Step By Bloody Step #1 Advance Review: A Masterclass in Visual Storytelling

The story begins with a child, frail in form and entirely naked, and his protector, a metal colossus prepared for battle, making their way across a snowy wasteland; the child curls against himself in the giant's outstretched hand as snow falls. It's an impactful image – one that speaks to themes of power, isolation, and survival. It's also the fundamental building block upon which all of Step By Bloody Step is built. As the story continues it relies upon these two fundamental concepts: 1. This is the story of a child and his protector and 2. This is a story told in images. In the telling it reminds readers that simple ideas hold untold power and there is no idea too nuanced or precious to remain unseen. Step By Bloody Step #1 is, simply put, a masterclass in visual storytelling.

(Photo: Image Comics)

What's most remarkable in this first issue is how quickly the visual seed planted by its cover and first page blossoms into a rich world filled with texture, wonder, and mystery. Each page presents a metaphorical step forward, whether it comes in examining its characters, exploring its world, or some combination of the two. It begins in the snow as the giant struggles to care for the small figure gasping in its hands. There's subtlety in how it holds its burdensome form and struggles to provide warmth and shelter for what it holds. This sense of care is earned far better when presented by artist Matías Bergara than any simple line, like "I love you," might provide. 

These small moments merit a great deal of attention as they carry the complexities of this tale and draw out meaning from the fantastical text, but they are accompanied by inverted sequences focused on bombast and power struggles as well. In their wanderings through the wild, the giant and child encounter a wide array of fearsome creatures, each more mistifying than the last. Familiar elements like a feral cat's face or pangolin's layered scales are blended with other features to construct beasts that would be wonderful if they were not terrifying – creations worthy of spotlights in the Monster Manual. The subsequent battles with each of them are similarly awe-inspiring and earn every bit of space used in their depiction.

Whether it's the protagonists at the story's center, the monsters they battle, or the other characters who arrive late in issue #1, they are all part of a wider world that inspires the imagination. Comparisons to Miyazaki's films seem inevitable, but the world constructed by Bergara, writer Si Spurrier, and colorist Matheus Lopes in these pages is a setting entirely of its own. The comparison comes in the sense of submersion it provides ensuring that no matter where one might look they will remain astounded. Even a quiet sequence wandering through the fog and looking upward at odd, fungi-like trees allows readers to lose themselves in this place. The introduction of new settings and elements on nearly every new page elevates astounding designs into a truly sublime world.

I've avoided addressing the plot directly because to summarize this first installment of the story would be to undermine the telling. Every encounter introduces new information and complicates the unexplained quest at the heart of Step By Bloody Step, but understanding is never difficult. Cause and effect are the coin of the page and each choice made, by the giant, child, or later arrivals, is clear in both matters. The first issue promises when the series reaches its conclusion, there will be plenty to contemplate, but here the goal is exploration and consideration. A shocking revelation delivered ¾ through the comic assures readers there's plenty of distance remaining down this rabbit hole.

With 3 issues remaining, it's thrilling to anticipate what will come next. This introduction to a brand new world filled with so many wonders and terrors makes any opportunity to explore it further exciting. But what is most significant at the end of the issue remains the child and their giant, an unexpected duo moving through time and space together with familiar affectations of care and love. Theirs' is a story told with great detail and emphasizing actions above all else; I am grateful to have witnessed this first chapter.

Published by Image Comics

On February 23, 2022

Written by Si Spurrier

Art by Matías Bergara

Colors by Matheus Lopes

Cover by Matías Bergara and Matheus Lopes