REVIEW: Rise #1 (In Hiatus Studios)

The coming Queen Zakaiah embarks on a perilous journey with her small group of comrades to complete the trials of the House of Jasser and assume the mantle of Queen, but will the dark forces conspiring against her prevent Zakaiah from completing the first trial?

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Rise #1
Created by: Don Aguillo
Writer: Don Aguillo
Art: Don Agiullo
Publisher: In Hiatus Studios


What You Need to Know:
A young, orphaned monarch assumes the responsibilities of a long-vacant throne and, as political and supernatural forces alike threaten to keep her from it, a reluctant band of individuals assembles to help her on her path to assume the mantle of queen.


What You’ll Find Out:
In the Great Jasser Temple complex’s west campus Quad, a bounty hunter from the Sorority of Shadows enters through the roof and calls forth the steward of the temple. He makes himself known and tells the bounty hunter that she is trespassing, and despite her threats, remains faithful that the coming Queen of Pacifica will ascend her throne. The bounty hunter knows that the seer is here to send help to the coming Queen, and she is here to stop it. They battle through the temple, all while debating the merits of faith and prayer until she grows tired of the priest’s sermons and lays a devastating blow on him. The bounty hunter tells the seer, Duncan, to rest as she blows out the first candle to the fall of Queen Zakaiah….

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At a makeshift camp beyond Pacifica’s northeast boundaries, the coming Queen Zakaiah enjoys a brief moment of peace inside a temple where no soul thief can enter, but her group members fail to do the same. Lucas feels the nightmare of Duncan’s death and knows something terribly wrong has happened. Despite this, they all discuss their vastly different views on the world and their journey on behalf of someone who they believe to be worthy. However, as their discussion continues, the soul thieves surround the temple…listening and waiting.

Meanwhile, at the house of singular pleasures, the Tower of Babel, an entourage of the interim royal court has arranged a meeting amidst the aristocrats and criminals who frequent the place. Haydan demands counsel with the Queen of Qards, and he and the others soon meet with Qalisto to discuss their recent killing of the first of Balthazar’s beacons. The source which allowed Lucas to borrow magic in support of Zakaiah’s journey. However, the Qards have seen two more of these sources within Pacifica, and in time they will destroy them just the same.

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At a market in town, Lucas and Zakaiah are found sprinting desperately away, each holding a bag of goods they have stolen. Senka luckily stops their pursuers with ease, but the crowd gathering forces them to leave immediately. Lucas takes Zakaiah beyond the town’s limits and tells the coming Queen that they stole from thieves to provide for a woman who cares for five children alone. Lucas calls it moral relativism and tells Zakaiah she will learn this lesson the hard way, eventually.

Back at the Tower of Babel, Qalisto uses her magic to see that General Adofo Junayo, the young Queen’s dead guardsman, has risen from the dead. He is bloodied and beaten, but Qalisto asks for patience. Magic is governed by equivalent exchange, and soon they will see the price for his return.

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As the group continues their journey with Zakaiah, they approach a sanctuary at the peak of Lassen Ridge where Zakaiah is to commence the first trial the House of Jasser. Lucas describes clerics at the sanctuary who will decrypt a message and reveal Zakaiah’s royal duty and legacy. As the group comforts Zakaiah they encounter a settlement littered with dead bodies and soon discover the cause, a soul thief. Senka leads the battle against the brute, and with the group’s help is soon able to bring it down. Lucas quickly notices something strange however and believes the soul thief was let loose in the town.

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The group soon meets with Delgyan Primer, who informs the coming Queen Zakaiah that the Priests of the Jasser Order will soon begin their ritual. Her trial here is simply to learn of the House of Jasser’s history and her own place in it. He tells Zakaiah that they need a few days to gather the necessary items though. Senka and the others decide to use this time to figure out what happened in the town that led to so many deaths, but Lucas and Zakaiah stay.

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The two are escorted into the Jasser Gardens for some enjoyment and are told of a local family that will host them. Within the gardens they encounter a boy on the edge of a cliff, holding the sides of his head. The family that is to host them had sent him, but Delgyan Primer gives them a brief warning that the boy, Ichobod, can be a bit peculiar…


What Just Happened?
The first issue of Rise can seem like a lot to unpack due to the sheer scale of the story, however, Don Aguillo manages to weave various narrative threads brilliantly to create an enjoyable reading experience.

Lucas and Zakaiah have now reached the sanctuary where the first trial of the House of Jasser will be held, and they truly had a perilous journey just to get there. As the first issue establishes vast amounts of lore within Pacifica, it finds its strengths in the grounded story of a wise elder on a dangerous journey with a young progeny. The relationship between Lucas and Zakaiah is one that many readers can sympathize with and even learn from. As the merits of simply believing in something greater than yourself are explored, the two represent a certain fruition of faith that is uniquely encouraging. Don Aguillo may be telling an epic story filled with courageous heroes and dark forces, but there is so much more if the reader looks just a bit deeper, making for a truly unforgettable issue.

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As readers embark on this perilous journey with the coming Queen Zakaiah, the dark forces gathering against her have taken action. The many locations contribute to the epic nature of the story, but The Tower of Babel that houses those who oppose Zakaiah’s reign is one of the most intriguing. It is seemingly the perfect combination of Saruman’s tower “Orthanc” from Lord of the Rings and the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars. These forces have proven to be a threat to Zakaiah’s journey, and I personally can’t wait to see where they strike next.

The artwork, by Don Aguillo, accentuates the story perfectly with grand locations and exquisite detail. The vibrant colors emphasize not only the overall tone of the narrative but the character’s mood as well. The first issue of Rise shows a complete creative vision from the very beginning that is executed nearly perfectly to create an issue that stands out from anything currently on the shelves. From the character’s interactions to their intense action sequences, every panel in Rise begs for the reader’s utmost attention and delivers wholeheartedly on everything promised. Although some scenes are weighted down with a bit of lengthy dialogue, the overall reading experience is nothing short of amazing.

With an incredibly original and engaging story that features a beautiful art direction, Rise is a perfect example to show readers that any story can be told successfully through the comic book medium. It is relatable, entertaining, and epic beyond imagination. Rise #1 easily shows why it is a series that can’t be missed!

This series is without a doubt a worthy addition to any collection, so get your copy now!


Rating: 9.5/10

Final Thoughts: Creator Don Aguillo weaves brilliant narrative threads accentuated by beautiful artwork in the first issue of Rise. The result is an issue that is bold, vivid, and truly epic without sacrificing an entertaining reading experience for any fan of the medium.


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