Who would have thought that a period drama set in colonial-era India would be one of the stand-out comic book series I would be raving about, as well as many other critics too? Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening with Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Antonio and Aditya Bidikar’s horror-laced comic book, These Savage Shores, which sees its third issue released on February 6th from Vault Comics.
This issue, more than any other, shows art imitating life as our hero and local legend, the noble, loyal vampire Bishan, acts as protectorate of the young prince, sees action on the battlefield, becomes part of history, and enters into the second of three Anglo-Mysore Wars in an attempt to halt the rapacious expansion of the East India Company. Talk about your hostile takeover.
Ram V has always been passionate about his home country, and in this series he gets the chance to not only depict an India long gone, but he also gets to reimagine a savage part of his country’s rich, but oft-times tragic history through his own particular perspective, and with a large dollop of imagination too. Using these wars to develop his story, we get a glimpse of the diplomacy as well as the violence that went into the total colonialism of this magical country.
Building this whole saga on such a violent part of India’s more recent history (and, yes, I am claiming the late 1700’s is recent, when you consider the history of this vast country and Buddha’s own birth place) gives Ram V the perfect opportunity to tell his own story of the savagery that was rained down on India and its people. This was with the aid of some locals let’s not forget, and Ram litters his tale with historical figures and events such as the inclusion of Hyder Ali, who fights off the East India Company’s forces here, as he did in real life, as well as his son, the young Tipu Sultan, who went on to rule Mysore after his father’s death.
An interesting narrative device, and one used to great effect in Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is the use of various voices and reports across this series. It makes for some very interesting and varied voices, especially when reading the reports posted by the East India Company. But, unlike the aforementioned novel, our vampire hero is heard. He has a voice, but it’s immediate, not written down like others’ in the comic. He is a character who would rather live in the shadows and only attack when in service to the kingdom he serves and its people. He tries to leave no mark on this world that could out him. To many he is a legend, a myth, something whispered about around communal camp fires, but one that bites. A story passed on orally, never written down.
Add to this well-researched and well-realised story is Sumit Kumar’s art and Vittorio Astone’s colours that he must have to carefully and considerably add to Kumar’s filigree-like artwork. Britain is a dark, damp place from which people seem to be escaping from and to seek their fortunes abroad, while India – for all its bloodshed that still soaks the land – is depicted in all its former – albeit somewhat romanticised – glory; a land of exoticism, beautiful architecture and lush vegetation. A testimony to its beauty, its heritage and what it has lost, thanks to Britannia. And here we have front row seats in its downfall.
These Savage Shores is Ram V’s best work to date and the series that not only sees him continue to develop his own voice, but create a vivid tapestry that blends history, horror and romance seamlessly. Hopefully, this will go some way to inform Western readers of a country often only reported upon in times of crisis by today’s media.
These Savage Shores #3 is out February 6th from Vault Comics.