Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: Last Siege #2

The Last Siege #2 came out this week and continued to weave a fascinating story of mixing medieval with samurai/spaghetti western sensibilities. A sole castle is holding out against a marauding warlord who is taking over the land. A lone stranger, well versed on martial arts, arrives to the leaderless castle with a decree from the dead king that he is in charge. Whether it is Yojimbo or The Magnificent Seven, a stranger aiding an overmatched land is a well traveled road. But that in medieval times feels fresh.

With the plot established last issue, writer Landry Walker decides to use this second chapter to nudge the story forward as well as giving us character motivation and depth. We are sort of in the same place we were at the end of the last issue but we know have a better sense of where we are going.

Really, the power of this issue is contrasting the stranger and his approach to the situation to that of Feist, the soldier almost put in charge of the castle. One is ordered and strategic. The other is unhinged and brutish. There will be more conflict ahead.

The art by J.K. Greenwood and Eric Jones really complements the plot points extremely well. It is the power of comics! Meshing words and art! There is that raw feel to the proceedings. fitting of the time period. But the Feist sections are intentionally muddy and almost messier, giving Feist a certain feel.
And yes, I got to the store early enough to get this moody Gabriel Hardman variant. Fantastic.

I'm enjoying this book a lot.

I like this opening page, basically a setting shot of the castle.

I get the sense this place will always be rain-soaked and muddy until we get an ending. We won't see the sun for a while.

Second, there is something about that small word balloon about the truth is coming from the cross window on this castle. The truth and religion usually go together if you are a believer. But let's remember that the bishop last issue was willing to marry the princess, a young girl, to the monster Feist.

The book is split between two settings. One is Feist and his men being carted away from the castle to be hanged. You hear about how awful Feist has been, sleeping in the homes of the people, sleeping with women there (probably unwilling partners). The loyal soldiers are more than happy to be rid of him.

But Feist isn't going to just trudge along. He rises up and attacks his captors. He might be a horrible human being. He is also a great fighter.

One thing you'll notice is that the Feist pages always use odd panel shapes and insets. It gives that feeling of chaos and lack of control. That fits Feist.

The other setting is within the castle as we hear the stranger lay out his plans.

He sent Feist to be hung out in the lands so others would see the brigands' deaths. He is hoping that other castles will see this and be inspired to rebellion.

He also knows that this castle holding out will be obviously frowned upon by the Warlord King. The King will want to make an example of this place and so will show up personally, as a show of power. But the taking over of the land hasn't been easy. A tired army will arrive with the angry king. There is no better time to attempt an insurrection.

Notice these pages. 90 degree panels neatly set out on the page. The stranger is cool and collected. He is planning and precise. These pages have a different feel to Feist's. Perfect.

The bishop isn't interested in this scheme. He leaves in a huff. No big surprise. I think the Bishop can read the writing on the wall. He has a better chance of maintaining his plush life with Feist and the Warlord King.

But the Chancellor, who seems to be a good man and didn't want Feist in power, isn't too keen on it either. The 50 soldiers of this castle standing against the King's armies seems foolish as well. Hopefully the stranger isn't going to waste the lives of the loyal men.

Hey, life during wartime isn't easy. No decision will be simple or bloodless. I guess the chancellor is hoping  for the least painful. I'd like to think the last panel, with the chancellor a bit more in shadows, shows how he is conflicted. The stranger's arrival hasn't made everything sunny.

As I said, we are comparing and contrasting the stranger and Feist throughout the issue.

Once more we see these angled panels. I love how the border leans into Feist's shoulders as the filthy, bloody warrior continues to murder the soldiers leading him away. (See how right after the Chancellor worries about lives wasted is followed by us seeing lives wasted?)

But Feist talking about the soldiers hiding behind 'a skirt', the Princess, shows he is pretty loathsome.

With the administrators gone, the stranger talks to the Princess about their predicament.

Her father was a great king. But he lead on the front lines making it easy for him to be killed and throw the land into turmoil. Perhaps if he lead behind the line, things wouldn't be this insane.

I imagine this is a foreshadow. At some point the stranger will need to fight in front of the soldiers, leading from in front.

Or ... perhaps even more appropriate ... will be the Princess somehow stepping into the fore and leading from there. I'm not saying she'll wield a sword like Eowyn. But maybe she will grab the situation politically or emotionally, rallying her people.

I can't help but notice how the Princess has yet to say a word. Whatever her first line of dialogue is, it is going to hit like a sledge hammer given the silence which has preceded it.

And then back to Feist. The panels become more bizarre has he loses more and more control. There is a sense of descending in this progression as he falls more in to madness, bludgeoning a soldier to death with a length of chain, all ending with that close up of his manic eye. (That is a gruesome way to go.)

The splotchiness of the art, the extreme close-up of the eye ... it is all cinematic. It reminds me of the wild eye closeups of Sergio Leone westerns, the ink like the blood spray from the gun fights.

But this art just works beautifully, especially when you contrast to the castle scenes.

And then, the blood lust over, Feist is suddenly back in 'normal' panels. He is more composed, the monster back under the surface.

He has been given a key to the castle's gate (if I had to guess from the bishop). He and his troops will head back to the castle and sneak in and slaughter from within. Then he will be favored by the Warlord.

Meanwhile the stranger shows the old King's hidden secret weapon ... barrels and barrels of black powder.

We might be heading to an explosive finale. Perhaps the only way to save the castle is to level it.

I am loving this book. Words and art are just working seamlessly together. Please find it on the shelves!

Overall grade: A

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The finale already? I thought this was going to be an ongoing instead of a mini. Oh, well.

On the one hand, an entertaining comic, well illustrated. On the another hand, it's very tropey: a castle lord who is, of course, a brutal and depraved tyrant... a clergyman who is of course, greedy and chubby... a stranger who is, of course, an anti-authoritarian champion of the little guy... and a shallow depiction of a period that was pretty more complex than powerful and inevitably evil people oppressing and robbing ignorant, superstitious, primitive and stinking masses of farmers. It may be good but it doesn't feel fresh to me.

Anyway, good review, Anj. Regardless my opinions, I hope you go on.