By Zack Quaintance — Earlier this year, the good folks at Vault Comics announced plans for books from each of the writers in London’s White Noise Collective, including the eco-fantasy series Deep Roots, plus the forthcoming comics Fearscape and Friendo (both of which I’ve read and absolutely adored). Due out Oct. 10, These Savage Shores from writer Ram V, artist Sumit Kumar, colorist Vittorio Astone, and letterer Aditya Bidikar is the latest to join this White Noise wave.
Cards on the table: of all Vault’s books this year, These Savage Shores was the one I found myself most strongly drawn to based on its description, which involves merchanteering in India circa 1766 and also vampires. I can’t really intellectualize it, but the book’s tagline—Along these savage shores, where the days are scorched, and the nights are full of teeth—is the type of poetic-yet-gaudy teaser that makes me mutter to myself, cool, especially when coupled with Kumar’s appropriately savage cover artwork.
The poeticism of the summary and tagline actually permeates much of the prose in the book, with lines like I hear it is found beyond the water’s edge on fairer shores, where men die with dignity and learn to live with shame. This lyrical, flourish-heavy writing is something I’ve come to expect from Vault, lines more likely to be found in literary journals than comic books, and Ram V’s work in These Savage Shores is rich with them.
This book, however, is never overly reliant on prose. It uses letter writing as a framing device in a way that enables Kumar and Astone to create kinetic action sequences that give readers vital exposition. Kumar and Astone’s artwork is overall very strong, especially as it pertains to tone. There’s one panel in particular this applies to, depicting a proper vampiric Englishman as he surveys Calicut from beneath an umbrella, standing at the bow of an approaching rowboat, posture ramrod straight with one hand kept behind his back. You can almost hear the bustle of the shore and feel the oppressive humidity as this man condescendingly absorbs what to him must be an exotic locale, one in which he will clearly be an interloper.
Tone and feel are two of These Savage Shores most noticeable strengths, both conveyed often and with much versatility, in scenes that range from the one I described above to a creepier set piece in which an ancient tree erupts with a bat colony to a character placing a tender reassuring hand on a pensive lover’s face to, finally, another scene intercut with sensual dance and primal nightstalking. If this sounds like a unique book, that’s because it is, one I highly recommend following.
Overall: Thematically, this comic promises contemplation of power dynamics and colonialism, piloted by a creative team with the clear storytelling chops to turn deeper concern into compelling narrative. Yet another strong book from Vault Comics, These Savage Shores is one to watch. 9.0/10
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