Brendan and Tony take a look at Image Comics’ The Last Siege, a funky little Samurai-Fantasy/Spaghetti Western by Landry Q. Walker and Justin Greenwood.
When COVID-19 brought the comics industry to a screeching halt, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature called New To You Comics.
Comics are on their way back, but we had so much fun with this thing, we decided to keep going.
Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his shiny tights, super powers, and sci-fi. I tend to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
We’re here to break up that pattern a little. Tony’s throwing some of his favorites my way, and I’m sending him some of mine. Every title we cover is brand new to one of us, and every stinking one of them is available on digital and mail order platforms, in case your local shop is still closed.
This week, we’ll take a look at Image Comics’ The Last Siege, a funky little Samurai-Fantasy/Spaghetti Western by Landry Q. Walker and Justin Greenwood. Here’s what Image has to say about the book:
A tale of blood, desperation, and loss. One castle stands alone against the might of a brutal warlord. For those caught within, it is not a question of survival, but rather hope for a good death. Spaghetti Western storytelling meets a Game of Thrones atmosphere in this gritty medieval war story, as a mysterious stranger arrives at a castle overrun with brutal soldiers bent on usurping the throne of the rightful heir—an 11-year-old girl. An action-packed, genre-twisting epic, The Last Siege begins!
Brendan Allen: Right, then. The Last Siege. In the wake of a long and costly war, the Usurper is divvying up the spoils among his loyal lords and knights. One of the remaining castles has apparently been assigned to this “Feist” fellow. Feist is cruel and hard, and the way he’ll be assuming control is by marrying an underage girl who is the last of her bloodline and the heiress to the castle. Everything’s moving along smoothly, until a stranger from the East pops in and everything goes sideways.
I’m a big fan of the concept. Spaghetti Westerns and Samurai films borrowed liberally (literally stole) from each other for decades. I love what Walker did here, setting the Western in a war-torn feudal land, then plopping a literal Samurai right into the middle of it.
Where you at on this one, Tone?
Tony Thornley: Have I ever told you I’m a big Western fan? I’m from the state that the majority of John Wayne’s filmography was shot. So this is an interesting one for me. It felt very fantasy with a lot of western tropes. This is also one where I think I liked the first half a lot more than the second half, so I’m still grappling with my feelings a bit.
Brendan: You know, this one actually plays better as individual chapters, too. There are some stories that lend themselves better to the collected trade paperback format. This one, not so much. The cowboy cliffhangers that call back to the black and white serials are kind of lost in the collection. I had the benefit of reading this sucker as a monthly before seeing it in this format.
Tony: That said, it’s a good book, especially if you like the tropes explored here. It does a lot of stuff right. One of my favorite things about it is that we have this samurai protagonist, and Walker avoids every single cliche that comes with that. I don’t think the word “honor” is uttered once by our protagonist, Tomislav, which is SO MUCH restraint in a modern story about an Asian protagonist. And the growth of young Lady Cathryn, the book’s secondary protagonist, had to be the best throughline of the entire series.
Brendan: One of the things I absolutely loved about the development of Lady Cathryn was how quiet she was in the beginning. Listening, observing. And then when she finally speaks, holy hell, she doesn’t mince words. The kid has been playing Columbo all along. She also demonstrates some pretty wicked skills with blades, long and short.
Tony: I don’t think she utters her first word on panel until the third or fourth issue, but by the end of the series she’s a complete badass, but again, not in a cliched way. That really works in her favor as far as character development goes. That’s also one thing I do like about the series as a whole- it avoids cliche at every turn.
I did struggle in a few places. There were multiple main characters, including Tomislav himself that were not named until deep into the series if at all. It really pulls me out of a story when a writer doesn’t let us know who the characters are.
The threat of the back half of the story, King Istvan, really didn’t have enough gravitas given to him until he was standing on the threshold, which made it tough to get into him as a threat until a few pages into his face off with Tomislav.
Brendan: I mean, it can’t be perfect, right? I personally could have done without the backstory on Istvan and the Stranger altogether. That mystery could have been left at “these dudes have history, and it’s ugly.”
Tony: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I didn’t hate it by any means, but there were a few speed bumps that kept me from REALLY digging it.
Brendan: What did you think of the art? It really works for me. There are several places where Walker backs way off the exposition and allows the art team of Justin Greenwood, Eric Jones (chapters 1-4), and Brad Simpson (chapters 5-8) to carry the story.
The first five pages are completely wordless, allowing Greenwood and Jones to set the tone for the rest of the book. Greenwood’s gritty, heavily textured linework plays well with Jones’ miserable, muted palette to create an aesthetic of absolute, hopeless despair. The action scenes that follow have a very cinematic feel with quick, dirty linework, inventive angles, and a fire-lit palette.
Tony: The art really is great throughout, even with the color art switch, which wasn’t jarring for me at all. One of the later issues, I think #6 or 7, was a largely wordless issue, and holy cow was that a tour-de-force. It was a stunning issue by Greenwood, with a ton of action, some inventive layouts, and colors that really brought the feel of “exploding castle in the middle of a war” to life.
My only gripe is in the design of Tomislav. The text calls him an Easterner multiple times, and he carries a samurai sword. However, his design really doesn’t make him feel Asian. I’m not asking for cliched armor, but a couple elements to his clothing, and a slightly different skin tone than the Englishmen surrounding him would have made a difference.
Brendan: Skin tone, I’ll give you. The robes were a sort of disguise, I think. He did have those bloused pants. And katana. So…
Tony: Again, I’m not saying it’s bad. Just needed a little more work. However, it’s really a small part in an overall good book.
Brendan: I’ve already said I freaking love Samurai and Spaghetti Western films. Most people wouldn’t put me on either of those genres, but I am fascinated by them. Especially by that weird connection, where a whole generation of filmmakers openly stole from the other genre to make the things. This book kind of pokes at that history, while telling a solid story along the way. I’m into it. What’s your final verdict?
Tony: Honestly, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t even come close to hating it or even disliking it. It’s a well constructed comic with some flaws that kept it from really fulfilling its potential. But that said, I’d probably revisit it some time down the road!
Brendan: That’s fair. What do you have on deck for next week?
Tony: We’re going to take a look at the only book you’ve given me a little resistance over so far. I think you’re going to like it a lot more than you expect though- Boom! Studios’ Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Volume 1.
Brendan: Word. Wait… what? Dammit, Tony.
Tony: You’ll thank me later.
The Last Siege TPB, Image Comics, 06 March 2019. Written by Landry Q. Walker, art by Justin Greenwood, color by Eric Jones (chapters 1-4) and Brad Simpson (chapters 5-8), letters by Patrick Brosseau.
Some of your local shops have re-opened. As always, we’d like to ask that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is still closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy at Comixology for $12.