We’re living in a dark time for fans of the dark ages. Yeah, Game of Thrones is a cultural phenomenon but it doesn’t return until next spring and it’s so infused with dragons and magic that it’s more fantasy than medieval fiction. There’s a light in the darkness, though, in the form of Landry Walker and Justin Greenwood’s new title from Image Comics, The Last Siege. Releasing May 30, The Last Siege #1 is a great debut, detailing a gritty story grounded in Medieval realism rife with mystery and intrigue.
The story is relatively simple — a fictional kingdom has fallen under harsh rule after a grueling five-year war ended with every house surrendering to the new monarch, all but one who is still holding out. Writer Landry Walker sums this up succinctly on the inside cover page, allowing readers to dive right into the story without having to trudge through an exposition-heavy debut issue, making it a really easy book to get into in just the first issue.
What makes this story so intriguing is the sense of realism. Make no mistake, this is medieval fiction through and through. It may not use a real locale as its setting, but the story is grounded in as much realism as possible and it’s better for it. The whole theme is about struggling to find hope in a hopeless world and adding magical shortcuts would just dilute that theme.
The ebb and flow of art versus dialogue here is nearly perfect. Rather than bog the pages down in heavy narration, Walker simply lets Justin Greenwood’s art do the talking — it’s a masterclass in showing, not telling. From the very first page to the last, Greenwood’s panels set the tone for the entire narrative, from country roads teasing a desolate countryside to a tired city sick of fighting a war that seems to have already been lost. The colors from Eric Jones cement the dreary setting even further, only showing signs of brightness or energy when very particular characters are featured.
Greenwood’s art and Jones’s colors show just how tired this city is of fighting while two of the story’s characters carry out a similar argument in excellently written, gritty dialogue from Walker. The town’s Chancery and Bishop each represent the opposing side of the argument — the Chancery holding out hope for victory while the Bishop argues it’s time to give in for the good of the town.
This argument and the characters beg the question: when is it time to admit defeat in order to survive? These things frame the series narrative, marrying art and dialogue together in a way that many comics fail to do.
It may sound like this issue is all talking, but there’s a healthy dose of terrifically choreographed fighting that gives readers a sense of how this series will depict violence. The simple answer? Uh, violently. That may sound on the nose, but the quick burst of fighting here are neither unbelievably tame nor excessively gory- rather, they feel realistic. Punches aren’t accompanied with overbearing sound queues, they’re accentuated with dashing lines depicting the impact and speed of each move. There’s a visceral sense of speed in every movement thanks to Greenwood’s art.
The major drawback to this issue is how short it feels and how quickly it reads. The world of The Last Siege is contextualized well and immediately feels like a world that readers know, but the story itself barely moves forward here. By the time you close the book you’d be able to sum up its events in a single sentence with ease. I understand it’s a debut issue, but the world is so well crafted so quickly I wish there had been more story movement.
Luckily for readers, the world is so terrifically constructed and the story moves just enough to have them anxiously awaiting the next issue. In a time where almost all comic books seem to revolve around superheroes, near-future science fiction, or some form of espionage, Medieval fiction as gritty and realistic as The Last Siege is a welcome breath of fresh air. The wonderful relationship between art and dialogue constructs this dreary, desperate world making The Last Siege #1 a great issue worth checking out.
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