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Tellos: The Last Heist. Written by Todd Dezango and Craig Rousseau. Inked by Norman Lee. Colors by Paul Mounts and Ken Wolak. Orange, CA: Image Comics, 2001. 1v. (unpaged). $5.95. ISBN 1-58240-222-1.

Fantasy; funny animals

Adults, teens, kids; very mild heroic fantasy violence

NOTE: Although this book is the latest in a series that I haven't read, the back cover claims that "If you've never read a Tellos book before, this is the Reader Friendly, don't-gotta-know-any-stupid-history story to pick up!" So I'm treating the book like a standalone title.

Tellos is a world made up of many different realms, "peopled by Creatures of Myth and Legend" as well as humans. Rikk, the fox thief, sneaks into the castle at Ree to steal the Eastland Mirror, which has the power to capture and hold an image. He's successful, and stashes the mirror in his airboat, but as he prepares to leave he's confronted by a pair of rival thieves, the bear Peatoot and the raccoon Bugdusty. Their argument draws guards, and as Rikk attempts to leap into his airboat and fly away, he discovers that he had accidentally severed the anchor line. He plummets to the ground, which serves as an alternate escape route from the guards, who are hot in pursuit of Peatoot and Bugdusty. Rikk's airboat has lodged itself in the light tower of the nearby "creepy monastery," and he has to retrieve it.

Elsewhere and earlier, the dragon Brad and the turtle mage Tom discover that their pirate friends Serra and Hawke are inadvertently being betrayed by their courier, a pretty little faerie. As Tom transports himself to the betrayer's lair, Brad and the faerie set out to make things right.

In a nearby city [and, I believe, contemporary to the time of Rikk's troubles, but this isn't clear], the Captain of the Guard is searching for Rikk and his partner Hawke (who, BTW, was killed a while ago) and is sent to Brad's house. Brad is noncommital about their whereabouts and not particularly worried by the Captain until the Faerie tells him that she overheard that the Captain wants to kill Rikk and Hawke and will follow Brad until they encounter the pair. Brad determines to lead them anywhere but to Rikk.

As Rikk wanders the city of Ree, constantly changing his appearance with the Sphere of 'Squerade, Bugdusty and Peatoot plot to get the jump on Rikk for a change [apparently they always end up shafted when they tangle with him]. Bugdusty dyes himself red to impersonate Rikk. Of course, Brad accidentally ends up leading the guards right to Bugdusty/Rikk; fooled, Brad tries to hide the fake Rikk from the pursuing guards, and mayhem ensues.

Meanwhile the real Rikk has entered the monastery. As he sneaks around, he discovers that the monks are actually evil Shadowjumpers. They give chase, but he escapes in his rescused airboat. Unfortunately, he accidentally severs some of the ropes holding the balloon in his airboat. The mirror falls. He leaps for it, gets tangled in the ropes, and drifts over the city dangling awkwardly from the boat part, barely holding the mirror. Of course, everyone sees this, and everyone gives chase, with the confused Peatoot grabbing onto the dangling rope and being wafted off himself. Brad and the faerie try to help but are more trouble than not. Eventually, with a timely sacrifice of the Sphere of 'Squerade, Rikk escapes his many pursuers and gives the mirror to Serra so she can finally see the interesting scar on her back.

A separate story, apparently titled "6 1/2," deals with Koj, a tiger who has no known people. Brad takes him to Toli, a psychic who has met another talking tiger. While he seems to have met this "Tigger," Toli also gives weird and seemingly meaningless prophecies to Koj, and the tiger leaves in disgust.

The back cover isn't accurate; there's a lot going on that requires prior knowledge, though the story can be followed with some difficulty. As the story summary indicates, there are an awful lot of characters and plot elements, and it's hard to figure out the chronology of events, though obviously everything in the first story ends up in the mad chase through Ree. That whole business with the turtle mage, for example, is completely mysterious, since we never see him again in the book. And who the heck are the Shadowjumpers, and how are they important not just to Rikk's troubles but to the world? And what's the deal with the tiger--was he a character who had appeared before, or some new guy with a problem? I'm sorry, but these are simply not "new-reader-friendly" story elements.

In fairness to the authors, it was stupid of the marketing dept. at Image to tag this book with that silly comment about this book being "Reader Friendly." Yes, it's possible to get a feel for the world of Tellos by starting with this book, just as it's possible to get a feel for the world of Elfquest by starting with, say, volume 8a, but I sure don't feel like I've been properly introduced. I'd guess readers of the series would have no trouble following the story.

When the story is comprehensible, it's pleasant enough, though kind of shopworn; many-race worlds, fairy-tale worlds, competent thieves, incompetent thieves, female pirate captains, animal adventurers, goofy dragons, and the like have all been done frequently in both comics and regular fiction. Think Cerebus, Duncan and Mallory, Grimjack, Red Shetland, Buck Godot, Usagi Yojimbo, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. etc. Throwing all these elements into the mix doesn't make this series any more original, but it does make it considerably more cluttered. In a way this book reminds me of Pixy Junket, with its endless and pointless stream of disparate wonders awkwardly jostling against one another. Tellos: The Last Heist isn't that bad, but it would have been far superior if it had focused entirely on the Rikk story thread. I point to the superiority of The Courageous Princess in this regard; its heavy focus on Princess Mablerose keeps the plot simple, easy to follow, and rapidly paced, and it integrates the fairy-tale elements, talking animals, etc. into the story much more smoothly. (It also doesn't rely on moron characters for most of its laughs, whereas Tellos: The Last Heist does.)

The art is very clean and pretty and is probably this book's major draw. Too bad the story doesn't live up to it!

The series would appear to appeal to most levels of reader; judging by this book, it should have few objectionable elements beyond fantasy swordplay, and thus this series is probably good for kids. Start with the first books, though!


Copyright 2002, D. Aviva Rothschild


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