The work is far from over. (Dead Kings #5 Serial Five: New Vows Comic Review)

Story by Steve Orlando

Inks & Cover by Matthew Dow Smith

Colors by Lauren Affe

Lettering by Thomas Mauer

Logo Design/Production by Charles Pritchett

Edited by Mike Marts

It’s time for a new chapter.

In This Issue: The battle at Sochi is still blazing. Gena, standing over what remains of his brother, has to be snapped out of his state of shock by Maria, who tells him to save his mourning until they’re clear of Sochi if he wants to be able to mourn Sasha at all. She is determined to get Gena out—she made one promise, to save one life—but Gena, still disquieted but ultimately touched by his brother’s sacrifice, decides to make a stand. He will not leave until all the prisoners are freed. This stirs something in Maria, and they make short work of releasing most of the remaining inmates, but the effort of wearing her War Habit again takes an enormous toll on Maria. The pain becomes almost unbearable, and she pauses, only to be set upon by a lone Oprichnik. Out of nowhere, Gena dispatches the Oprichnik—the last in the camp—and he and the others help Maria out of her War Habit and they leave it behind to burn with the rest of the camp, the rest of the memory of the betrayal and oppression.

They spend the night in the woods, Maria, Gena, and the others from Sochi, and Maria tells Gena about his brother’s mission—his determination to get Gena home to their mother, because though he may have been stubborn and rash and stupid at times, Sasha’s compulsion to free his brother ultimately came from a good place. Maria tells Gena that he doesn’t have to stay in Thrice-Nine. There are other camps, more Oprichniki, more fear and ignorance, but Gena is determined to stay.

Gena makes it home for his mother’s fiftieth birthday, and they celebrate and mourn Sasha all at once. It was a long road, but Gena knows now that home is where he wants to be.

Maria leads the men from Sochi to the border of Thrice-Nine, and most of them cross. A handful, though, stay behind. They remind Maria of what she said that first night over the campfire—there are more camps. More Oprichniki. More fear and ignorance.

Maria decides that it’s time to get to work.

My Two Cents: In the conclusion of Dead Kings, we tie everything up in neat little bows. Gena makes it home to his mother on her fiftieth birthday, just as his brother had promised. Sasha, who doesn’t make it home, is mourned. Maria finds a new lease on life, teaming up with some of the freed Sochi inmates to make life hell for the Oprichniki and free other prisoners from the clutches of fear and ignorance. As with the previous issues, #5 has the same difficulties with an excess of bold type and clunky dialogue–there are some full-page spreads that are difficult to navigate, necessitating the reader to try to piece together the order which interferes with the flow of the story. The color remains fantastic, representing underlying emotions and also serving to differentiate time and location. The presentation has been lacking throughout, and I spent a lot of time waiting for Maria and Sasha to develop into characters rather than ciphers for more than a panel or two, and it’s too bad that the really nifty stuff in this book like the ties to Russian and Eastern European folklore don’t sparkle more as a result. Maybe with another pass from a different editor this book could have been what it was trying to be.

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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--
Elizabeth Fazzio
See, now, where they’ve ended this arc is where I’m starting to get interested. Obviously we needed the Sasha/Gena storyline or something similar in order to pull Stone Mary out of retirement and give her the perspective and the drive to get to the place where we leave her at the end of this issue, that’s a given. I realized something as this issue unfolded. Yes, there were problems with the writing/lettering that made it difficult to fully appreciate the characters, but the thing that occured to me in issue five was that those problems were only part of the reason I had a difficult time with getting a solid feel for Sasha and Maria--they weren’t human enough. Somehow, once we got to Sochi and saw Gena for longer than a two-panel cutaway, we suddenly had a human character. I’m not sure how it happened, or what Steve Orlando did differently in his presentation of Gena, but he was instantly more likeable and relatable than Sasha and Maria had managed to be for the first four issues. Sasha was mostly a generic angry man out for revenge and I never really cared about his character too much. Maria had a few more relatable moments through the arc, but she didn’t seem whole to me until Gena came into the action. If they choose to continue this story, I think the absence of Sasha might serve to allow Maria to become a much more rounded character, and I would be interested in reading more about her new chapter.
  • Good use of color
  • Execution of magical realism
  • Overuse of BOLD
  • Overworked attempt at vernacular
  • Story is a bit predictable
Art - 8
Story - 8
Writing - 6
Predictability - 6
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--

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