The Space Russian Empire: Dead Kings #1 Reviewed

by Josh Davison

[*Mild Spoilers Ahead!]

On a far-away planet called Rus, on a continent called Thrice-Nine, a pair of twins are born in the shadow of a grand battle between kings in metal colossi. Years later, one of those twins, named Sasha, searches the slums of a city called Aesmterlredamme for a woman called Stone Mary. While doing so, he buys food for a homeless veteran at a dive bar. The ownership doesn’t take kindly to Sasha and the old man, and Sasha may die before ever finding Stone Mary.

Dead Kings #1 cover by Matthew Dow Smith
Dead Kings #1 cover by Matthew Dow Smith

Dead Kings #1 unites deep-space science fiction and Russian cultural mythology. It takes place in the shadows of a fallen empire, and Sasha’s mission is one of blood loyalty.

I guess this is technically more spoilers, but Sasha’s mission is to find his brother whom has been taken into a work camp by the leaderless military that now runs Thrice-Nine, the Oprichniki.

There are numerous references to Russian mythology, particularly in the fact that the fallen king was named Koschei III.

The mixture of more modern Russian troubles, the section of cultural identity represented by Sasha and his family, and the mythological references make for a compelling dystiopian science fiction tale.

Dead Kings #1 art by Matthew Dow Smith, Lauren Affe, and letterer Thomas Mauer
Dead Kings #1 art by Matthew Dow Smith, Lauren Affe, and letterer Thomas Mauer

Matthew Dow Smith’s artwork is gritty and unwelcoming. It makes the world of Rus out to be a dangerous and dirty place, and it suits the narrative perfectly. The writing and art come together to make one feel like they are in the decaying countryside and civic centers that make up the settings. Lauren Affe’s color work is also quite cold and deathly, and it adds a lot of texture to the world of Rus.

Dead Kings #1 comes out the gate with a compelling start for the new AfterShock series. The characters are interesting, the world of Dead Kings is dripping with lore and history which we are only skimming atop of, and the artwork is gritty and great to boot. This one definitely gets a recommendation. Give it a read.

Dead Kings #1 comes to us from writer Steve Orlando, artist Matthew Dow Smith, color artist Lauren Affe, letterer Thomas Mauer, cover artist Matthew Dow Smith, and variant cover artist Michael Gaydos.

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