A brutal warlord from across the sea is conquering the West, leaving only a handful of free lands remaining. In one of the last cities, their lord has fallen, the lady is in peril, and men who think of only themselves concoct plans for a young royal. But a mysterious stranger has arrived, and the rules of the game may be about to change. Let’s find out more in THE LAST SIEGE #1 from Image Comics.
Writer: Landry Q. Walker
Artist/Cover: Justin Greenwood
Variant Cover: Nick Dragotta
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in The Last Siege: A powerful warlord from across the sea has begun to conquer the lands of the East. Many cities have fallen already to his soldiers, and only a few lands remain free from his advance. In one such city, the ruling lord has been killed, and vicious knights from the king have come in and begun preparing to assume control of the castle. The fate of the ruling lord’s wife and young daughter, his only heir, are in question, but forces from outside the castle have begun to make moves that will take everyone by surprise.
A STRANGER WALKS INTO A BAR
When a ruler dies in battle, it is said that his family is often the next to go. It was, and occasionally is, a common practice for the family of a vanquished ruler to be exiled or killed outright to stop any possibility of an uprising. Male heirs were seen to be most dangerous, as the royal rights of succession traveled most easily among them. But if the heir was a daughter, it was not uncommon for a marriage to be arranged to give a conquering ruler legitimacy.
On a rain-soaked night, two of the fallen lord’s court contemplate the fate of a young girl, the only heir to the line. The choices are given as death or marriage, at least until she sires a male child. The young girl is little more than a child herself.
Elsewhere in the castle, a stranger from the East arrives. His appearance & quiet defiance of a leading knight earn him a beating, in which he almost gives as good as he receives. But as the fallen lord’s men intervene, the stranger delivers news which shocks them all.
DARK AND GRITTY SWORDS AND POLITICS
Landry Q. Walker (Odd Thomas: House of Odd, Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade, Batman: The Brave and the Bold), has taken a cinematic approach to this story, and you get the feeling that there is a touch of Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa being added to this fantasy-based story. The large expressive panels provided by artist Justin Greenwood set the stage for a story of royal intrigue, desperate knights, and mysterious strangers. The story moves, and the expressive art makes for easy reading.
That said, it is not without its problems. Through the use of an introductory block of text on inside cover, you are apprised of a quick overview of the situation up till now, too quick, I’m afraid. It is not clear exactly who the players are. Are the knights currently residing in the castle part of the old lord’s forces and are they taking advantage of the loss of their leader? Are they from the invading warlord from across the sea? Are they part of a third faction that maybe is not fully introduced? Additionally, you get the idea that the two courtesans most likely are among the fallen ruler’s advisors, but little else. Where is the Lady, and why has she left her daughter’s fate to be decided by men who clearly do not have her best interest at heart. And regarding the stranger, while it is made clear that he is a man of the East, what does that mean? We know that the antagonist is from across the sea, but is this stranger one of his people? From the appearance of the stranger’s swords, we are to believe that he is of Eastern, i.e., Oriental origins, but there is little else to lead us to this conclusion. The art, in the case of the stranger’s appearance, is vague, and neither his clothing nor anything other than his weapons point to him being of any origin other than not-Western.
Additionally, there is a solid page of prose in the back which seems to be setting up a backstory for a character, but we have no reference as to who it is. In fact, there may have been less confusion in regards to the actual comic story presented if the block of introductory text and prose page had been left out completely.
BOTTOM LINE: WHILE PROMISING, IT’S A SHAKEY START
I’ve read examples of Walker’s previous work and enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed The Last Siege #1, but there is a lot that we are left to intuit. It reads like you have turned on the first fifteen minutes of a foreign movie, and none of the players are clearly defined. You are intrigued enough to stick around and watch the rest, but wish you had a program to explain who’s who.
The Last Siege #1 from Image Comics shows promise but starts slow, if gritty fantasy is your thing, you might check it out.