Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writers: Brandon Sanderson & Rik Hoskin
Artist: Julius Gopez
Colours: Ross A. Campbell
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Brandon Sanderson is probably best known as the writer who completed Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time book series after the latter’s sad death in 2007, but he also has several bestselling series of his own, added to which is now the fantasy-action comic White Sand. Though it was originally conceived as a novel, Dynamite convinced Sanderson to turn the story into a comic book series, and it appears that Sanderson’s first foray into the format replicates some of the key strengths of his prose work, but also falls prey to a few weaknesses.
On a planet of white sand, civilisations rise and fall under the glare of a relentless sun. Kenton is one of the Sand Masters, a tribe of warrior wizards who bend the desert to their will, but his whole way of life is transformed when tragedy and betrayal thrust him into a strange new world. Crossing paths with religious fanatics, criminals, and curious travellers from the planet’s dark side, Kenton begins to learn that his actions and experiences are just one small part of a much larger conflict, one which threatens to engulf the entire planet.
It might be due to an over-familiarity with the prose format, but throughout this first volume of White Sand Sanderson displays an unfortunate tendency to exposit, both through copious internal monologue and frequent footnotes. It’s a minor issue, but one that can’t be escaped, and Sanderson’s difficulty transitioning to the comic book format might also explain the story’s problems with pacing and its reliance on narrative contrivances. His interaction with scriptwriter Rik Hoskin is also vague, and a possible source of difficulty in adapting the prose-based source material into a more graphic format. At times, White Sand feels as though it’s a story that’s been brutally edited down, and although this is only the first volume of a much bigger series, there are still too many jarring time-jumps and underdeveloped characters on display.
That said, Sanderson’s gift for world-building is undeniable. Despite the numerous problems with this first volume, the various plot threads of White Sand remain compelling, and the reader is left with a keen desire both to follow the characters into their next adventure and to learn more about the richly exotic world that Sanderson has brought to life in conjunction with Hoskin and artist Julius Gopez. Fans of fantasy fiction will find plenty to enjoy in the story of Kenton’s epic adventure.
Gopez’s art is also something of a disappointment. His manga-influenced line work excels at rendering landscapes and vistas, but becomes messy when attempting to capture detail and portray characters’ expressions and movements. Ross A. Campbell’s restrained but vibrant colouring does bring some much-needed punch to White Sand‘s visuals, but an opportunity has been missed here to breath life into Sanderson’s stunning fantasy world.
Fantasy fans will find much to enjoy in White Sand, even if it doesn’t break the mould as far as genre conventions are concerned. Sanderson’s talent for compelling world-building succeeds in carrying this first volume, even as the comic is dragged down by plot contrivances and uninspiring artwork.