Indie Comic Review: Memorial

Memorial by Chris Roberson and Rich Ellis – IDW – $24.99

Memorial is the kind of book that, as an adult, you feel like you have read before. But, if you were a kid (or “Young Adult” in the literary vernacular) Memorial would be a fantastic story which brings together familiar characters in new and exciting ways. So, your enjoyment of Memorial may vary depending on your age and reading experiences.

Memorial is the story of Em, a young woman who arrives at a hospital in Portland, Oregon, with no memory of her past. A year later, she has rebuilt her life, only to find her existence thrown into turmoil after she inherits a magical shop. The kind that appears in an alley one instance and disappears the next.

From that description, you may be thinking that Memorial is a kind of Doctor Who pastiche. But you would be wrong. Memorial is more of an all-ages Fables by way of an all-ages The Unwritten. Em’s adventures bring her into contact with a never-ending stream of fable and literary characters. They wink and nod at the reader as they re-live past grievances and make cross-story alliances. It is the kind of thing that has been done time and again in Fables and The Unwritten…and that is where I ran in to problems with Memorial.

There really did not seem to be anything terribly original happening in Memorial. Em is more or less Tommy Taylor from the Unwritten. She has no knowledge of the greater world around her, yet is somehow the key to ending all the bad things that are happening. Meanwhile, all of the different story characters live together in a single land, interacting with each other in much the same way as the characters in Fables…just with far less swearing and inter-species sex.

Had I known that Memorial was going to be an all-ages mash-up of these two properties, I could have squared myself for that before I started reading. But Memorial was supposed to be something fresh and different. It was supposed to be a new take on fantasy. Unfortunately there was not much new in it.

It did not have to be. The teleporting antique shop and a cat named Schrödinger practically write themselves. Don’t believe me? Fifty years of Doctor Who prove otherwise. Em could have been a great character who interacted with a wide variety of landscapes and made all sorts of startling discoveries. Instead she is predictable, cliche, and (worst of all) unoriginal. Having read other books by Chris Roberson, I expected more from him. He is so often full of creative and unique ideas, seeing the ideas of others rehashed in this book as jarring.

The art in Memorial is fairly decent. I wish I could say more about it, but that is more or less it. Rich Ellis adequately creates the characters. However when he has the characters fighting (or even moving for that matter) the characters come off as stiff and awkward. With cover art by Michael WM Kaluta I was expecting something similar within. However the art, like the story did not meet my level of anticipation.

Now, with all that being said, I have to put myself in the mindset of a twelve to fourteen year old who has not had the pleasure of reading Fables or The Unwritten. If that is the case then this is a great book! The characters are fun and interesting and there is an appropriate level of peril. To a younger reader this book would be something unexpected with characters from plenty of familiar stories coming together for an epic adventure.

Hopefully retailers will key in on this fact and market this book to younger readers and people with families because that is who should be reading this book. Jaded readers such as myself will probably not enjoy it nearly as much.

Memorial is in stores today.
Interested in a preview? Click here.

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