Monday, September 10, 2018

Review: The Last Siege #4

The Last Siege #4 came out last week and once again it was one of the most cinematic books that I have read recently. Everything about this title screams film to me. From my description of this as spaghetti western meets Braveheart, to the way the panels flow almost like storyboards, this comic plays out in my mind while I am reading it like a movie. And that is high praise. Because comics are all about filling in the gutters, about intuiting what happens between panels. When a book flows the way this one does, it is magical.

To put it in even stronger terms, I am starting to hear a score in my mind when I am reading this, from percussion beats as our hero is kicking down a door to frenetic strings as our Queen is running on rooftops dodging arrows.

Writer Landry Walker continues to slowly unwind this story of a single castle holding off the hordes of a warlord conqueror. But that external threat still hasn't manifested. Instead we have been shown the internal conflict within the walls of those who are willing to fall in line with the current regime even if it means losing their souls and those holding on to their integrity and identity. It all unfolds in the midst of brutal scenes of violence which makes it all the more glorious.

The art team consists of penciler Justin Greenwood, colorist Eric Jones and letterer Pat Brousseau. They bring a muddy and murky feel to everything here, creating the perfect tone for this dark play. Even when blood is shed, it is more of a black ink than a shock of red. It complements the writing perfectly.

This is the halfway point and it feels as though we have hit the apogee. Our queen has finally talked both in word and in deed. No turning back now.

With the Eastern warrior being a man of few words, Lord Feist being a bombastic pig, and our Queen being silent, most of our background information has been delivered by the Chancellor and the Bishop of the kingdom.

Here, the chancellor has researched the crest the Easterner wears, a sort of clawed hand over the background of a castle tower. Whatever clan or faction wore this, they don't seem very welcome. The very symbol itself would lead to a public execution. So we'll need to hear more about this at some point. It is another crumb left out. Perhaps these knights are like the Templars? A sect known for some dirty dealings and subsequently ostracized?

The Bishop remains the most oily and self-serving of the two. Here he talks about how Feist need to wed the Queen and consummate the marriage to legally ascend to the throne. How could he want that brute to do anything with the young Queen.

In the end, the Chancellor can see how it all adds up. Feist was able to escape, enter the castle, and arm himself because of the Bishop. And he isn't hiding it. He might be a man of the cloth but he also is looking out for number one. He doesn't care about what happens to his Queen. He only cares that he survives.

He is menacing in his posture as he approaches her, almost squatting like some toad. Wonderful art.

At least the Chancellor has his heart in the right place. He gets into an altercation with the Bishop and yells at the Queen to escape. The only route for her though is out the window on to the slick sloped roofs of the fortress.

In the ensuing fight, it seems the Bishop kills the Chancellor.

There is a very nice set of pages as we see her slipping, hauling herself up, running on the roofs, jumping across courtyards, all as she tries to escape the clutches of Feist and his men. And Feist knows that it would be better for him to keep her alive to prove he is rightfully the new Lord.  But a dead Queen is better than no Queen.

I don't know if we will ever see what her life was like before this upheaval but she has had to grow up rather quickly.

Meanwhile, the Easterner sits in his prison cell. When he hears the commotion, he begins kicking at the door of the cell. We see a progression of panels slowly zooming in on his foot, the shadows of the bars warping. It is here that I hear the swell of horns in my mind, punctuated by percussion as his foot hits the iron bars.

When he finally breaks it down, it is splayed before him. It almost looks like a spider web with him in the center. There is something predatory about this panel of the Easterner which I love. You know that the prison guards and the men chasing the Queen are not going to fare well.

As for the Queen, she has re-entered the castle and has grabbed a small knife to protect herself. She has gone from quietly playing with dolls in issue one to running for her life while wielding a dagger in a short period of time.

Finally Feist catches up with her. She lashes out at him, slashing his face.

You see just what a monster Feist is here. He calls this girl a whore while striking her. He seems not to care about his wounds. Looking truly demonic, he talks about how he won't have a proper wedding now. He'll do something more terrible. I can only imagine what that means.

I truly loathe this character. And when a creative team can raise that level of emotion in the reader, it means they have been successful in their craft.

It was pretty obvious that the Queen is silent in the first three issues. We see peering into rooms, listening, maybe about to speak. But her silence was deafening. You knew when she finally did speak it was going to be something big.

I thought for sure it would be a simple but powerful inspirational speech to rally the troops. I thought it would a sort of quiet strength.

Instead Walker doesn't give me what I want. He gives me what I need.

First, sick of the physical attacks and veiled rape threats, she grabs Feist's sword and just guts him. How the heck did she pick up a sword that size? Rage.

And then we get the inspiration. With indignation, she says they will fight ... fight with every breath. There is nothing quiet about this. It is forceful, from a place of ire.


I told you when she finally spoke it would be profound.

But she'll need to keep giving speeches and she'll need a little luck. There are a lot of guys congregating outside the castle.

A lot of guys.

If you aren't getting this book, you should be. Or at least grab the trade. It just sizzles. It is everything a comic book story should be.

Overall grade: A

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