By Zack Quaintance — In These Savage Shores #1, Ram V. used the narration in a way that stuck with me for the month-plus between issues, specifically the sea captain’s prose, in which he wrote of his ship’s destination: They’ve no use for lords or nobles ‘ere. In this place, the days are scorched and long. And the nights are full of teeth.” I don’t often like a book (or any story, really) to so directly state its central conceit, but it was done poetically here (and also in the service of foreshadowing), done so well I couldn’t help but appreciate it. That first issue was also confident in its artistry, dedicating whole pages to tone-setting imagery from Sumit Kumar and Vittorio Astone, panels of suns setting behind ominous trees, beady eyes in crevices, entire colonies of bats taking flight at dusk. Overall, the first issue of this comic was luscious and immersive, and, excuse my inelegance, good.
These Savage Shores #2 builds well upon the foundation lain by its predecessor. Let’s start by talking (briefly) of the plot, which relies heavily once again upon the writing of a letter as a framing device. This time, the writer is a character we met briefly before, a vampire hunter who encountered the now-deceased Alain Pierrefont as he tore into a victim, lighting the monster aflame, ultimately sending him fleeing across the sea to India. That vampire hunter’s name is Zachariah (great name), and he has, apparently followed Pierrefont to these savage shores, finding him dead and setting off in search of the killer, whom he assumes is also a monster.
That’s where we start. It’s a premise that makes for a sophomore issue even more engrossing than its predecessor. By framing These Savage Shores #2 through a character we saw (albeit briefly) last issue, Ram V. and team strongly orient the reader while at once stoking the intensity of the mystery the first installment ended upon. Using the hunter is a wise choice. Like his original prey, he’s a stranger in a strange land, one we can’t help but feel is intruding in this area. If These Savage Shores seeks in any way to be a commentary on imperialism, this is a strong way to go about it.
What’s more though, is that the letter writing motif evokes the idea of a story being told within a story. Not directly, but These Savage Shores seems to aspire to be a deeper commentary on imperialism. What the letter writing obliquely eludes to (at least in my mind, and, granted, I may be making a major leaps) is that this comic is interested in unpacking the continued telling of stories about imperialism, specifically those told through heroes and protagonists intruding in one way or another. To be sure, These Savage Shores #2 has far more interests in that, lighting upon mythology, obsessions, the economics of trade, and class structure, but the subversion of who we thought our central character was in issue one is continued and continued well throughout issue 2, a strong and inspired bit of plotting.
The art, however, is yet again stunning in this comic, especially the depiction of the child prince’s protector when he puts on his mask (which is used thematically by the script, too). The silent closeups of the masked man locking onto strange visitors have at times made me run cold with terror. Like the first issue, These Savage Shores #2 is again a confident visual story, one content to linger within large and sweeping establishing shots, somehow doing so without bogging down the pacing in the slightest. I wrote about this in my review of These Savage Shores #1, but the writer, artist, colorist combo on this title are working in sync, expertly fostering tone and mood that serves the story as well as any comic in recent memory.
Overall: These Savage Shores #2 doubles down on the strengths of the excellent debut that preceded it, simultaneously finding new and interesting ground beyond the misdirective twist that ended its first issue. A delightfully complex comic, this book is one for readers who enjoy nuanced explorations of ideas as well as those who want to revel in dark and chilling visual tones. 9.0/10
These Savage Shores #2
Writer: Ram V.
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.