Most CrossGen titles are intelligent but calculating variations on commercially proven themes: easy to enjoy but difficult to love. Scion is exceptional. Without ignoring its Star Wars/Prince Valiant parentage, the story develops the emotionally potent themes of a young man working out his adult identity and of a swarm of genetically engineered Lesser Races craving freedom. Neither process is simple, so for once, CrossGen's policy of drawing out a plot interminably fits the material. In this collection of six issues of the monthly magazine, the young, blond, good-hearted Prince Ethan finds himself caught within a war between his family, the Heron Dynasty and the Raven Dynasty (led by malevolent Bron). Simultaneously, Ethan obtains a small island as a free refuge for members of the Lesser Races. As usual in CrossGen titles, conflicts of attitudes and values are settled by hand-to-hand combat, but this time the outcome feels important, as if these fictional characters embody issues that matter. It helps that Scion's art is outstanding. Cheung (pencils), Hillsman (inks) and Ponsor (color) have a terrific feel for atmosphere in large spaces, whether in a seaside castle hall or a forest panorama. These sweeping views effectively contrast the battle scenes, where closeups are full of spraying sweat and notched armor, torn by bursts of pure light when Ethan and Bron draw on the energy of their CrossGen sigils. Scion is a remarkably smart and good-looking comic. (Aug.) FYI: Marz received a Harvey Award nomination for Best Writer last year for his work on Scion, and the book was nominated for Best Continuing Series. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-After failing to get permission to use the underwater city of Haven as a sanctuary for Lesser Race refugees, Raven Princess Ashleigh and Heron Prince Ethan conquer Tournament Isle, the only available land not part of the two warring kingdoms. However, trouble is on the horizon as the Raven and Heron fleets converge. Ethan uses his power to separate them, but the effort leaves him exhausted, and Ashleigh's wicked brother Bron forces a confrontation. The chance to end things conclusively slips away from Ethan due to the intercession of Mai Shen, the mysterious woman who gave Bron his power. Most of the developments in this fourth entry in the series are emotional. Ethan's close relationship with Ashleigh drives a wedge between him and his family. He also realizes that his decision to help the Lesser Races has great consequences. The responsibilities of founding a nation land on his shoulders and test his idealism. The art changes in the last part of the book as a new team of artists steps in, but it remains bright and filled with action, and the characters are recognizable. The only mystery is why Ashleigh suddenly decided to show a lot more skin.-Susan Salpini, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.