Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Review: The Last Siege #7

The Last Siege #7 came out last week, the penultimate issue of this extremely enjoyable mini-series.

I have been reviewing comics on this site for 10 years and there are a few sayings that crop up every so often.

One is 'big moments need big art', a statement I make when a splash page is utilized appropriately to convey the enormity of a moment.

Another is 'when words and art complement each other, comics is at its best'.

The former applies to this issue. The latter does not.

This issue portrays the title. This is the siege moment. This is Istvan's army storming Lord Aedon's castle. It is told in a series of two page spreads, one side a splash, the other side, panels conveying smaller moments of action. There is a thread in the book, a series of panels designed to build suspense in the tale, told through panels growing larger and brighter. This whole book is big art. And for the battle that has been brewing this whole mini-series, it is thrilling.

But, amazingly, this is a 'silent issue'. There isn't one spoken word. There isn't one text box. There isn't one 'meanwhile'. Words can't complement the story. There are no words. Instead, the art has to carry the story. The pace of the battle. The passing of time. That increasing suspense. The characters' thoughts and feelings. It all has to be shown, not told.

And it all works.

Even the cover is part of the story. A torn doll lying in the rubble of a castle under attack. It shows a loss of innocence. Queen Cathryn cannot be a child anymore. Not here. The image tells us that.

Kudos to writer Landry Walker and artist Justin Greenwood for this accomplishment. Congratulations to colorist Brad Simpson for his use of yellows and oranges for this fire-drenched battle. Amazing.

The individual issues have opened with some view of the castle. Sometimes it is at night. Sometimes under an overcast sky. It has always set the mood for the issue.

Here we see the chaos that has happened. The ring of black powder surrounding the castle has been ignited. The land is engulfed in flames. It looks like Hell.

And there is Tomislav, standing alone, in silhouette, in front of the doors. You'll need to get through him to get in.

Now my scanner isn't big enough to get the whole two page spread so these are going to be slices.

The fire is raging out of control. The few soldiers behind the wall continue to hold off the invaders, attacking the ladders.

And there is Cathryn. No longer is she the quiet young girl playing with dolls. She is slashing throats in battle like everyone else.

Last issue we saw the unscrupulous bishop crushed in the basement filled with powder. Now, in that lower right corner, like watching a clock slowly count down, we see his lantern burning, the glass cracking. Remember, this whole room is filled with gunpowder. This lantern is basically a fuse.

This might read like a movie. This issue might serve as storyboards. Heck, this siege feels a little like the last battle in Kingdom of Heaven.

But Tomislav isn't an invulnerable hero. Despite his confidence in battle, it is clear he will simply be overrun. He has to scramble up the ladders to safety behind the walls.

All while that lantern burns.

And there is Istvan, warrior king, sitting back and letting his hordes do the dirty work.

And there is that lantern's glass, splintering and glowing brighter.

Remember that old Hitchcock maxim and the Anj paraphrase: have a bomb explode under a table and you will surprise an audience. Show them a bomb under a table, counting down, and you will build suspense.

I know eventually this lantern will burst. I know the powder is going to explode.

But when ???

It looks like the siege is a foregone conclusion. There aren't enough defenders to hold this place. The young queen is pressed into battle. And a battering ram hammers down the door.

But then we see the lantern finally break.

I thought for sure we would see the explosion on the next page.

But no. Two more battle pages. The lantern panel, bigger and brighter, teasing the explosion.

So I turn the page expecting the explosion.

Nope. Two more pages. The lantern flame now consuming the top half of the two page spread/

We got four more pages.


And then, 4 pages after I thought I would see it, we get the bomb under the table finally going off.


When you get an old veteran comic reader like me on the edge of the seat, wondering and waiting, turning the pages in anticipation. That is suspense. That is victory.

After that shock of seeing the explosion, I was struck by what this meant for the story. The siege is over isn't it? There is no castle to siege.

There is such a sense of loss here.

Made worse by the fact that Istvan was far enough away from the blast to be unscathed.

We have one more issue.

Who survived the explosion? Are Istvan's men still loyal? Will the land be saved, the kingdom rebuilt under the suddenly mature leadership of Cathryn? Or is there only destruction.

But that can wait. Instead, I should go back and reread this wordless issue, taking in all it has to tell me with just images.


Overall grade: A

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