Saturday, May 26, 2018

Review: The Last Siege

I have been a fan of the creative team of Landry Walker and Eric Jones for some time now, following them from Supergirl Cosmic Adventures to Danger Club and beyond. So when I heard they were being joined by artist Justin Greenwood on the Image book The Last Siege I knew I would be there.

Now Cosmic and Danger Club are two very different styles of books so I didn't know what to expect with The Last Siege. It leans more towards the darker end of the thematic spectrum mixing medieval politics with sword play and desperate battles. I have been trying to come up with a sort of elevator pitch shorthand for the book and I guess I would say it's "Seven Samurai meets Braveheart meets Yojimbo". But even that sells it short for what I am sure will be an exploration of power and the corruption of power throughout the story.

Walker brings the reader into this first issue effectively, going back and forth between two plotlines which are inextricably linked and therefore laying the foundation for what the story is about. In particular, the opening pages are quite cinematic and let's the reader know this isn't going to be a sunny romp.

Greenwood's art is new to me but very much works here. I think of medieval times as a sort of dingy, rough time period and there is a raw quality to the linework here which just puts me into the story. You can feel the grime and grit as warriors battle in the rain.

I'm in and hope you will give it a try.

There is an opening text page which gives a brief history. A warlord from across the sea has invaded the Western lands. Rather than be mowed down, most lords of the land are surrendering. All except one house and one castle.

We then see a single cloaked figure walking in the rain through a dark forest of interwoven trees towards a castle. He comes upon a dead animal being picked at by the carrion birds.

From the get go, you know this is a dark place and dark times. You also get the sense that death follows this man. A dead animal in the middle of the street in his path. Just a great image.

And again, cinematic in my mind. This seemed like storyboards of the entrance of the character in a movie, played while the credits come across the screen. Just perfect.

We then cut to within the castle.

Lord Aedon, the ruler here, is dead. His daughter Cathryn, a young girl, is in line for power. But she cannot rule. So the court has decided to have her marry a warrior named Feist as a way to ensure some calm and protection in the kingdom.

There is so much to unpack here. Cathryn is clearly very young, playing with dolls. To think of her marrying a soldier seems terrible. And yet that second panel makes me think she is older in her soul than her years.

Next, how terrible that the bishop here is so willing to send this child into this marriage for safety sake. Luckily, the chancellor seems to have a bigger heart.

As for Feist, he is aptly named. He is Feist-y. That isn't the noblest of names and it shows. When the cloaked figure from the beginning of the book wanders into a pub, Feist decides to engage. There is no need. This is Feist just showing he is in charge here. And the best way to show that is physically.

Of course the stranger doesn't back down. There is a 'Mifune' or 'Eastwood' level of cool to him as he looks at Feist and says he sees no king.

Flipping back to the castle, we once again join this debate. Walker has us rebounding from two different confrontations, one physical and one ethical. It keeps the book moving with each sort of building on the other.

Again, the bishop here seems oily. He belittles Cathryn. As a woman she needs guidance. His smug, corpulent face just stands out amid the dirt and haggard nature of this place. I just know I won't like this guy.

Below, Feist continues to talk about ruling the place even if he hasn't ascended yet. So he decides to make his rule known by attacking. Of course, the stranger is more than adept at combat. He appears to be Asian, armed with samurai swords not broad sword and dagger. You know he has been trained elsewhere. He is even called an Easterner.

And with some effort he both defeats Feist's men and Feist himself. That is a palpable arm fracture in the last panel.

This fight is well drawn and choreographed. You see it from various angles and panels which give it a frenetic feel. And again, there is that Kurosawa feel of the ultimate Samurai or Ronin walking into a town and just grabbing it by the throat with his skills.

And then the twist ending.

The newly arrived man has papers signed by Aedon saying that he is now in charge of the castle.

This is a very nice page hitting all the right beats. The view is from below, emphasizing Feist at the feet of this man. Of course, we are looking up at him, a classic heroic pose making him larger than life. And ... is that a sun peeking through the clouds? As though hope has arrived??

Yeah, this does just what a first issue should do, suck me in and leave me wanting more.

So check out The Last Siege. I don't think you'll be disapppointed!

Overall grade: A

1 comment:

Gear said...

Nice review Anj.

I’ve enjoyed the other two series by Walker and Jones, I think I’ll give this a try. The other two series were very different from each other in tone and style, this looks just as different. It’s really nice to see creators change things up like that.