The second volume of Spera is cut from the same cloth as the last one, with a four part story by Josh Tierney followed by an anthology of stories set in the Spera universe by other creators. The city Kotequog is our heroes’ backdrop this time. The more traditionally heroic Princess Pira continues to protect the unskilled Princess Lono from various scrapes. Lono learns to defend herself and wields a dagger for the first time. When all else fails, Yonder the fire spirit and Chobo the cat protect them from the consequences of their immaturity. The main story arc consists of how the princesses at first thwart, and later join, the Adventurers’ Guild.

Upon arriving at Kotequog, the girls settle at an inn, and from there explore the city. When they attempt to join the Adventurers’ Guild, the manager on site dispatches them to retrieve a captured monster. While it appears to be a cushy assignment, the monster turns out to be not so subdued and soon the girls are hiding from it. Angry at the guild which is apparently hazing them with the worst assignment they could think of, the girls decide to abandon their new job and return to the inn. The next morning, the monster ambushes them at breakfast, and Pira slays it. At first the guild manager is incensed by the destruction of the guild’s monster, but eventually this does gain the girls entrance to the guild. The stories that follow the four chapter novella are character driven pieces, each with some humorous moral or grim revelation to add to the Spera story.

The first volume of this series was nominated for an Eisner this year. Josh Tierney has created an intriguing world and brilliant characters that inspire not only his readers, but the artists and other contributors that collaborate with him. Despite the contrast in the art styles, and despite that the handful of writers that are allowed to share in this universe have different perspectives on the principal characters, there is a cohesion here not unlike that in a TV show with a gifted “showrunner.” That this world lives on the page with so little exposition is a testimony to his vision, the strength of his characters, and the inspiration of the artists.

And such art! Tierney is a skilled curator in addition to being a great story-teller, as it is not easy to find a favorite among so much talent. Each page seems cut whole from the magical realm of Spera. From the Tintinesque pages of Giannis Milonogiannis to the manga-like pages of Polly Guo, each panel seems to be happening for the first time before us.

Spera can be sampled on the Spera website, and if you have impulse control issues you can buy them on comiXology this very second, but the best way to enjoy these stories is in the lavish hardback editions published by Archaia. From the gilt look of the cover title, to the frontispiece illustration of Kotequog, to the bookplate page, to the immaculate binding, this is a book that will make the mainstream graphic novels on your bookshelf downright self-conscious.

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