With Further Ado #018: These Savage Shores

Happy Krampus Day!  And in the spirit of these wonky holiday, I’ve got a good one for you.

I remember my frustration trying to explain to my daughters a difficult concept. It was the notion of a trade embargo, one of the confusing, and boring parts of one of those during Star Wars prequels. I really tried to get them interested, but the Catto Girls never really warmed up to Star Wars.  So… when I learned that Vault Comics’ new comic series These Savage Shores was about establishing trade routes in India, I was skeptical.

But there’s more to it than that. There’s a vampire. And a vampire hunter. There’s strange beasts, royal intrigue and unfamiliar locales.  The series includes an exotic dancer who’s much more than she seems.  This title is a breath of fresh air and after reading issue #1, I was hooked. 

Publisher Vault pitches this as Bram Stoker’s Dracula meets Alan Moore’s From Hell, set in pre-colonial India.  Warren Ellis’ pull quote is pretty good too. He says, “It would have been right at home in mid-period Vertigo, with its classical pacing and fresh tone, and a cliffhanger last panel right out of Brian K. Vaughan.”

These Savage Shores is one of those stories that unexpectedly pulls you in and then demands your patience.  It almost as if the author, Ram V, is saying to his audience: “I’m glad you’re all here, but please sit back and let us unwind this story at its natural pace.” Fans might know Ram V as the co-creator of current ongoing Image Comics series, Paradiso, and can look for him next in Gotham City, as he’ll be writing the upcoming Batman: Secret Files. 

The lush and moody art from Sumit Kumar is a delight and urgently moves the story along. (Sumit previously worked with with Ram on the recent Action Lab series, Brigands: Ruins of Thieves.). The proceedings have a gritty edge that speaks to the rough-hewn nature of the story.  The action bounces from England to the high seas to the India and back again.  One can almost feel the warm sunlight or smell the exotic scents of the Far East.  

Kumar also has strong grasp of small human movements and gestures. All the figures act naturally, and further details to the story are revealed by the subtle, almost graceful actions.

One note- there is some brief nudity in each issue. It’s not gratuitous, but it is something to keep in mind if you share this with younger readers.

In today’s comics, colorists are more and more important. I was recently struck how a certain writer creator chose a European colorist to elicit a different look from all the other domestic comics.   These Savage Shore’s colorist is Vitto Astone. The work is impressive.  There’s a simplicity that sneaks in, almost as if it’s meant misdirect the reader from the details and backgrounds.  It’s not all traditionally inked, either. Many backgrounds are colored washes without the traditional ink trap lines.  Usually, I eschew that approach, but in the right hands, like with these artists, it really works.

These Savage Shores issues #1 and #2 went on sale Wednesday November 27th and are $3.99 each. You might have to look a little harder for this title than you would for a mainstream comic, but you’ll be glad you did. I’m anxious for the next issue.