Writer: Ram V Art: Sumit Kumar Publisher: Vault Comics
This review only covers the 3rd issue and contains SPOILERS. For more information on what the overall story is about, read my review of issues 1 & 2.
WHAT IS IT?
A epic vampire story that takes place in India in the mid-1700s.
So far, it seems like a lot of the story is based in a power struggle between rival lands and potentially families of vampires.
Basically? It's Game of Thrones with teeth.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
(Moderate Spoilers for Previous Issues)
It's issue 3 and we're already at war!
Tensions are rising. Not only between the warring forces of Mysore and the Mahrattas, but amongst our cast of characters. Kori and Bishan. The Prince and Sultan Hyder Ali. The vampires of the West as they search for who killed one of their own.
It's beginning to seem like These Savage Shores is settling into a genre, and that genre is Tragedy. Throughout this issue, we see the great machine's workings, each piece clicking into place, and the characters, each with their role to play, each unable to break from it to save themselves.
Madras uses Pierrefont's death as an excuse to send forces to Mysore and attempt to take it over so they can control the port at Calicut. Though the Sultan Hyder Ali and his war were the cause of Prince Vikram Mani's father, these two must turn their swords to plowshares if they have any hope of surviving the Madras forces. Bishan, trying to be good in the face of his demonic nature, can only defend his prince, even if it's not truly his fight.
Even if he could die doing so.
Like the most effective tragedies, we can see where this story is likely to take its characters, and we are as powerless to help them as they are to prevent their own fates.
Ram V's writing brings poetry to the comics medium, like the Henry Miller of comic books
This issue's lines that stopped me in my tracks were:
"I will come with soldiers ten but as always unguarded"
"That is what I am trying to be now, Kori. A good man. Forgive me."
This line is referenced again at the end of the issue and hooooo boy, is it effective
Sumit Kumar's art is cinematic, pushing in or creating pace through framing different parts of the same greater image -- it's very well done
I especially love Sumit Kumar's sense of timing, cinematic eye, and framing within a page (see below for an example of how powerful his 9-panel grid can be)
I say it again below, but Astone's colors are incredible and remind me of Jordie Bellaire's gorgeous color work
If I recall correctly, letterer Aditya Bidikar created the East India Company logo specifically for this issue
He also pours his time and skill into this issue, with multiple fonts, letter-style exposition balloons, and full-on pamphlet/flyer-style pages
The elder vampire from the group still in Europe implicitly ties vampirism to people who decide not to play by God's rules and are branded bastards
"Nesuferitu" is Romanian for "the insufferable/repugnant one" and sounds very similar to "Nosferatu," a word some may recognize from the 1922 vampire film
The group of characters from India tie the concept of vampires to their myths about the Raakshas
It's fascinating to me how Western vampires allegedly became that way because of their own decisions, and Eastern ones became vampires because other beings greedily took the nectar of the gods away from them
I wonder if this says something greater about the two different cultures in this book
Themes in this issue:
Removing masks or clothing indicative of royalty as a sign of sincerity and vulnerability
The cost of being motivated by money vs. being motivated by doing the "right" or logical thing
What it means to be human and what it means to be a monster, and those who defy their nature
Adrian F. Wassel, editor-in-chief of Vault, is drawn as a vampire in this issue
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
We get some backstory into Kori & Bishan's relationship history and see that they have known each other since Kori was a little girl
Is the concept of "grooming" still problematic with vampires? I'm not sure how to think about this, but it definitely gave me pause.
That being said, I don't think there's evidence Bishan took an active role in any "grooming," even if he did have a relationship with Kori when she was young, it didn't turn romantic until she seemed of age
Seeing the origin of Kori's "Tell me Bishan, how were you made" was incredibly endearing and heartwarming
Because there are so many moving parts to this story, you may want to read it more than once (but is that a bad thing?)
Picking up the trade in a few months and reading everything all at once might help keep all the machinations top-of-mind
A warning to folks who read on their phones: the words, especially the script style ones, can be difficult to read without zooming or using SmartPanel technology
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
These Savage Shores is a fresh take on the vampire tale. Like the vampires within, the story and the art feel dangerous and powerful under the elegant beauty of the art and prose. I highly recommend this title to fans of vampires and fans of stories they can study and sink their teeth into.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Ruin of Thieves by Ram V & Sumit Kumar
No Mercy, Vol. 1 by Alex de Campi, Carla Speed McNeil & Jenn Manley Lee
Manifest Destiny, Vol. 1 by Matthew Roberts & Chris Dingess
If you like the art:
These Savage Shores #1-2 by Ram V & Sumit Kumar
Moon Knight, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey
Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson & Nate Bellegarde
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Ram V – Writer
Moniker: His real name is Ram Venkatesan
Outlander: Originally from Mumbai, India, he now lives in London
Is part of a group of London comic book writers and artists called the White Noise Collective
Sumit Kumar– Artist
Multitalented: Also writes and colors comics
In his writing and art, he tries not to adhere to a singular style
Outlander: Hails from New Delhi, India
Vittorio Astone – Colorist
Outlander: Freelance comic artist & colorist from Rome
Opinion: His colors in this remind me a lot of Jordie Bellaire's in Moon Knight and Injection
Aditya Bidikar – Letterer
Multitalented: Co-hosts a comics podcast with fellow letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, called Letters & Lines
Dream Team: Also worked with Ram V on Black Mumba & Paradiso
Sometimes hosts a #LettererJam event on Twitter where letters all show their different approaches to a single page of comic book art
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