Advance Review: A Dangerous Passage Through India In These Savage Shores #4

by Oliver MacNamee

In the classic Gothic novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker, it is very easy to see this Eastern European aristocrat and blood drinking fiend as something more than superficial. Indeed, to the combined forces of the British middle and upper classes he represents sexual freedom and a chance for women to become independent of the social prison that was 19th century Imperial England. And the figure of the vampire has forever more been used by authors, artists and directors as a walking symbol for so many different social issues and concerns. It’s something I think can also be said of the vampires in Ram V’s exquisite period horror drama, These Savage Shores.

Consider this: the vampire is very much an invention of Western literature and so, in the newest issue (out May 1st from Vault Comics), the vampire could well be seen as another Western influence, forced upon another nation. As such, the vampires current seeking out our indigenous shape-shifting hero, Bishan, could be seen as representative of Colonial power. A foreign invasion fought with military might but also invasive of India’s culture, religions and inheritance. From afar, here in the 21st century, we can better re-assess the British’s arrogant colonialism of India and the plunder and pillaging that was to follow.

But, in Bishan, we have not only a local hero, but a mystical one too, with links to the Hindu religion. Could he possibly be de-coded by the reader as a fertile symbol of the native, indigenous cultures and identities in danger of being wiped out by the Brits? Is he figuratively battling for the very identity of his people? Or, as an English teacher, am I making the fatal mistake of reading too much into this?

I’ll take the latter, as we learn more of Bishan’s origins in Hindu religion, and the potential that he is not the only one out there. I thought I’d done my homework on this title ahead of time, but it’s an indication of Ram V’s talent that he had me at a loss, until this issue, as to out warrior-hero’s true origins. Another layer of narrative that only enriches this story further and keeps readers on their toes.

This story zooms in from the macrocosmic battles of last issue to the more personal and a focus on the dramatis personae of this series. It’s a fast paced, thrilling issue with a heartbreaking cliffhanger implying that, at least in one person’s case, the British have most definitely invaded and conquered. Sumit Kumar again paints a picture of India’s past that is magical and gives a beautiful account of the exotic landscapes that, even today, have a certain mysticism and spirituality about them whenever romanticised through fiction. That isn’t to say there isn’t an ugly side. Indeed, this whole series has been focused on ugly, rapacious colonisation, but in this instance, it’s written not by History’s winners but by a creator brought up in a post-colonial India offering a new, and entertaining, perspective.

A must-read series and an indication of the rising talent that is Ram V and Sumit Kumar.

These Savage Shores #4 is out from Vault Comics on May 1st.

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