Intrigue and monsters abound in this tale set in India after the fall of the Mughal Empire. Our first main character is dead, which changes everything. But who killed him and what prowls in the night here?

These Savage Shores #2 ReviewTHESE SAVAGE SHORES #2

Writer: Ram V
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: November 28, 2018

Previously in These Savage Shores: We follow the travels of one Alain Pierrespont, a vampire who makes the mistake of being found out, and who is being pursued by a vampire hunter. For everyone’s safety, his patron sends him to Calicut. The year is 1766. This is a time of conflict in India – the Mughal Empire has fallen, and several princes and kings are vying for territory and power. Into this mix, add the East India Company from England. Pierrespont meets Colonel Smith, who hopes to make young Prince Vikram an ally so he can build a road across the subcontinent for the East India Company, for the benefit of trade. Prince Vikram has a mysterious masked bodyguard named Bishan, who loves a temple dancer named Kori. One night when Alain is out and about, he comes across Kori and cannot resist attacking her. But in a twist of fate, something attacks him instead.

ALL ROADS LEAD TO CALICUT

These Savage Shores #2 begins with a letter, which is a perfect way to tell part of a story set in the 18th century, and a brilliant way to fill us in a little more on what’s going on. When I started issue #1, I thought we had a vampire story, but our vampire ended up dead. This issue opens with Zachariah Sturn, the vampire hunter, writing to his brother Edmond, who is a religious man. He’s writing to let his brother know that he has gone to India, hunting Pierrespont, found that he was murdered, and has decided to hunt his murderer, whom he thinks is Prince Vikram. There is also a hint that the bothers may not see eye to eye, and that Zachariah was adopted.

The plot, as they say, thickens, and we start meeting several more characters. At the palace in Mysore, we meet Hyder Ali and his son. The Khan is raising up his son to be ruler after him. He has also just met with Colonel Smith, and turned him down. He is a wily old warmonger who, by cunning, has maneuvered himself into power. He sees the trade route as something antithetical to India, something that could make him obsolete.

As the Colonel departs, he receives a letter which informs him of Pierrespont’s death. He’s not the only one who now knows – the Khan’s henchman also read it. This could also go badly for the Khan, and he tells his man to make arrangements for a parlay with Prince Vikram.

In Vikrampura, there is a leopard on the loose, an old man-eater who has stolen a baby. Prince Vikram declares a hunt to be made that night. As this happens, Bishan has stolen away to spend some time with Kori. Their little conversations are deep – plainly they love each other, but this must remain hidden. It also seems that Bishan is something immortal. He must accompany the Prince on the hunt, as does Kori. As day turns to night and the hunt sets out, the procession isn’t alone. Zachariah Sturn is following them, stalking the Prince. One arrow shot, he tells himself, will reveal if the Prince is really just a boy or is actually some kind of devil.

Bishan senses the approach of the leopard. As Vikram readies his gun to shoot the beast, Sturn raises his crossbow. The two shots occur almost simultaneously, and Bishan is revealed for what he is – a horned beast-man who interposes himself and catches the crossbow bolt in his hand. Or perhaps it is the bolt striking Bishan that reveals him for what he is. He attacks Sturn, but before he can kill him, Kori stops him. The leopard pounces, and Vikram shoots again, killing it.

A letter from India arrives at the estate of Signor Grano, Pierrespont’s patron. It informs him of his death. “Send for the others,” Grano orders.

WILDNESS AND ETHEREAL BEAUTY

I love the art of These Savage Shores #2 so much. The color palette is muted, a hazy golden by day and moonlight-bluish by night. There’s a really nice play of light and darkness throughout that gives it a lot of atmosphere. But there is so much more captured here – India in the 18th century is an entirely different place from what many of us are used to seeing. Not only does the art bring this to light, but we see the Europeans against this backdrop, and they look starkly like outsiders. They do not belong to this world, and I think, by extension, we get the sense that they do not really understand this world.

In many vampire stories, the vampire hunter is a hero. In this story he looks savage and driven. His hair is unkempt, his back heavily scarred. He is utterly focused on the hunt, and his quarry, the Prince. In contrast, when we see Bishan unmasked, even though his eyes are uncanny, he looks very human and almost lost – he is immortal, and any joy he has with Kori can only be fleeting. It makes it all the more poignant when we see him in his true form. I also like the contrast between him and the vampire – Kori and the Prince seem to know what Bishan is, and not only accept him, but welcome him, and Bishan has some control over his monstrousness.

The scenes of the hunt are breathtaking. There are several panels with no dialogue as we see the hunt prepare to go out – an elephant, for the prince to ride; hunting dogs barely held by their chains; torches barely holding back the darkness of the jungle; a full moon with some wispy clouds. The fatal scenes of the leopard, Sturn, and Bishan also have very little dialogue, and the art communicates everything clearly and beautifully. This is a book to get lost in.

BOTTOM LINE: WHO IS THE REAL MONSTER?

The story being told in These Savage Shores #2 is not just a vampire story, or even a monster story. This place, at this time, is bubbling with unrest often just below the surface as people try to go about their lives. It’s a lovely, visually detailed book. The use of letters to tell part of the story is brilliant – when people talk loud, they don’t tell us everything. In writing, they reveal a little more. You can still jump into the story at this point and understand what is going on. I highly recommend this one.

These Savage Shores #2

90%
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Who is the real monster?

The story being told in These Savage Shores #2 is not just a vampire story, or even a monster story. This place, at this time, is bubbling with unrest often just below the surface as people try to go about their lives. It’s a lovely, visually detailed book. The use of letters to tell part of the story is brilliant – when people talk loud, they don’t tell us everything. In writing, they reveal a little more. You can still jump into the story at this point and understand what is going on. I highly recommend this one.

  • Writing
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  • Art
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  • Coloring
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About Author

By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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