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Memorial: Imaginary Fiends #1 (originally released digitally and now enjoying a print release) continues the story that Roberson and Ellis started in the six issues of Memorial. Memorial follows its protagonist Em, who wakes up in a hospital in Portland, Oregon with no memory of her past. She later inherits a magical shop, and gets drawn into supernatural conflict. Luckily for her she also inherits a special key, an old man, and a talking cat to help her on her journey. Memorial: Imaginary Fiends #1 continues on in this world, but first introduces a character named Jonathan visiting his mother in the nursing home. She keeps drawing and old imaginary friend, which coincidentally her son also remembers as his imaginary friend. Returning home, Jonathan finds a stuffed-animal version of this creature – a blue dragon he called Nox which his daughter cheerfully snatches from him.
When looking for his daughter for supper, Jonathan instead encounters a bashed bathroom, and a living breathing life-size Nox, who says
I’m Sorry Jonnie, I tried to stop them but I couldn’t. They’ve got the little girl. But don’t worry! I know how to get her back!
Em and co. bust in on the scene shortly and join Nox and Jonathan on a quest to find his daughter, setting up the preliminary story arc for the series.
Without having read the original Memorial series, jumping into Memorial: Imaginary Fiends can be a bit confusing. While Roberson does a good job of introducing us to Jonathan and his family, there is very little context given for Em’s appearance, most likely operating under the assumption that readers of the new Memorial series would already be acquainted with the old. I was a bit confused when Em showed up, as I had just spent 10 pages getting to know Jonnie and Nox and hadn’t expected a larger cast of characters.
My second minor complaint is that with a title like “Imaginary Fiends’ I had expected a bit more…whimsy infused into the pages. Beginning with the drawings of Nox, and mention of a mirror world I had expected something a smidgen more Lewis Carrol than Constantine. However, the tone of Memorial: Imaginary Fiends becomes very serious after Jonathan’s daughter disappears, which seems to undermine the greater potential of a story that focuses on imaginary fiends and the land of maybe. Of course the first issue has to set up the narrative for the rest of the series, so perhaps we will have more whimsy to come in later issues.
One of the more fascinating elements of the issue to me as a fantasy fan was the brief intrusion of an academic lecturer giving an overview of the three categories that most fantasy falls into, the immersion, the excursion, and the incursion. Naturally all three types are touched on within the pages of Memorial: Imaginary Fiends. I enjoyed the way that Roberson utilized this narrative device in order to contextualize the plot of the series, and introduce us to Violet, Jonathan’s daughter.
So, bigger question: Should you read this? If you like fantasy, stuffed animals, and talking cats then this might be a series that will pique your interest. The first issue is strong, and Jonathan, Nox and Violet come across as well developed characters. Chris Roberson is a fairly decorated fantasy writer, so the series will probably only get better from here.
By: Kate Reynolds