War Echoes (Dead Kings #2 Serial Two: Past Mistakes Comic Review)

Story by Steve Orlando
Inks by Matthew Dow Smith
Colors by Lauren Affe
Lettering by Thomas Mauer
Cover by Matthew Dow Smith
Logo Design/Production by Charles Pritchett
Edited by Mike Marts

“Did you think this was going to be clean? Rescuing Gena’s going to be bloody.” In the second installment of AfterShock Comics’ Dead Kings we are thrown headlong into the grimy underworld of a suspicious, violent, and isolated country where everything comes at a price and loyalty is fleeting. Sasha’s search for his brother gives him an unexpected ally who is forced to dig deep into her past to make changes for the future.

In This Issue: After a brief flashback supplying a glimpse into Sahsa and Gena’s relationship, we pick up where we left off—with Sasha on the back of an Oprichniki mech mare on his way to the wrong prison camp. Their trek to the teleporting train destined for the camp at Ark-Angel is interrupted, however, by the unexpected appearance of Maria Dunajeva Kamenaya, Stone Mary, who just a couple of days before refused to help Sasha in his quest. Maria makes short work of the Oprichniki (with the hook of a construction crane) and frees Sasha, who asks her why she chose to follow him. Her answer is simple—“I’m doing what you said. I’m giving a thousand sad stories better endings…Starting with my own.”

Maria takes Sasha to a bar frequented by scavengers—men who did not fight but rather profited from the war by picking the bodies of the fallen clean after battles and selling their possessions—in order to obtain supplies and transportation. While there, Maria fights off all the bar occupants besides the barman single handed, and when Sasha questions her tactics she informs him that in order for them to keep fear about them they need to create it as they go. When Sasha asks just how Maria plans to help him take Gena’s camp, she tells him they need to find what made her Stone Mary to begin with; her War Habit. Her armor.

The search for her old Steel Polianitsa garb leads Maria and Sasha to an abandoned train graveyard where the teleporting trains (some of which the Oprichniki have recomissioned) of old were laid to rest. But the train graveyard isn’t quite as abandoned as Sasha thought—and Maria already knew.

My Two Cents: We’re in the middle stretch of our journey now, still filling in some expository holes while at the same time forging the path forward, making connections (and enemies) as we go. The depth of the Oprichniki’s betrayal is becoming more evident and the scars of war are deepening. Sasha and Maria’s relationship is forming through the sharing of memories and simple but sometimes hard to swallow honesty from Maria. The subtleties of the coloring serve as a guide for us as in the first issue with a foggy overlay to flashbacks, sinister shadows in dangerous situations, warmth in moments of calm. There are a couple of virtually wordless pages devoted to the dystopian landscape that are beautiful in their simplicity. The fantastical technology is believable, and woven seamlessly into a world that could otherwise very easily be our own.

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Elizabeth Fazzio
South Bay native turned East Bay resident. Holder of two less-than-useful arts degrees. Human Resources professional by day, creative recluse the rest of the time. Favorite words: Weasel, toast. Mental health advocate--https://makeitok.org
Elizabeth Fazzio
Elizabeth Fazzio

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Summary
Thank you, Stone Mary, for answering my prayers for bloodshed. I'm looking forward to following you in your journey to reclaim yourself from the betrayal of your nation and kicking in some skulls along the way. The tips of the hat to the Soviet Era were far more subtle in this issue, since the focus was on navigating the fantastical world of Thrice-Nine, but they were still there. We're starting to see the consequences of wars fought long ago and how they leave ripples in the world long after they are over and done. Nothing comes for free—you steal or fight or bargain for everything, and though Sasha and Maria have different ideas of how to get where they're going, they still manage to move forward together. Art, color, and story are still strong in this issue, but the overuse of bold text I noted in the first issue remains a distinct distraction. It mars the flow of the dialogue, necessitating re-reads of certain passages in order to fully comprehend the situation. Also in this issue were a few oddly structured bits of dialogue which I couldn't work out whether they were attempts at dialectical peculiarities or straight-up errors which also interrupted the story's progress.
Good
  • Execution of magical realism
  • Art and story blend seamlessly
  • Story elements are balanced
  • Good use of color
Bad
  • Ineffective attempt at dialect OR possible errors in word usage(?)
  • Overuse of BOLD
8
Great
Art - 9
Story - 9
Writing - 6
Predictability - 8
Written by
South Bay native turned East Bay resident. Holder of two less-than-useful arts degrees. Human Resources professional by day, creative recluse the rest of the time. Favorite words: Weasel, toast. Mental health advocate--https://makeitok.org

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