Bare Your Teeth: These Savage Shores #1 Review
Story: Ram V
Art: Sumit Kumar
Colors: Vittorio Astone
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
What do you get when you combine greed, blossoming colonialism, a thin veneer of propriety and some good ol’ vampirism?
Why, These Savage Shores, of course.
When I go for comics, historical narratives are usually the last on my list but horror’s increasingly at the top of the pile. These Savage Shores tests my preconceived notions about each genre, and it might have something to do with all of those teeth.
Aside from the immensely satisfying climax in this first issue, what really impresses me is the depth we get in just 28 pages. Ram V’s ideas are imaginative, fantastical and, most importantly, adeptly rendered on the page. Instead of going full Gothic, with every panel laden with dire significance, we’re instead treated to a well-measured dose of exposition with a very cool cliffhanger. It’s a lot of work to get an aristocratic British vampire established, overseas and interacting with local royalty, while also setting up an ancient fallen deity with believable pathos and mystery. Add some tension and gore to the mix, and you’ve got a writer leading the charge who’s in full control of their vision.
Kumar’s art dazzles, and the full package is here on display – from finely detailed architecture and ships to crisp character details to beautifully rendered snapshot-style sequenced panels, I’m left shaking my head and wondering what Kumar can’t do. I also appreciate the subtle cartoonish elements, especially in Alain’s aquiline snobbery and some of the other British characters’ buffoonery. It’s also difficult to style someone like Kori at the right level of sensational, and her moments of levity and irritation give her some immediate depth beyond the stereotypical object of desire, to Kumar’s hand.
Astone’s work is also impressive. The blues and greens of the anemic, cramped British backdrops quickly give way to warmer hues, but the contrast isn’t as on the nose as it sounds. Alain’s first evening at Prince Vikram’s estate is done in gorgeous purples and grays, while the finely paced temple dance scene, intercut with Alain’s first foray into the evening, glows with lively colors that never turn garish.
One of the main reasons I don’t like reading historical comics? Most of them include some sort of epistolary element, which means cursive. And cursive lettering is the bane of my eyeballs. It’s either sprawling or spidery, florid or cramped – no happy medium. Not this time, because Bidikar’s choice of typeface is perfect. It’s compact without sacrificing readability. Alain’s style differs distinctly from Prince Vikram’s, both of which are pleasantly rendered and unobtrusive.
Unobtrusive! Can it be so? Yup, and Bidikar absolutely nails it.
I’m damn excited for this book, and you should be too. These Savage Shores sets up a hell of a lot in its first issue, and promises a lot more intrigue in the future. It’s out October 10th and promises to be another gem in an increasingly impressive line-up from Vault Comics.
These Savage Shores #1 sets a higher bar for historical-cum-horror narratives, with great action, superb craft and a well-executed concept.