The Last Siege #1
Writer: Landry Q. Walker
Artist: Justin Greenwood
Colors: Eric Jones
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Justin Greenwood (regular)/Nick Dragotta (variant)
Editor: Branwyn Bigglestone
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Medieval stories — either with sword-and-sorcery elements or now — are from a genre in which I generally don’t have a lot of interest. I haven’t watched a moment of Game of Thrones, for example, and similar fare, such as Conan stories, rarely hold my attention. Nevertheless, I decided to give The Last Siege a glance when a digital preview made its way into my little corner of the world. This story features a number of traits that normally turn me off from such material, from stilted dialogue to reflect the time to hardships and violence that make it next to impossible to relate to the characters. But there was something to the plot and script here that clicked for me. The blend of politics and crude opportunism honestly put me in mind of the political climate in western society today, and specifically in the United States.
One of the last remaining independent city states in a realm that had recently been immersed in war finds itself at a crisis point, with its lord dead and his young daughter unwed. A harsh warrior has arrived to take the girl as his bride, not out of love, but to elevate himself to become of the ruler particular castle. Despite any formal position as yet, though, he runs roughshod over the population within the castle walls, and he sets his sights on a stranger who’s just arrived there. Little does anyone know that he carries a message that will forever change things for this castle, its mourning princess and the brutes who would have taken it for themselves.
I was familiar with Justin Greenwood’s art from Oni Press projects such as Wasteland and Resurrection. He boasts a style that’s quite reminiscent of that of Scott (Nightwing) McDaniel, but I also see a Joe (E-Man) Staton influence at place as well. Maybe it’s because I’ve been so enjoying the work of Brian Hurtt lately on Damned (also from Oni), I saw a hint of his style mirrored in The Last Siege as well.
What I know for certain is that this is the strongest work I’ve seen from Greenwood. What struck me the most was his portrayal of Lady Cathryn. He captures her youth and emotional fragility in the wake of her father’s death, but there’s a subtle strength to be found in how she’s presented visually. I like how a single glance shows she’s listening to her advisors and belie her awareness of the terrible circumstances in which she and her state find themselves. We don’t hear her utter a single word in this introductory issue, but Greenwood’s work makes me look forward to her interactions with the other players in the drama. I found Eric Jones’s colors to be quite effective at reinforcing the period and the sullen atmosphere looming over the central backdrop.
The plot here is a fairly standard one, not only for this genre but others as well. Mysterious stranger rolls into town, bringing justice and retribution for the wicked with him (at least that’s how it’s shaping up here so far). As such, there’s not much new to be found in The Last Siege really, but writer Landry Q. Walker handles the familiar fare well enough that it doesn’t feel too formulaic.
What set the story apart for me was the political machinations of this world and how they’re presented. Even more interesting than the bullying of Feist and his men is the discussion between the castle state’s two key advisors, with one advocating for capitulation to an ugly new age and the other questioning it despite the lack of any other options. I couldn’t help but see some representations of the state of global politics in this fictional microcosm. I’m not saying Walker intended to offer a commentary on the Trump presidency or the Brexit rift in the UK here, but those socio-political realities are the context in which I experienced this story. The stranger at the heart of the plot strikes me as a symbol of brash youthfulness will to wrestle back society from the clutches of corruption, and that’s certainly something western society — be it in the U.S., the UK or even Canada, with what’s going on in Ontario right now — could use. 7/10