Sometimes a comic surprises you. You pick up a series and begin to journey through the story, certain you know exactly what kind of narrative you are reading. You look at the cover, maybe you even read a review, and you convince yourself that the series you hold in your hands contains the same tropes and plot holes that you’ve sunk into so many times before.
When I picked up Coda, a comic published by rising star BOOM! Studios, I was sure I had seen the series a million times before. Touted as Lord of the Rings meets Mad Max, Coda was supposed to be a series set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy realm where the dark lord won and the world, once filled with magic, was left to pick up the pieces. The story was supposed to follow a poetic bard named Hum as he struggled to survive while searching through the rubble of his once familiar life, desperately looking for the woman he loves. Coda was supposed to be wildly over the top, deeply rooted in the history of the fantasy genre, and provide “no-holds-barred” entertainment. But I was lied to. Coda isn’t just all of those things; instead, Coda is so far beyond the expectations I built up around it that it is something else entirely.
Maybe the first sign Coda was different was when the foul-mouthed unicorn with a predilection for murder showed up; or maybe it was the face-melting art by Uruguayan artist Matías Bergara; or maybe it was the heart-wrenching story by Simon Spurrier, a story of a man trying desperately to hold on to what he loves. Either way, somewhere along the line, Coda transformed. It changed from an over-done tale of post-apocalyptic wasteland into a hulking war-beast that asks whether or not you can truly love something if you also want to change it.
Coda surprised me. Everything from the sugar-coated blood bath of a colour palette to the deeply self-reflective narrative was fresh and unexpected. Coda is one of the rare instances where a comic is exactly what it says it is and everything that you didn’t think it could be.