6 November 2015

Modo: Ember’s End
Written by Arthur Slade, Art by Christopher Steininger
Review by Courtney Bates-Hardy
$20.00 ISBN 978-0-9880139-0-2

Modo: Ember’s End is a graphic novel that follows the adventures of Modo, the main character from The Hunchback Assignments, a previously published four book series. However, you don’t need to have read the series to enjoy the graphic novel. It’s a standalone story set in the Old West, with a steampunk twist. Modo is hunchbacked with the unique ability to change his appearance for short amounts of time. His friend, and fellow British spy, Octavia, provides the comic relief as they make their way in Ember’s End.

Upon their arrival, they are quickly deputized and pulled into a race to find a mystery device made by a former weapons inventor. Unfortunately, someone else is after it too. The mercenary Ogden Bull will stop at nothing to find it before they do. His assassin, a ninja with glowing eyes, is after them and their only help is a mysterious young woman with a clockwork heart. These characters will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.

A middle school audience will really enjoy this story, although it has appeal for older audiences as well. The graphic novel was crowd-funded through Kickstarter, so there’s only a limited number available.

Slade found a solid artistic partner in Christopher Steininger. The art is really excellent: the lines are crisp and clean, and the panels are easy to follow. The character designs are imaginative and evocative, slightly steampunk without being too ostentatious. It can be tempting to get too detailed with steampunk but Steininger strikes the perfect balance.

While there are perhaps too many jokes about Octavia’s shoe habit and “bad driving,” the story makes up for it in the moments when Octavia manages to be more than a sidekick or a blonde foil to Modo’s brooding, no-nonsense nature. The overall effect of the story is charming. Slade shows himself to be an author with a grasp on what makes a good story, with a surprise twist at the end.


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