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The World Ends in Fire #1-4 (Review)

Writer – DC Horn

Artist – Brendan Albetski

Xancon Entertainment, 2023

We have previously written about the masterful title Kill 6 Billion Demons (see Part of that title’s appeal is the awesome chaos of literal titans and demons in a quest for ultimate power. The World Ends in Fire could be part of that mythos, but it takes a different approach. Instead of epic cosmic battles, writer DC Horn relies upon comedy to fuel the plot.

There are four protagonists: “Warcott (the tough one), Asterick (the magic one), 84 (the quick one), and Phil (…is a skeleton)”. In issue 1, they barrel through the desert in a souped-up chrome car, reminding us of the crazy indifference of the animated band Gorillaz in the music video “Feel Good Inc”. This comparison is exaggerated by the creative team on the cover to the second issue:

Each are well-characterised. Warcott is a grandiose, ever-confident warrior with long elfin ears stuck under his tin pot hat. His rotund armour can change into different materials (or, at least, to stone). 84 is practical and no-nonsense pink devil, and we learn about how she was taught sword fighting from her master, El Gallo. Asterick the sorcerer is a human jokester – he draws a moustache on Phil’s skull face while Phil rests. Phil the skeleton is the goof who forgot to fill up the car. Phil also has a watch face secured to his chest, akin the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist’s Doomsday Clock: 84 repeatedly checks to see how many hours they have left to fulfil their mission.

The first issue is a caper, the latest step in their overall quest, to steal a blue egg which belongs to a phoenix. (The phoenix, of course, rises from its own ashes and does not lay eggs, an anomaly which Robert Heinlein considered in his 1963 novel, Glory Road.) Artist Brendan Albertiski, whose helter-skelter style wonderfully suits the story, depicts the rising of the phoenix from its lair as a huge plume of fire, which the team observes on the horizon like 1950s atomic test.

After successfully avoiding the phoenix, the four rest at a diner, where they are served by a blue monster named Cheryl (we see her name on the name tag on her uniform). It is a good breather for exposition. Cheryl turns out to be decidedly unfriendly, and Phil (who speaks in sign language) ends up being the dark horse, resembling DC Comics’ The Spectre when in full flight. From there, the team undergo the mundane activity of catching a train but are intercepted by a delivery man with a box. He demands a signature from Asterick, and all of the crew save for 84 are magically syphoned into the box. 84 is left to fight a trio of assassins. Hir-No, Si-No, and Spik-No (a play on the Three Wise Monkeys) who call themselves The Shadow Brethren.

The four are on a quest to save the world, and their as-yet unnamed adversary is throwing various deadly obstacles in their way. It is highly entertaining.

Of the main characters, it is Asterick who we find most compelling. Asterick suffers from the Wizard’s Curse, which numbs the mind. Asterick recognises an old and run-down house, and strikes up a conversation with the old woman who lives there. Asterick asks about the house. The original inhabitants were in love, a medicine woman named Welcome, and her husband, a sorcerer. But the sorcerer would return from his adventures with increasingly less memory of who he was and who his wife was, and one day did not return at all. Asterick, it seems, is doomed to the same fate. He does not at all recognise the old woman as his mother. Dementia, whether related to beta-amyloid protein toxicity or to magic, is slow and sad.

This is nonetheless a fun and unpretentious adventure, a jumble of sorcery and modern elements in garish pop colours which would give George R.R. Martin a headache and J.R.Tolkien a scarlet fit. It is irreverent to fantasy traditions and tropes – what band of warriors would drink peppermint tea in an American-style diner? Interweaving ordinary objects such as cars, trains, motorcycles and a diner renders the story accessible. Notwithstanding the names of the Shadow Brethren, the reader does not need to have any knowledge of, say, how iron works on fairies in order to grasp the plot.

If the zany crew do not fulfil their quest, they know the world ends in fire. We wish them well.

The title is available to read for free here: Read THE WORLD ENDS IN FIRE Chapter 1 Page 1 in English Online (