Title: The Highest House.
Writer(s): Mike Carey.
Illustrator(s): Peter Gross.
Colourist(s): Fabien Alquier.
Publisher: IDW Publishing.
Release Date: November 20th 2018.
Genre(s): Comics, Fantasy.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
Every now and then you wander down the beautiful roads of literature and cross paths with a wild story that will fully enchant you with its flamboyant looks and its tantalizing stare. This latest discovery comes right in time to remind me that saturation is no where near my sights as great storytellers continue to find ways to capture a reader’s attention and hold it through words and pictures. Mike Carey and Peter Gross team up once again after having joined forces and delivered the Lucifer and The Unwritten series to offer readers around the world the chance to be absorbed into a unique self-contained fantasy world with slavery, politics and mysterious forces in the mist of it all. Collecting issues #1-6 in an oversized European dimension that was originally published in France and later released in the U.S. by IDW Publishing, this story marks the beginning of a brand new series for readers to explore.
The Highest House transports us to the country of Ossaniul where resides the incomprehensibly enormous fortress known as the Highest House. The story follows Moth, a newly-acquired slave to the noble family of Aldercrest, and looks to investigate his mysterious ascension through the mean and despicable social classes of this society composed of nobles and slaves. This unimaginable rise of a slave among the ranks wouldn’t however been possible without the help of an obscure force known as Obsidian. As they bond in quiet, away from the weary eyes of those who smell danger, there motives meld and become one while Obsidian’s intentions remain a secret from everyone. With mental and physical slavery at the heart of this tale, the ultimate question that arises from Moth’s journey is if he would do everything in his power to get what he wants for himself and those he cares for.
While I had no doubt that Mike Carey wasn’t likely to disappoint me in terms of world-building, especially when you know that he can write great stories (see his impressive list of work, including those written under the name of M.R. Carey), I was pleasantly surprised by my investment in this one. Unbelievable novelist and comic book writer, Mike Carey adds The Highest House to his collection and proves that his imagination still has no borders and that he is capable of anything. What makes this story so particularly captivating is its underlying theme of slavery. The imagery that is used to depict it through the narrative is impressive in its own right, from the kind of slave work Moth starts of doing to what he ends up becoming within the royal family. The pages used to explore some of the more mundane elements of the story also help unveil the complexity in the simplicity. The story also gradually develops to smoothly incorporate darker concepts that would otherwise have you cringe in disgust at the mere thought of them. There is something truly bewitching in the way the story is told and how it progresses.
Peter Gross and Fabien Alquier also deserve just as much praise for their artwork as it is quite outstanding how they are able to pack so much content within each page. With the oversized pages, a lot of room is left for the artwork for them to properly balance dialogue and art without letting one submerge the other. The balance they achieve in keeping it so gripping with each flip of a page is incredible considering that they very rarely let the artwork speak for itself. The colouring is also impeccable, giving the setting the perfect atmosphere that conveys the alternate history in which the story is folded in. Even the nuances that results from day and night help in capturing a unique vibe that easily tickles your imagination with secrecy and despair, yet truly feels innocent on the surface. It’s safe to say that the historical fiction fused with the fantasy lore was seamlessly portrayed through the artwork and that things are only getting started with this world.
The Highest House is a mesmerizing story reminiscent of the Balkan kingdoms of the 16th century that follows a young boy in his wishes to elevate himself from the suffocating grasps of society’s institution of slavery.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and IDW Publishing for sending me a copy for review!