Writers: Zac Thompson, Emily Horn
Artist: Alberto Alburquerque
Colorist: Raúl Angulo
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Designer: Tim Daniels
Editor: Adrian F. Wassel
Publisher: Vault Comics

In No One’s Rose #2, the larch in Tess’s lab grows … and it just so happens that’s a handy metaphor for the book itself. This book grew so much in this issue, and almost every revelation improves and builds upon the groundwork that had been laid in the first.

When we left teenage bio-engineer Tenn and her rebellious brother Seren, they had traveled to the Upper Level of their domed home. As far as Tenn knew, Seren was taking her to see a celebration: the Parade of Renewal. But Seren is there on a mission, and an attack by a bio-organic group, calling themselves the Drasil, puts a halt to the festivities. Spores spread over the crowd, fruiting on the attendees’ faces (which is genuinely horrifying for even the brief moment it appears on-page). This issue proceeds to follow the siblings in the fallout.

When I reviewed the first issue of No One’s Rose, I said that the smartest decision that Thompson and Horn made was to have dueling perspectives. That remains true here. However, the siblings’ vastly different experiences after the attack mean this issue has a lot of ground to cover. I kept checking to make sure this book was only 22 pages; the team makes it feel like you’re getting double that. And, as different as they are, part of how it all works together — how it feels so tight — is that the stories mirror before they reconnect. Seren gains and loses, Tenn loses and gains. And, whereas both competing groups in the previous issue seemed to have good intentions, this issue shows that the Council and the Drasil both cast long shadows. 

But the writers aren’t the only ones doing incredible work here. Alburquerque gets to play with different genres in this issue: horror, psychedelia, and a near-legal drama. Scenes that could have been talking heads feel dynamic, and when they are static, it’s used to accentuate the immovability of the Council. His designs, too, are lovely. There’s an array of bio-organic weapons in a single panel of this issue, and all of them are a subtle blending of different eras of weaponry and elements of nature that, even when simple, made me go, “Oh, shit, how has no one done this before?”

The Snag (especially that first panel) is disgusting, made all the more visceral by Angulo’s coloring. Each scene has a distinct feel to it, something that often goes forgotten. It’s part of what makes this medium so dang interesting, the elements from other media (cinematography, lighting) that artists can embellish without the constraints of a budget. And I thought Otsmane-Elhaou was flexing his muscles last issue; it’s evident that he puts so, so much thought into his work. 

The only criticism that comes to mind is that the information given about Tenn and Seren’s father can feel clunky at times. It’s clearly important, but the execution lacks subtlety compared to the rest of the book. An “Oh, your father is a legend!” blaring while more interesting stuff surrounds it. Maybe that means it’s a red herring, but I find myself less interested in looking back towards the siblings’ father and far more on the siblings themselves. I’m not even sure that’s a real criticism. “Oh no, I’m invested in the main characters!”

I’m falling all over myself a bit; it’s excellent comics, y’all.

Tenn describes the growth of the tree in her lab as “unprecedented” and “impossible.” Those superlatives are apt here. When I read No One’s Rose, I’m reminded of both the imaginative power that drew me to comics in the first place, and, too, of the important work that comics, and sci-fi more generally, do to open our minds to concepts beyond our wildest imagining. If the first issue was a seed, then this sprout grew and grew. There is no doubt in my heart that I’d follow this team to the Grey Zone and back, only for the chance to hear them tell the tale.

No One's Rose #2

9

Spooky Spores

10.0/10

Walt Whitman's Worms

10.0/10

Council of Clowns

10.0/10

Sibling Snag

9.0/10

Father Fumbles

6.0/10

Pros

  • Thompson and Horn keep tossing seeds into the ground.
  • Deft handling of different tones and genres.
  • I'm a sucker for Walt Whitman, especially in this context.

Cons

  • Having to wait for the next issue.
  • Just that one clunky element.
Zee Huff
zeehuff@gmail.com
Writer, jokester, and dog-lover. [THEY|HE]

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