“You can’t change the natural order of the world.”
It’s rare for a book to be truly for all ages, striking a balance between making the characters and plot for younger readers to relate to, but also edifying for older readers and for any action sequences to feel dramatic without being explicit. The Golden Age: Book One (First Second) achieves this balancing act along with glorious levels of comics artwork. Set in a fictional version of the medieval era, The Golden Age refers to a Utopian society of fairness and equality that was long ago replaced by a more familiar system of class structure and subjugation. When the young Princess Tilda is on the verge of inheriting her late father’s kingdom, she is usurped and banished with just two allies for company. Whilst in the forest, Tilda is struck by a vision of herself dressed as warrior – she decides it’s her destiny to reclaim the throne and free the populace from oppression.
But what version of leadership would that entail? This is the theme that drives the book alongside the moments of danger and intrigue – Tilda’s ideas of simply ruling better are challenged, testing the loyalty of one of her companions which reflects the concerns of the reader. This is where the book differs from the archetypal fairy story, in it's posing of philosophical questions.
Although The Golden Age is writer Roxanne Moreil’s first graphic novel, she comes from a background that is steeped in the French comics scene as a bookseller and as part of comics collective in publishing. The art by Cyril Pedrosa is stunning. The detailed linework feels as if it has been etched into stone tablets but the extraordinary colour palette is used not only to fill the space, but also of the linework itself, sometimes giving it the apearanc of coloured thread in a tapestry. The opening pages following characters talking in a forest is ablaze in reds and oranges making it feel as though we’ve joined a world on fire. Pedrosa has worked for Disney in the past and there’s a beautifully flowing expressiveness to his characters that brings to mind old Disney cartoons of The Sword In The Stone and Jungle Book era.
That’s not to say the book feels like a storyboard for a movie. The use of panel sizes and framing are exemplary and the frequent double page spreads (suitably displayed in the large hardcover format) of characters travelling through the land give the story an epic sense of scale. They’re also brilliantly employed to heighten the wordless denouement, leaving a suitably dramatic cliff-hanger for the second and final volume. If it’s as good as this one, the series deserves to be hailed a modern classic.