Review: Dead Kings #1

Sasha never saw his younger brother…until the secret police made him disappear. Sasha Vasnetsov left Thrice-Nine-the dirty folklore world that limps along in the wreckage of a Technomagic War-thirty years ago and never looked back. But word that the secret police have sent his brother Gena to a work camp for the socially degenerate drags him back, with a promise to free Gena and return him to their mother before her fiftieth birthday. The only problem? Sasha isn’t a fraction of the tough guy he tries to be, so if he’s going to break back into Thrice-Nine…he’ll need help. Sasha’s only hope is Maria Kamenaya, a former Technomagic Warrior with hundreds of enemy kills to her name, betrayed by the country that made her when her honor conflicted with their agenda.

Thrice-Nine took Sasha’s brother, and it took Maria’s heart. This quest is how they get both of those things back, in the steaming, lawless land of decapitated states…the land of DEAD KINGS.

Worldbuilding is what the first issue of Dead Kings is all about. And, for good and for bad, we’re dropped into the center of it all. Rus, Thrice-Nine, it’s all just thrown out there by writer Steve Orlando and we the reader have to work our way through it all. Like a fleshed out roleplaying game, we put the pieces together as the issue progresses figuring what was and what is out as we move along.

The story itself is one we’ve seen before, someone wants to liberate someone special from captivity and needs help to do so. But, where it’s interesting is the world Orlando weaves, of giant robots and what feels like a bit of mysticism in there as well.

All of that is helped by the art of Matthew Dow Smith, colorist Lauren Affe, and letterer Thomas Mauer who create an atmosphere about it all that feels like the fallout of a massive war. One where giants battled and a bit of a Eastern European coldness to it all. Smith’s style along with Affe’s colors create a dirty and gritty feel, one that feels appropriate for a rusted out environment of cold steel robots. It’s what us Westerners imagined life behind the Steel Curtain was like with a bit of Robot Jox/Mad Max twist to it all. Each page, each panel, provide details that help flesh out the world crafted telling the story as much as the dialogue.

This is one were I want to know as much about what happened in the past as the current story presented. This feels like so many concepts I love put together into what’s basically a Western. There’s gangs harassing individuals and the loner has to stand up to them. But, it’s done with such style that it feels new and interesting and a world I want to explore and find out more about.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Matthew Dow Smith
Color: Lauren Affe Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

AfterShock Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review