Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: The Last Siege #3

The Last Siege #3 came out last week and continues to be the perfect meld of samurai drama, spaghetti western cinematography, and medieval warfare. Despite that heavy smorgasbord of genres, there is a slight injection of racial and gender politics into this little battlefield story. Simply put, I am loving it. You could write this like a simple barbarian story if you wanted. But it is this depth that makes this special.

One of the things that really strikes me about this book is the multi-layered story that writer Landry Walker is presenting to us. There is internal strife within the walls of this last castle. There are power struggles on a political scale. There are brawls on a street level. And all of this is happening while combat is about to come to this land from a national scale. How can this one small estate hold off the armies of the warlord king when it can barely maintain stability on its own? The house's leadership needs to get settled before it can face off against a country.

This issue is all about this internal struggle. The Easterner who has arrived with papers declaring him in charge is trying to shore up the defenses of this place while mentoring the Queen. The knight Feist, who had power stripped from him, is back with a vengeance. He wants to rule, humiliate the Easterner, and abuse the Queen, all as a way to usurp power. And while we get plenty of sword and shield action, blood smeared everywhere, I am most intrigued with the Queen character. She hasn't said one word before this issue. She seems a child. And yet, I think there is steel in her, conviction. Despite all of Feist's haughty cries about debasing her, I think in the end she will emerge as the leader this place needs.

The art by Justin Greenwood and Eric Jones continues to fit the narrative perfectly. For me, the whole book reads like a movie. From the gritty mud to the battered mugs, with extreme closeups, odd angles and panel shapes, to whirling points of view, I feel like I am reading a film. Everything complements each other. This book crackles. High praise indeed.

On to the book.

There is the Easterner who is now running the castle. There is the Queen, young but on the verge of taking control. And then there is the castle court, made up of Bishop and Consulate. From the beginning, the Bishop has been unsavory. Despite being a man of the cloth, he is the one who thought the best path was for Feist to marry the Queen and for the land to accept the Warlord's rule.

Here he calls the Easterner a 'mongrel' who shouldn't be teaching the Queen his ways. So not only does he seem to be power-hungry, wanting to keep his position even if it means making these terrible decisions.

Unfortunately, he has a slight point. The Easterner might be a warrior but he seems to be rushing into a fight the place is destined to lose. Is this a death wish?

The Easterner knows it is the Queen that eventually must lead her people. But he is preparing for this battle against the Warlord. Bridges have been burned. The land has been prepped. The Warlord can only approach one way. But it seems he thinks that fight will happen sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the freed Feist awaits the right time to storm the castle with his men. Feist might be the character that makes me cringe the most in comics right now. His focus, emphasized by the increasing attention on his eyes, isn't on taking control of the estate. It is all about brutalizing the child-Queen. He will 'have' his 'wife'. Brrrrr ....

The slow shrinking of the panels while we zoom in on his eyes is very Sergio Leone. I love it.

The Easterner at least recognizes he is fighting an internal and external war here, warning the Queen of the multiple fronts she will need to defend.

Again, words and images mesh as we see Feist outside the wall about to head in.

And then, the moment I have been waiting for. The Queen has been silent so far. I have been waiting for her first words, anticipating them to be profound and rallying. The Easterner tells her that she needs to ascend into the role of leader. Her people want her to lead.

She is just about to speak ... just getting 'I' out ... when she is interrupted by Feist.

The suspense of hearing her speak is killing me. And I love it.

The Easterner is just one man. And it doesn't seem like many of the palace guards leap to his defense. So it is one on many. And Feist, the animal that he is charges.

Greenwood and Jones again lay this out gorgeously. Blood spatters mark action lines. Feist is shown in ever-increasing size, telling us he is charging. Meanwhile, Feist's men say all sorts of horrible things to the Queen about Feist liking them to scream but not fight.

To think the Bishop wants this man to sit on the throne. Ugh ...

 Even here, Feist says how 'the bitch will be his bride'. This all seems to be a power play about dominating and assaulting this young girl. I hope Feist suffers.

One thing we saw last issue which we again see here is that as the action gets more furious and as Feist becomes more unhinged, the panels become more skewed. The more bloodlust overcomes him, the crazier the layout. Here, in a somewhat controlled battle, we only have slight angles. It gives the sequences an uneasy, chaotic feel. I picture it like a tilted camera or a handheld sequence in a movie, telling us that this is frenetic.

But numbers are numbers. Even though the Easterner pummels Feist into a misshapen mess, Feist's men capture the Queen. The Easterner has no choice but to yield.

Feist doesn't say he is in charge. He doesn't say the outsider has been defeated. He doesn't talk about stabilizing the castle.

No he talks about how he wants the Queen unmarred. I just get the sense that he wants to inflict all the punishment.

I can't stand the guy. He seems so fixated on this one thing he thinks he can dominate. Just gross.

Feist does make the epic mistake of keeping the Easterner alive to witness his wedding and to hand the Easterner over to the Warlord king. Classic error.

I am really torn as a reader though. Do I want the pristine and innocent Queen to gut Feist? Or do I want someone else to do that, leaving her unmarred to be a purer leader?

Meanwhile, the Consulate begins combing through the history, searching for the coat of arms the Easterner wears. Perhaps the mystery of who he is will be solved soon.

Whew. I always feel exhausted after this book. There is a raw energy here. This is a land with an uncivilized underbelly. It is a place where might seems to be right. And where a young girl is being forced to age quickly.

I hope people are reading this. It is superb.

Overall grade: A

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