“These Savage Shores” #4 Review: Fangs and Fury
Bishan returns home in “These Savage Shores” #4, half the man he was and more monster than he anticipated.
Except he’s not the only one.
Story: Ram V
Art: Sumit Kumar
Colors: Vittorio Astone
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Colonial blood-lust comes due in “These Savage Shores #4” as Count Grano and Adrian pay a call, and Bishan becomes a one-man wrecking crew against the unstoppable horde of “progress.” V does a fine job of continuing the book’s excellent pacing by giving us a bit of pay-off in Bishan’s reveal and upping the tension even further with Count Grano’s incursion into Bishan’s territory. He probably wouldn’t see it like that – in fact, he most definitely does not, concerned as he is with the mysterious and brutal death of his ward – but let’s call it what it is, shall we?
There’s a bloody colonial onslaught in play, heralded by the arrival of literal British blood-suckers while the home turf’s ancient god is struggling to recall his humanity. Bishan’s journey is an interesting one, and his heroism in the face of colonial brutality as he, in turn, brutalizes out-matched men is also in question. No one’s quite off the hook for their actions in “These Savage Shores”, and V’s exceptional character building skill is on clear display.
Kumar’s art in “These Savage Shores” isn’t just incredible because of its intricacy or beauty. What Kumar’s style adds to the reading experience is the softness of the sheath around the blade before it’s drawn. Put another way, Kumar’s line can, at times, make the pain and horror of “These Savage Shores” seem gentle, and that aesthetic perfection is perfectly suited to telling a very polished and poignant story. V and Kumar work well together to eschew pulling the rug out from under us in a sensationalized way. The book’s regimented layouts capture perfect moments, and Kumar knows how to use angles, action lines, silhouettes and background detail to create a dramatic mood without sacrificing dynamism. Grano’s human profile is delightfully urbane and deliciously snotty, and all the little nods to European vampire lit tropes in the confrontation between Grano and the hunter are fun without detracting from the scene’s tension.
Astone’s colors are delightful, as always, with delicious purples and reds and moody nighttime palettes to remind us that this is, first and foremost, a horror story. It might take place away from the damp streets of all we recognize as vampiric or Gothic in European literature, but the culture clash in “These Savage Shores” makes for some very interesting visuals. Bishan’s palette has more red in it, obviously, but there are echoes of the same palette in Grano’s garb and appearance. The battlefield is a riot of sickly greens, yellows and reds. The nighttime scenes are broken up nicely with a little daytime yellow, teal and blue mix in Bishan’s journey back home. Astone is adept at using lighter colors in the exterior scenes to ground panels and draw our eye down the page, and there’s a nice little detail in one of the final pages that not only telegraphs a character shift, but becomes the focal point thanks to placement and color choice.
Bidikar’s lettering shines here, as V makes the choice to deliver a lot of the narrative through epistolary “dialogue” between characters. Not only is it a smart way to incorporate drama while avoiding the cheesiness trap of over-blown speech, but it allows the letterer to add some nice variation to the page. Bidikar’s proven adept at choosing fonts that are actually readable (a feat unto itself) and visually pleasing. The style on the narrative boxes varies based on the POV, as does the color. The prince’s narrative boxes are uniform save for one rounded edge – not quite jagged, but definitely not uniform – that helps sell the character’s turmoil and poise. Bishan’s letter to Kori boasts some nice sword-and-sorcery scroll edging that also communicates he’s far from home, and low on resources in more ways than one. To call Bidikar a wizard or the like is to undercut his skillset and the labor that goes into the craft of lettering, but the effect of his work on the page adds significantly to the book’s magic and polish.
To see Bidikar explain his lettering process as he works on a page from this issue, check out the video he posted in March. Well worth watching!
“These Savage Shores” is headed for a pretty epic confrontation along a path of heartbreak, sorrow and pain. V, Kumar, Astone and Bidikar are delivering the goods in issue #4 as they have done consistently to date. This top-notch horror book examines colonialism, history, myth and the self in sophisticated and nuanced ways, and excels in its chosen medium.
Pick up a copy on 5/9 at your LCS or wherever fine comics are sold.