Sunday, March 18, 2012

Inanna's Tears

Written by Rob Vollmar
Art by mpMann

I've been waiting a long time to read this book.  Inanna's Tears began life as a mini-series back in 2007, around the time that I was becoming infatuated with most of the books that Archaia was publishing.  Sadly, that coincided with their implosion as a publishing house, and so only two issues were ever published (this happened with other books they were publishing, like Some New Kind of Slaughter or had solicited, such as The Grave Doug Freshley, oddly, all of my examples have the same artist...).  Eventually, Archaia figured things out (more or less - they are usually very late), and this got published as a hardcover.

Inanna's Tears is set in Ancient Sumeria, at a time when writing was just beginning to be used to keep records and accounts.  In the city of Birith, people worship the goddess Inanna, and society is structured around the temple, and run by the Ugula, who are more or less guild-masters, controlling the people who have various functions within the city.  At the top of the social order is the En, the consort of the goddess, who attends her feedings three times daily, and whose wisdom and advice are well respected.  Outside the city lies a teeming tent-city of outsiders, who were given rights to farm the land so that they would not attack or conquer Birith.  They are run by the Lugal, an ambitious man.

When the book opens, the En, an old man named Ardru, is at the end of his life.  He names his successor - a young woman named Entika, who he raised and who has always lived within the temple.  It is unheard of for a woman to be the goddess's husband, although Entika quickly shows herself to be an inquisitive and capable En.  However, the Lugal uses this as an opportunity to take control of the city, and conflict quickly breaks out.

It is very interesting to see such a distant time portrayed in comics with such realism.  It is difficult to ascribe motivations and behaviour that we recognize to a people we know so little about, but Vollmar's story rings true and works well as historical fiction.  mpMann is no stranger to portraying ancient times - his work with A. David Lewis on The Lone and Level Sands and Some New Kind of Slaughter fits very well with this book, stylistically and thematically.  I'm very fond of his minimalist approach to comics, and would like to see more from him.

If you are looking for an intelligent and beautiful historical graphic novel that explores themes of religion, duty, and loyalty, you can't do much better than this book.

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