Light by Rob Cham

LIGHTI had mixed feelings about Light, a wordless comic by Rob Cham. The artwork is simply beautiful throughout and so part of me wants to highly recommend it for the visual presentation. But issues with the story has part of me pumping the brakes more than a little on that presentation.

The story opens with a black and white image of a diminutive character (whom I’m going to refer to as “Lt” from now on) sitting in a room preparing apparently for an adventure. The clues? A sword, backpack, and map (marked with an X no less) lying on the floor. Lt sets out, enters a cave opening, falls even deeper when the ground gives way, and enters a world of total black. Literally. The ensuing panel is completely black. The darkness, however, is somewhat cut by the colorful glow of a gem of some sort. Lt retrieves the gem, and then faces off against a late-arriving fellow adventurer who is dark rather than light (I’ll refer to this new one as “Dk”). Before they can tussle though, some big blue toothsome sorts none to happy about their about-to-be-stolen gem attack, and Lt and light-pic-1Dk flee through an expansive cave system. This is pretty much the pattern for the rest of Light as Lt and Dk seek out five gems in all, with various fantastical creatures (giant bats, birds, etc.) working as either monsters to be fought (and usually killed, somewhat bloodily) or aids in the escape. Eventually all the gems are collected, and things turn a bit once that part of the quest is achieved, but I don’t want to give that part away.

The artwork is definitely the highlight of this work. The backgrounds are mostly a deep black, with the few colors almost leaping off the page thanks to the vivid contrast. Settings and creatures aren’t defined so sharply or in full relief in the first half thanks to the darkness, adding to a sense of tension and suspense. Those pages (and these are all full page illustrations—no smaller panels) with the most color are when our adventurers are in sight of one of the gems. The images become much more precise in those moments, with the crystals and rocks sharply defined. The creatures, meanwhile, are often (though not always) revealed to be a bit whimsical and more rounded than the subterranean background.

light-pic-3Being so short, and wordless, the plot such as it is speeds along. The problem with this is that the guardian creatures don’t seem to pose much of an obstacle and for the most part Lt and Dk waltz through the cavern hacking and slaying a bit too casually and randomly for my liking. I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable reading this with a child. The story does take a turn once the gems are all found the return journey commences, and readers I think will want to look carefully at these pages and perhaps flip back and forth a bit. I liked the complicating factor of that return journey, though it still had a bit more killing for my preferences.

To be honest, I’m not sure there’s enough here in Light story-wise to warrant a purchase, so for those who like meatier stories or prefer their words, I’d recommend visiting the library; it’s certainly worth a look for its visually captivating style and presentation. For those who don’t mind its brevity, who don’t need many (or any) words, and who lean toward the visuals anyway, that choice of to buy or borrow becomes a bit more difficult.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.