Written by Ram V Drawn by Sumit Kumar
Colored by Vittorio Astone Lettered by Aditya Bidikar
Alternate Cover by Tim Daniel On Shelves October 10th
As with every other Vault Comics title, it is impossible not to stare at These Savage Shores for a while before actually starting the read. Just like its brothers and sisters in publication, this book is gorgeous. Much like a fellow White Noise Studios effort Fearscape, this book uses subdued tones and washed palettes to evoke the story/tale atmosphere that is spun within the pages. Just like Fearscape does, These Savage Shores feels like a novel brought to life. It isn’t a prose approach though. Rather, Ram V uses the classic imagery to help naturally unwind the beginning of our tale.
Appropriately named, the book gets right to the many themes represented. Colonial India was a port, quite literally, for the European powers and rivalries to try and express their rule. Arrogance abounded and our efforts kick off with that on full display. Sending “a problem” to foreign lands wreaks of superiority. That air is shown both subtly and bluntly over the course of the issue. From the inner workings of the vampires themselves in London, to the East India Company, to Lord Pierrefont, and even the down to the shores of the Malabar Coast itself the air stinks of arrogance. This arrogance begets the course of events that leads us down the path of travelling from London to Calicut.
It’s fitting though as both man and vampire have both suffered at the hand of arrogance on more than one occasion. Both histories are wrought with tales of caution in acting with such bravado but lessons are almost unanimously learned the hard way. Here, we’ve got a quick one learned by Lord Pierrefont (that last panel was amazing) which really makes you raise your eyebrows and wonder just where this is going and how it is going to get there. Several plot points were put into motion and there were a few other pieces that were either pushed under the radar or tossed in to throw the reader off and keep them thinking. The very first ‘scene’ of the book has the perfect illustration of this. It is quite clear that Bishan (or at least his creator/what he is) will be a key figure in this story. Is he vampire as we are accustomed too or something else entirely? Whatever he is Kori is not afraid. What’s with the Alada tree? Is it representative or literal? Was there something more alluded to with Kori and the dancing or is that just looking to far into things?
The biggest question though, is what’s the story we’re actually reading? Now, that’s not a slight on the book. It isn’t a question because there’s aimless narrative and dialogue or a lack of direction. The question of just which story we’re reading comes from the fact that everything you were forming in your head gets the rug pulled out from under it with the last sequence of the issue. We are shown one of the invaders of the land represented by Lord Pierrefont. He’s a threat inside the threat of the East India Company. A fine nod to the historical aspect of the setting sees the revelation that the Silk Route (Maritime version) is the aim of the EIC. The conquering civilization has set out to conquer the savage beasts in order to control the resources and value of the lands. We’re led to believe that while there are other forces at play and other interests involved, Lord Pierrefont is a crucial piece to getting the foothold in place as the start of the road. But what of the lands themselves? We’re told that savage things roam the night, Lord Pierrefont himself feels an aura about things and ponders he might be more accepted, and we’re even shown that the bats “can smell death and have come for the spoils.”
Ram V tosses several threads out onto the mat. Amidst the beauty of the artwork from Kumar and Astone these threads are woven into a fine, silken like fabric that flows together as the pieces come into place. Then, the trap door opens and we’re left with even more questions and nothing more to do than say “bravo.” This first issue is, as Vault has quickly become known for, an absolute dream. Personally I was greatly looking forward to this one upon announcement as it looked to be the furthest and have the least common thread from the line of stories that Vault has published thus far. For me it was going to be a true first test throw of their cast net.
This delivered ten fold. As readers we’re always looking for a new, different, or hardly done angle and this book is it. Yes, vampires … or is it? After the closing panel of the book I’m not sure what teeth the nights are full of. What is lurking about? Just what else is there to contend with? What is the true struggle that will unfold? I’m on board for it all. These Savage Shores continues Vault Comics’ perfect record of top shelf books.