It is a time of conflict, where war makes men into monsters, and monsters struggle to maintain some shred of their humanity. Step into a world like no other in These Savage Shores #4.
Writer: Ram V
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: May 8, 2019
Previously in These Savage Shores: Hyder Ali arranges a meeting with Prince Vikram. War is brewing with the English and he wants allies in this fight. The Prince is reluctant, but Hyder Ali knows that Bishan is the Raakshas, and as such he has the power to win this fight for him, and he manipulates them into going along with him. Back in London, Count Grano has heard the news of Pierrefont’s death. He and his men coldly interrogate the Portmaster of the East India Company to find out where he went. Bishan goes to war with Prince Vikram’s army. The reinforcements that were promised to them never arrive, and they are wiped out. It is not until they are dead that Bishan yields and takes on his true form.
WONDERFUL, HORRIBLE, AND HEARTBREAKING
These Savage Shores #4 is outstanding in the power of its storytelling. There is so much going on, and yet it focuses in on the most personally intense moments of individuals with astounding clarity. Through the creative use of letters as part of the narration, not only is the bigger world brought in, but we learn even more about the main characters – as much by what they do not say as by what they do.
This chapter opens in an English camp strewn with the bodies of the dead. As we see Bishan taking his revenge on them, we read a letter to him, written by Prince Vikram. The words are formal and polite, masking the underlying desperation of hoping that Bishan, the Raakshas, will come back to him and help. Vikram sees Bishan as the Demon King who may help save his small kingdom from their enemy – not the English, but an army of revenants. Juxtaposed against this is the monstrous destruction that Bishan deals out, far away from home.
As Vikram finishes his letter, he is informed that Sturn, the vampire hunter, wants to talk to him. He has heard about the attacks, and he knows how to kill vampires. Kori, in the meantime, goes to the tree where she and Bishan used to be together, only to see it struck by lightning and split asunder.
In the midst of the monsoon season, Hyder Ali is besieging the city of Ambur. His advisor mentions it was a good strategy not to send reinforcements to the Zamorin soldiers, who were all wiped out. But he has heard stories of attacks on British camps. This gets the Khan’s attention, and he doubles the guards on watch.
One night, Count Grano, his assistant Adrian, and an army of the dead make their way to Prince Vikram’s palace. Sturn goes out to meet him, with Vikram, Kori, and a few others. Grano wants to know if he killed Pierrefont, and if so, why. Sturn’s reply strikes close to home. “Perhaps we are all monsters,” he says. I have thought about that before in my reading – who are the monsters here? What makes a monster? A battle follows – many of the revenants fall, and Adrian and Sturn fight to Adrian’s death. But Count Grano is older, tougher, more of a challenge, and relentless. To stop him, Kori says that she knows who killed Pierrefont.
Bishan comes to Hyder Ali in his room in the middle of the night. Bishan accuses him of betraying the Zamorin, of sacrificing them. Hyder Ali claims he has given them all a chance at survival, and the death of the Zamorin is at Bishan’s hands – had he taken his true form earlier, he himself could have saved them. Hyder Ali’s young son Tipu enters, begging Bishan not to hurt his father. I think Bishan sees an echo of Vikram in him. He leaves, telling the young prince to be better than his father.
Bisha travels home, with the narration being his letter to Kori. By becoming a beast, he has broken a promise he made to her, and he has become the monster he never wanted to be. Hyder Ali was right, and by trying to be more human, by blending in, he became more of a monster than he would have been as his monstrous self. It is deeply moving and eloquent. He finds his Prince, alive but ill and devastated. And then he goes out to find Kori.
TRAGEDY ON A GRAND SCALE
The art of These Savage Shores #4 is breathtaking. It captures the horrors of war, of Bishan’s attacks, of the revenant attacks, without being overly graphic, but without pulling any punches. The way the story works – showing us pivotal moments, and not every death – it leaves a lot to our imagination. We see the aftermath of one of Bishan’s attacks. There is a stunning splash of him standing on a heap of the dead, holding another two bodies, amidst the tatters of the camp. It is hugely powerful.
But there are so many such moments throughout. The tree being struck by lightning (with perfect sound effects), and Kori, seen at first silhouetted by the flames, and then the close up of her horrified face are fabulous. The vampire attack on Prince Vikram’s palace goes on for several pages with no dialogue, but with ferocious and strategic fighting. There is sword fighting, and the scene is lit with blazing fire. Adrian is impassioned; Count Grano impassive. When Grano throws off his cape and assumes his true form, he is terrifying.
BOTTOM LINE: ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I’VE EVER READ
These Savage Shores #4 is a book where the entire creative team works together seamlessly. Every piece of it supports every other piece. This is such an amazing story. Every major character – and there are several – is fully developed. They have goals, desires, reasons for doing what they do – and things that thwart them. Their stories converge in India and intertwine inexorably, keeping us on the edges of our seats savoring every moment even when we feel just how terrible it is.
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These Savage Shores #4
This is such an amazing story. Every major character – and there are several – is fully developed. They have goals, desires, reasons for doing what they do – and things that thwart them.