THESE SAVAGE SHORES #1, by Ram V, Sumit Kumar and Vittorio Astone
ANDREW: Looks like Vault's got another winner on their hands with THESE SAVAGE SHORES. Sumit Kumar's art and Vittorio Astone's colours are rock solid--they're this book's real draw here for me. I'm about to commit a terrible crime to the english language here (sorry) but this was the most Euro graphic album-looking North American single issue I can recall seeing in a long time. I can't really think of a better way to describe it, at least not in 25 words or less, but if anyone is wondering what the hell I mean, come by the shop and I'll show you some samples. That's not to say the writing is lacking in any substantial way, far from it. The period setting and subject matter aren't exactly my normal cup of tea, but I still enjoyed the craft on display. For someone who's actually into vampires and monsters potentially worse than vampires, I've got to think this would be a pretty great reading experience. Hey Been--How did you feel about it as someone who's into vampires and monsters potentially worse than vampires?
BEEN: As someone who is deeply into vampires and monsters potentially worse than vampires, I absolutely LOVED this. THESE SAVAGE SHORES was billed as "Dracula meets From Hell in Pre-Colonial India" and while that's really a studiously accurate summation, it doesn't touch the savage glory of this issue at all. This is both insanely period-appropriate and viciously beautiful at the same time. It's a study in contrast - the polite society versus the savagely monstrous - which all good vampire or monster stories must achieve at some level but this exceeds somehow. The vampire is not cliché. The period setting is not stifling. The unknown "potentially worse than vampires" savagery is seductively teased. And the art… the ART… the gorgeous sun-drenched, moon-soaked, blood-spattered art… with horses and elephants and ships and palaces and lovers and leopards and staring eyes… it's just a revelation. So hey Foley, as someone who is into vampires and monsters potentially worse than vampires I am having a hard time containing my slathering praise for this issue. Help me reel in the googly-eyed adoration with some intelligent words about the narrative, will you?
ANDREW: The narrative. Well... it's a little tricky to talk about that, because it's not 100% clear what exactly the story is going to be yet. Writer Ram V pulls a neat trick at the end of this issue that makes it clear the person who looks like the protagonist for the bulk of #1 won't necessarily be playing that role in the following issues. (The impression that that guy will be the lead character is reinforced by the teaser text on the back of the comic, which I want to specifically mention because that sort of back of the novel text is a great idea I wish more single issues used.) So: is this the story of capitalist/imperial forces trying to subdue a savage land, or the story of that land's protectors' struggle to preserve their independence? Given our modern understanding of history, it's hard to portray imperial/capitalist aggression in a positive light--and in fairness, the creators don't even try to square that circle. But if the story's going to be one of resistance, what I'm for the moment going to assume is the lead defender comes off as so powerful it's hard to imagine the aggressors challenging him in any sort of dramatically satisfying way. And all of that's based on the assumption that the story's going to go one of the two most obvious ways--which, given the twists of the first issue, isn't a safe assumption to make. In some ways I wish we'd gotten a longer first issue to give readers a clearer sense of where this is going, but the impeccable craft the creators bring to the book makes it a worthwhile journey regardless.
BEEN: Oh I have to say that I didn't see the 'neat trick' you mention at the end of the issue coming at all. And I'm a bit jaded in terms of where vampire/monster stories go so it was a pleasant surprise that I could be surprised, if you know what I mean. I did definitely expect something more… routine. And this appears to be anything but. As you say, it's difficult to figure out what or who the protagonist may or may not be or continue to be? This is difficult to discuss not just because of spoilers but because much is left to subsequent issues to flesh out. This is a fishhook first issue, really, designed to set the stage just barely and capture your interest for a longer term investment. Risky move, narratively speaking, but in terms of pulling it off I think the creators have made it work. The fact that so much is left up in the air and unsettled does not detract from the lush rich feel of this issue. It's a dense, gripping, kind of viciously fun story with utterly beautiful art. (Have we mentioned the gorgeous art by Sumit Kumar and Vittorio Astone?) It's a journey I'm willing to take. Even if I have no idea where it will go. As Ram V proved already, no path is set. No storyline a given. This is not your 'normal' vampire or monster potentially worse than vampire tale. And thank god. Or… goddess? Or… huh. Anyway, I'm glad it's original.