By Zack Quaintance — Throughout the first three issues of this series, the real carnage has been a bit understated, with death and monsters often regulated to shadows. Last issue we saw that start to break. This issue, it’s totally gone. The opening sequence is a bloody one, in which we see the supernatural creatures at the heart of this story in the light of day. It’s fantastic.
It is also overlain with narrative, with a letter being written from the young overwhelmed prince to the powerful Bishan. This is device a These Savage Shores has used previously with other characters, and it continues to be effective in this fourth issue, enabling writer Ram V. to incorporate anachronisms that remind his audience this is a period piece, while at the same time unveiling more of his characters, advancing his plot, and even achieving a poetry of prose that is often rare in the comicbook medium.
I’ve been enthralled by this book from its start, and These Savage Shores is my favorite issue yet. It’s not just the narration that aspires to poetry. Roughly a third of the way through this chapter, there is a silent page in which a crack of lightning splinters a long-grown tree, sending it into flames as a woman familiar to us from the past looks on with tears in her eyes. The tree is one we’ve seen her and Bishan lay beneath, sharing an intimate moment, and now it is engulfed in flames. The creators trust the audience to draw that connection, and it’s all the more artful for it. It’s a rare book so confident in its own beauty that gives its readers that level of trust.
The lightning struck tree is not the only silent page. Ram V. wisely gives artist Sumit Kumar and Vittorio Astone another set of roughly two and a half tone-setting pages without text as well, and the duo again does fantastic work. There are silent and near-silent action pages later that do the same. I don’t want to give away those story beats, which come later and are related to the plot. I will say, however, that Kumar’s linework is moody throughout, able to leave just enough space for readers to fill in feelings of impending doom violence, while Astone’s colors augment perfectly. It’s maybe a comics review cliche, but These Savage Shores truly is a book in which all of its team is performing at the highest level, coming together with a pitch-perfect creative alchemy.
All of those successes here, however, have been present from this comic’s start. What is unique to These Savage Shores #4 is the way it patiently pays off plot points seeded back in the first issue, doing so in an unexpected and compelling way. These Savage Shores is the best kind of story, one that has a host of characters with compelling motivations pulling themselves into webs of impossible choices that clearly elucidate their values.
Overall: These Savage Shores is a nigh-perfect comicbook, one that brings together top-tier writing, linework, colors, and lettering into a cohesive story that feels organic, suspenseful, and heavy with meaning. It’s truly a work of art. 10/10
These Savage Shores #4
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.