In the medieval post-apocalyptic fantasy, Last Reign: Kings of War, Walt Becker (director Wild Hogs) tells the story of a king and his fight against the Sinclarian Empire.
The story begins as a wild beast from the Wastes wanders into the meadow of Shenan seeking to devour a mother and her sons. Upon feasting on the family, Lord Darius, the city's king, demonstrates his valor as he arrives on horseback in shining armor to slay the monster. Darius returns to his castle and receives word of a mandatory tithing from a Sinclarian holy man who was sent by the Duke of York. After being outraged by the decree, Shenan's ruler decides to rebel against the Sinclarian Empire.
Lord Darius's meek and valiant personality allows him to be an ideal king. Although he considers the needs of others before his own, he doesn't allow his kindness to be misinterpreted as a weakness. For instance, when the holy man appears before the Darius to inform him of the tithing, he does so while wearing a hooded cloak. Without hesitation, Darius's swift, yet sincere, tongue makes it clear to the holy man he's not to be disrespected, "I do not speak with shadows, remove your hood or I'll remove your head."
Aside from a remarkable quality of selflessness, he expresses a good sense of humor too. Once he returns from slaying the beast, Darius receives welcome from his trusty advisor, Beauregard. After Darius teases Beauregard about providing poor counsel over the years, the hefty counselor jokingly advises his lordship to sleep "with one eye open." Wittily, the king replies to his aid that such remarks are a "capital offense." However, rather than putting Beauregard to death, Darius sentences him to clean the sewage lines.
Another notable facet of this series is the setting. Writers Walt Becker and Michael Alan Nelson present a rusted, yet medieval, post apocalyptic world that resonates throughout this book. Instead of placing characters in a generic environment, Becker allows the reader to identify (somewhat) with his fictional surroundings. The second chapter introduces a distressed version of the Lincoln Memorial, establishing Lord Darius as traveling through Washington, DC. As his journey towards Sinclair progresses, the castles and greenery in Shenan fade and a concrete jungle with skyscrapers and abandoned cars begin to take shape.
A variety of respectable pencil and inking styles appear in Last Reign, as Ed Esteves and David Miller share this duty. Potentially, this concept of dual artists would've worked if the artwork was consistent. The visuals evolve from loose penciling, in addition to what appeared to be colored pencils, to more defined lines and heavy inking. Sadly, the alternating drawing techniques distracted me from the story, forcing me to consider why the change in illustrators was necessary.
Despite a blemish with inconsistent art, Last Reign remains a wonderful adventure with a cunning protagonist in Lord Darius.
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