet. But Zerit isn’t the only one who wants to reach the tower and its technological treasure. Others want to reach it too; after all, the best way to ensure you will be on top in the new civilization is to rebuild it yourself.

During their adventures, Fango, Zerit, and Erha encounter old friends and new foes. But things aren’t always what they seem, and old secrets may be revealed that will change people’s allegiances. What is Zerit’s quest really about? Did civilization survive in the Tower? If so, can the scattered survivors find it, overcome old grievances and rebuild civilization? And what is the link between the tower and the Zoks, the huge fishlike native lifeforms that inhabit Kolony’s seas?

Kolony may be a hostile environment, but it looks great. Massimiliano Frezzato’s artwork is just beautiful, and the quality remains so throughout the series. One need only look at how the covers of the six books make a single panoramic image to see the kind of planning and care he puts in the design and illustrations of the story. The hardware design shows a definite influence by Miyazaki, while the painterly rendering style owes something to Bilal. Influence aside, Frezzato’s artwork stands on its own. The interior art is just as finely rendered as the covers, all the books are a joy to look at.

Like the artwork, the world is well put together, the ecology, the people and the technology, it’s all been thought out. My only complaint is that there isn’t quite enough explanation of what things are within the story. I’m not a big fan of endless infodumps, but a bit of exposition never hurt anyone. Luckily there are two “Survival Guides” (included in vols 2 and 5) giving us some background on the people, technology, geography and fauna encountered in the story (I’m afraid all these links are to a French site, but don’t let that stop you from exploring it or the official site).

Perhaps because of the lack of exposition, the scenario feels a little rushed. I keep wondering why the characters never stop to take a breather or explain to each other what’s happening. They travel a lot but don’t really seem to spend time in transit, which makes the distances involved hard to guess. The writing improves as the series progresses; so Frezzato is evolving as a writer and the addition of veteran Nikita Mandryka to the writing team must also have helped in the later books.

Some of questions may be answered in a new trilogy, recounting the events of the civil war, that was recently started (the first book, titled The Young Queen, is already out). Frezzato has decided to continue writing and has passed the tasks of design and artwork over to Fabio Ruotolo, another talented Italian artist. I look forward to seeing this new series unfold.

René Walling is a fan of SF, animation and comics, this has led him to co-chair Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon, be involved with fps magazine for more than a decade, and start Nanopress, a Canadian small press. He looks forward to living on Mars, where he would benefit from having more than 24 hours in a day.


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