Writer: Ram V Art: Sumit Kumar Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An epic tale of love and monsters that takes place largely in India in the mid-1700s.
The story weaves an intricate web of war and romance and tragedy with major themes of choice and morality, like Interview With The Vampire mixed with Bioshock 3.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
(Moderate Spoilers for Previous Issues)
The end of the epic!
After a long time away at war, Bishan has made his way back, alone. But he finds his home and his love have changed irrevocably.
At Count Grano's invitation, Bishan and Kori sail to London – it's their turn to settle the score in this arms race of revenge.
But even if they survive, can they ever go back to the way things were?
First off, I just have to say that Sumit Kumar is a god of line art, and Vittorio Astone's colors are haunting and beautiful in a way I just can’t convey through words. Also, I am of the opinion that the only person ever to draw the moon in the future is Sumit Kumar.
While there are major themes that grow and evolve throughout the series, each issue seems to have its own themes. While "change" is one this issue, saying what the other one is might give away too much.
The issue opens with Bishan looking more civilized and human, contrasting sharply with past issues where he was much more savage and bestial.
Seeing Bishan and Kori reunite is magical. While this is partially due to Kumar's incredible line art and Astone's glowing moon, the two have been apart for so long and so much has happened, you can't help but be excited seeing them together again at last. The scene is so enchanting, you can almost hear the drums and cymbals crescendo as they embrace and kiss.
It's fascinating how we get parts of the backstory even now, in this final issue. We find out more about Bishan's history with the prince and his family, for one. For the other, we revisit the story of how Bishan was made. This time, however, it has a new tone, with new circumstances leading to its reveal. And that makes it hit harder than expected because of those things.
Count Grano is the type of villain you love to hate. There's some nuance there, like how much he cares for Pierrefont, but it's interesting to see how, beneath all his civilized attire and bearing, he's a monster. Not even traditionally evil in the Biblical sense of the word, but just a selfish creature of violence and hunger. And it's interesting to see that contrast with Bishan.
Speaking of Bishan and Grano, the tension between them is so taut, you could bounce a quarter off of it. Grano is the absolute worst, and a terrific representation of Western "Culture" with his over-emphasis of "exotic" names. I also loved Grano's chair design, and how it looks almost as if it's Grano's wings. But the whole scene plays out like a battle as each gauges the other's intent and threat level.
Sumit Kumar is able to communicate so much information and emotion without needing any text to tell you what's going on. You can tell what Prince Vikram is thinking about when he looks at a column with a bas relief of a horned monster, for example. Another scene inside a carriage says more than words ever could.
Ram V's writing in this issue, as well as those before it, is unbelievably impressive. That's not just flattery – seeing how events and themes come together this issue and wrapping them up in a satisfactory way is just what is expected in a final chapter or issue. But when you look at how no line is wasted, and how most advance the story, character development and themes within the story's unique tone...it's a masterclass in writing. And Ram never says too much or bogs down the page, trying to get his point across. He trusts his creative team. I just can't help but want to bring These Savage Shores to my old English Literature professors and show them how comics can be as deep and study-worthy as classic literature.
Throughout the series, but also in this issue, Sumit Kumar has used the 9-panel grid and variations and innovations of it to great effect. They work so well to set a pace for the scene in one place this issue, working like an atmospheric metronome and setting the scene in equally measured parts. One of the variations slows the scene down so the reader takes in the gravity and meaning of the page through an elegant progression of movement.
The fight scene is silent, brutal, and well-choreographed, showing smaller actions without muddling the page with too many panels.
The final line of the comic is delivered perfectly. Aditya Bidikar has established a lot of his flourishes and style in earlier issues, so I had fewer specific things to comment on as far as lettering goes this issue, but choosing no caption box around that last line makes us wonder if it's a statement from one of our characters, or from an omniscient narrator. So much of the meaning and themes in These Savage Shores is filtered through characters and their experiences and perceptions, and those things give each message its context. Had a character delivered the last line, we might be able to pass it off as less believable than having it come from an objective, omniscient third party, where it feels more like a fact.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
While there's loads of meaning to mine in These Savage Shores, Ram V doesn't choose a side or tell you what you're supposed to take away from it. For those who like to know exactly what the creator's opinion or intent or message is, it might be frustrating, but that's a small price to pay for a piece of work like this. There's plenty available in the text to let you decide if the ending is hopeful or if everything is broken (or both). You can find enough of an argument to support the belief that Bishan is a monster or that he is a good man (or, again, both). And that takes much more skill and maturity than the literary equivalent of standing on a soapbox and shouting at you.
The story was so compelling and the art was so incredible, I cussed audibly with every page turn. It may be dangerous to read this in public or around small children. But jokes aside, I actually had to go through the whole issue again just to pay attention to the lettering this issue because of how much I was ensorcelled by every other aspect of this book, and that's a shame, because I always enjoy what Bidikar brings to the page.
I don't know if either of the bullets above are truly negatives, but if I keep telling people These Savage Shores is a perfect comic book, they might stop believing me.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Chances are, if you've made it this far, you know why you should read the final issue of this miniseries. Issue #5 does more than sticks the proverbial landing – saying it closes the story masterfully does it a disservice, but I simply don't have the words to describe its perfection.
If you've been waiting for the series to be finished before you jump on and read its entirety, know that this is one of the most well-crafted comics you could read. The art and color are gorgeous, and every panel is its own work of art. The story itself is beyond impressive, heavy with themes and emotion without ever becoming dense or unwieldy. Even the lettering is flawless and meaningful, though, with Aditya Bidikar on letters, that's no surprise.
These Savage Shores is more than a vampire story. It's a masterpiece.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Paradiso, Vol. 1 by Ram V & Devmalya Pramanik
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Manifest Destiny, Vol. 1 by Matthew Roberts & Chris Dingess
If you like the art:
These Savage Shores #1-4 by Ram V & Sumit Kumar
Frankenstein Texas by Dan Whitehead & David Hitchcock
Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Ram V – Writer
Moniker: His full 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
Adrian F. Wassel – Editor
Name Recognition: Is the CCO & Editor In Chief of Vault Comics, and edits Vault's titles
Also runs Vault with his brother and father
Seems to work very closely and intensely with comic creators when developing stories
Tim Daniel – Writer
Multitalented: Also does all the design work for Vault Comics
Inspired by others in the business: Sonia Harris, Sean Phillips, and Fonographics
Dream Team: Co-wrote Curse and Burning Fields with Michael Moreci
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Issue #5 is coming October 9, with the full trade paperback following shortly thereafter. Click one of these to pre-order it:
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