Monday, November 12, 2018

Review: The Last Siege #4

The Last Siege #6 came out last week and continues to be an ultra-dramatic story racing towards its conclusion.

I have said all along that this movie has been playing out in my head like a film, Braveheart meets The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly meets Seven Samurai. From the pacing to the panel composition to the plot, it all feels like a Spaghetti Western hopped up on mead. And I have loved every minute of it.

Writer Landry Walker has done a great job bringing this tale up to a roiling boil. After issues of set-up and back story, the pieces are all on the board. And now the board is on fire. Incredible. Along with this deliberate ratcheting up the action, we still get great character beats. We learn the history of Tomislav and Istvan both within the illustrated comic and in the text pieces in the back. We see Lady Cathryn go from innocent silent girl playing with dolls to wounded combat leader rallying the troops. This has been a meaty read from all angles.

Artist Justin Greenwood continues to bring us a bleak gritty landscape with his inky work. But one thing I have appreciated along the way has been his ability to convey information through body language. In this book, you can feel the weariness in the beaten warriors' bones. You feel the nervousness of the characters fleeing the carnage. So much is said without words.

Rounding out the team is Brad Simpson on colors. Given the amount of gore and fire in this chapter, we get a brighter palette than the usual one for this book. We are bathed in yellows and oranges that bring the story out of the shadows. We also have Pat Brosseau on lettering and he brings his usual panache.

I've been thrilled with this book so far. The end is nigh!

The books always open with a shot of the castle, a quick pulse check on the tone of the book. Immersed in the darkness of night with sharpened sticks surrounding the gate, we know this is a place prepared for a siege.

And now our outsider Tomislav is alone, outside the castle, talking tough to warlord King Istvan and his hordes.

He might be alone but he isn't without friends. Within the walls, Lady Cathryn, shielding her injured eye and brandishing a sword, rallies her tiny army. Istvan won't know how few they are. They have to help Tomislav. Archers need to prepare. The invaders need to 'taste fear'.

She has come a long way baby.

But this is a spaghetti Western. This is one against many. This is 'the man with no name' by presence alone frightening an army.

I loved this panel progression.

You just feel Tomislav's fatigue as he slumps off the horse in the top panel. He isn't springing off.

And yet in that last panel he tells the castle to close the gates behind him. He isn't going to retreat.

Even the middle panel, with the entirety of Istvan's army seen between the legs of our singular hero conveys the enormous lop-sided nature of this conflict.

Meanwhile, our unscrupulous Bishop, the epitome of religious corruption, awakens and decides he needs to escape.

The single image of his slipping candlesticks into a sack tells us all we need to know about this guy. He is robbing his own castle, a cash grab while he slinks away in the grass.

And then the ironic statement that Tomislav is bringing ruin to the land. Remember this guy was willing to stand by while Feist was going to rape and then kill Cathryn. Remember this guy was willing to let the brute Istvan take over. Who really was bringing about ruin?

As I have said in the past, the book plays out like a movie in my mind.

This sort of rapid close-up of Cathryn's eyes while interspersed shots of other places and characters is classic of samurai movies, Leone westerns, and the like.

When words and art complement each other so wonderfully, you get great comics. By doing this closeup vertically, it allows the art to show the hordes rushing Tomislav as well as the bishop slipping out.

But before Istvan's army can surround Tomislav, Cathryn's archers loose their flaming arrows, igniting the black powder impregnating the soil of the battlefield.

And so the dark colors of night are suddenly changed to the orange of carnage, faint scribbles in the smoke representing the battered infantry caught in the destruction lets us know these men aren't going to survive.

And this isn't just outside the castle.

The cache of black powder within the catacombs collapses from the force as well.

Our terrible bishop gets his just desserts, crushed under the wreckage of his escape route.


Out on the battlefield, chaos has erupted.

Istvan's men, exhausted from the endless tromp across the country, break ranks. Both Tomislav's confidence and the gunpowder devastation has shattered their belief in their warrior king.

But Istvan made his name by his brutality. He crushes the skull of one of his own men, threatening his own men to stand their ground and take the castle or he will flay them himself.

Even his choice of weapon feeds our information of Istvan. This isn't the elegance of a rapier. He isn't a skilled fighter who would use a sword. He uses a war hammer. He bludgeons. There is no grace. It suits him.

All along, Tomislav has wanted to fight Istvan one on one. Crush the head and the body will die. We already know that Istvan's army is stretched thin. Without their leader, they'll most likely disband.

In the midst of the fight, Tomislav lights an arrow and says that it is time for Istvan to die. You might think that he is going to shoot Istvan in the chest. But instead we get that wonderful panel where we see the arrow soar overhead.

He didn't miss.

It ignites the field again, forming a circle around the combatants. Welcome to hell.

It sets up an almost Dark Knight Returns riff. Tomislav vs. Istvan like Batman vs. the Mutant Leader. You can't defeat the army; you need to defeat the leader. This isn't a castle courtyard. It's an operating table. And Tomislav is the surgeon.

Seriously, look at that last shot. Look at Tomislav's face.


I know this book might not be for everybody. But it sings to me. Everyone should be reading this. Get the trade if you can't find the individual issues.

Overall grade: A

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It isn't related, but you need to see the sales of Supergirl for October.

Supergirl 23 doubles the sales of Supergirl 22.