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Last Reign: Kings of War #1

Posted: Friday, November 14, 2008
By: Dave Baxter

Michael Alan Nelson & Walt Becker
Ed Estevez, Cris Peter (c)
BOOM! Studios
Plot: The far future: a medieval way of life has emerged, following a near-mythical catastrophe. Now monsters prowl the wastes, black magic abounds, and a caste system pervades, comprises the greater part of the world, and threatens to encroach upon the hard-won freedom of the sole independent kingdom, Shenan. Lord Darius and his son, the royalty of Shenan, are two of the greatest warriors of the land, but can they fight back the demands of the great…er…Sinclarian Empire?

Eloquent Commentary: First off, the above synopsis makes this series sound a lot more political and multifaceted than it actually is. What we get, straight up, is a standard fantasy setting with vaguely sci-fi-ish elements in the form of bulkier-than-humanly-possible-to-wear armor and weapons, and the odd dinosaur-like steed alongside hideous, slathering beasties. The book tends to be of the mind that, high fantasy, if it’s really set in the future and therefore an apocalyptic wasteland, is a superbly twisty setting that’s really, really worth the price of admission. Alone. It must be. Because the rest of this book? Pure mother-lovin’ pastiche.

Which is actually the biggest problem: futuristic high fantasy is itself pastiche (just ask Crossgen), which means there’s precisely nada between this book’s covers that’s new, or new-ish, or even smelling fresh from a newly opened package. Speaking of Crossgen, which I just was, here’s a comparison to give you a better idea -- imagine a Crossgen book with mid-'90s art, '80s coloring, and a script written by Uwe Boll.

On the plus side, Ed Estevez seems as though he’ll one day prove a competent artist, and largely he offers up a spandex-standard if overly rote number of pages for his BOOM! debut. His menfolk are poised to appear either pumped up like Charles Atlas or gumby like…well…Gumby.

Then comes the script by Fall of Cthulu’s Michael Alan Nelson. Now, I’ve heard miraculous things about Fall, and it’s quite possible the blame for most of the story’s concerns can be laid square on Walter Becker, screenwriter on Van Wilder and something called Wild Hogs. If you read Marvel comics, you saw the Wild Hogs poster over and over again a while back. If you don’t read Marvel Comics, you’ve never, ever heard of that movie. And no one, I don’t think, has ever seen it. Probably for good reason. Anyway, Last Reign is Becker’s brainchild. Nelson is the comic pro handling the script duties. So all plot concerns may be Becker’s doing. Sadly, the script itself falls short in every possible way.

From the cover of Last Reign, you’d think this book was Warhammer material. From the script, you’d think it was Marvel’s Thundercats circa their Star imprint from the '80s. How do we know this fantasy setting is the future? Beyond the token exposition that comes because no one involved could figure a more deft way of stating it? Because modern slang is still alive. Oh, yes. Lord Darius says, “Nice!” when his son performs a difficult sword maneuver. His son proclaims, “No way!” when he’s told something unbelievable. Beyond this, then, are pages of either; a) discussion on plot points so generic its painful to have them actually explained as thought they weren’t part and parcel of any swords and sorcery setting; and b) banter. God, I love banter. That was sarcasm.

Final Word: Last Reign: War of Kings is a terrible comic. Perhaps that should literally be the final word on this. Nah, here’s a touch more: this is not a new idea. These are not new characters. This is not a new plot. The script is formulaic even in its script elements, even beyond its plot elements, and the art is so frustratingly par for the comic book course it’s arguably worse than bad art. I love BOOM! as a company, but I seriously cannot begin to fathom what they were thinking when they thought this thing was ready for print.

Where all concerned in this travesty can state their case, or simply bring shotguns: Gillian’s Heart Blog



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