Story by Steve Orlando
Inks by Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by Lauren Affe
Lettering by Thomas Mauer
“The kings have all died, leaving their mad courts to rule.” AfterShock’s new title Dead Kings introduces us to a post-post-apocalyptic world of disenchanted war heroes, unchecked secret police, and a deeply entrenched wariness of the ‘other’. One man’s search for his imprisoned brother leads us directly into the heart of the turmoil of a lawless land.
In This Issue: Aleksander Viktorovich Vasnetsov and his twin brother, Gennady, were born in Rus during the Great Steel War. Rus, now known as Thrice Nine, did not fare well in the war—the scattered remains of enormous steel battle machines mar the landscape, and the Oprichniki, formerly the honored guard of King Koschei the Third, rule without opposition. Aleksander, or Sasha, as he prefers to be known, is on the hunt for a soldier from the Great Steel War, a legendary member of the Steel Polianitsi: Maria Dunajeva Kamenaya, the Stone Mary. Abandoned by the country that made her, Maria Dunajeva left the wreckage of Rus to lick her wounds and despair of the ruined land she once served above all. Sasha is convinced that Maria is the one who can help him rescue Gennady from Sochi, an Oprichniki Reconstruction camp for so-called Chorts—social degenerates—where he was imprisoned for loving another man. Maria declines to help, forcing Sasha to undertake the task on his own, but unfortunately, his first foray into heroism culminates in the desired outcome, but in the wrong location.
My Two Cents: Dead Kings is what I imagine would happen if the Cold War had been fought with the Jaegers from Pacific Rim and the KGB had been the victors—mass destruction followed by a totalitarian state ruled by fear. The world of the story exists in a realm of magical realism. It hits all the marks for setting up the traditional hero’s journey but is compelling enough about it to draw the reader in. The bond of brotherhood and devotion to the mother will carry the story, and the layers of political unrest and the second chance for a disenfranchised soldier from a broken land add necessary depth. Story and art play on each other beautifully. The art is heavy on shadows, and though the full color spectrum is present, it’s muted—secondary to the drawings of the action but still supportive. There’s an overhanging sense of something sinister, both in the dialogue and the art, and it is present and palpable throughout.