While the war in India is over, and a treaty is forged, Bishan makes his way to England to confront Count Grano. Who is the real monster in These Savage Shores #5 from Vault Comics?
Writer: Ram V
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Editor: Adrian F. Wassel
Publisher: Vault Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: October 9, 2019
Previously in These Savage Shores: Bishan and the army of Prince Vikram joined Hyder Ali in his attack on the British. Vikram’s army is small, and they were attacked while waiting for reinforcements who never came. Too late to save them all, Bishan reverts to his monstrous form and goes on the attack, until he receives a letter from Vikram, informing him of an attack at home by an army of revenants. And this is not just any army of revenants – leading them are Count Grano and his assistant Adrian. Vikram has freed Sturn, who has some ideas about how to fight the kind of army, and there is a bloody battle, until Kori admits that she knows who killed Pierrefont.
HEARTRENDING AND SURPRISING
These Savage Shores #5 is the conclusion to a richly thoughtful and intense story. If you have not yet read it, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It’s full of drama. The romance in it reaches across a continent and even from beyond the grave. The history it is rooted in is equally dark and tragic. And everything comes together with a couple twists I was not expecting, but which satisfied me to the core. Look upon what comics can do and be amazed.
I so love the narrative device of the epistolary comic. As the issue opens, we see Bishan shaving and dressing in European style clothes and we gradually realize that he is on board a ship. The narration is his letter to Vikram, explaining why he is going, talking about making difficult choices, leaving him his mask and his kingdom to rule on his own, as he sees fit. Kori, now a vampire, is also aboard the ship, and there is a beautiful juxtaposition where the letter urges Vikram to fall in love during his life, just as we see Bishan and Kori embrace.
And then we find out that Count Grano left her behind so she could bring Bishan to him back in England. Having been turned by Grano, she is now connected to him, but her love for Bishan runs so deep that it is still part of her. As is life, love is about dealing with challenges and making choices.
This historical backdrop is fascinating. There have been nineteen months of war with the English, trying to keep them in Madras. And now there is a treaty. Hyder Ali has agreed to it under the condition that his son be proclaimed the Nawab of Mysore. In writing to Tipu, Hyder Ali reveals that he understands where this is going. In this battle of blood and money, they are not ever going to win in the end, and it feels deeply tragic.
In London, Bishan and Kori have a talk. She speaks about what it was like to be turned into a vampire, to have the life she knew and loved taken away from her, and she tells him frankly that he wasn’t there when she needed him. He well knows this and feels terribly guilty. But she’s not trying to make him feel bad. She understands the difference between him, who is a Raakshas, and Grano. In a beautiful callback to the opening, she asserts that Bishan was never made by anyone; his choices made him who he is. She was made by the choice of someone else, and she wants Bishan to end him, no matter what the cost.
There is so, so much more including the meeting with Grano; a discussion about how being immortal skews your sense of the world; and the confrontation. Dear readers, I must leave the pleasure of experiencing those to you, but I assure you, it is worth it.
FROM THE ASHES OF INDIA TO THE FOG OF LONDON
The are of These Savage Shores #5 is incredibly lovely. Scenes are captured so beautifully and some of the moments are just breathtaking. We don’t know why Bishan is on a ship to begin with, but when he walks up from below decks, and we see Kori silhouetted against the night sky at the bow of the ship, we understand completely.
And then, just a few pages later there is an incredible juxtaposition of symmetry. On one page, Bishan’s ship arrives in London. He’s going to confront his monsters. It’s night, and the Thames is packed full of ships, their lights hazy in the fog. On the following page, Hyder Ali arrives to sign the treaty – confronting his monsters, as it were – on land, in the bright of India, but in the remains of the fog of war.
In yet another beautiful moment, Bishan and Kori are riding in a carriage through London. Our point of view is from inside the carriage, looking out the window as life in London passes by. All we see of Kori is her hand as she places it on the windowsill. It starts to burn in the sun, and as Bishan’s hand reaches out toward her, she pulls her hand back out of the scene. No words are needed, and it says so much.
This is a book where everything – words, art, colors, letters – comes together as part of a greater and beautiful whole. No one thing outshines the rest; they fit together and complement each other to make this story a truly sublime experience.
BOTTOM LINE: ONE OF THE BEST VAMPIRE STORIES EVER
As far as I am concerned, These Savage Shores #5 is among the best comics ever. It shows us that storytelling is still an art that we love to lose ourselves in. It is both sweepingly epic and intensely intimate. And now that I’ve wiped the tears from my eyes, I’m going to read it again.
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These Savage Shores #5
Perhaps the difference between and man and a monster are the choices he makes.