This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Lake Of Fire
It is 1220 AD, and the gears of the Albigensian Crusade grind on. When an alien spacecraft infested with a horde of bloodthirsty predators crash-lands in the remote wilderness of the French Pyrenees, a small band of crusaders and a Cathar heretic are all that stand between God’s Kingdom and Hell on Earth.
When the owner of my LCS not so subtly recommended this to me by putting it in my pull box, I figured that she’s never steered me wrong yet, so why not give it a go? A few hours ago I opened the cover to the five issue collection, unsure of what I’d be getting beyond the notion that it was essentially aliens verses knights, and I didn’t stop reading until the story was done.
I devoured the entire tpb in one sitting and immediately wondered why I hadn’t read about this somewhere before. Why had nobody told me about this before the owner of my LCS told me to read it?
Published by Image, Lake Of Fire was written, coloured and lettered by Nathan Fairbairn with art by Matt Smith (no, not the guy who played Doctor Who), the comic does have a fairly straight forward knights verses aliens feel to it – not that that is a bad thing as it allows the characters, action and art to really pop.
Yes, there are the fairly standard typical characters within the story, but while Fairbairn does tread familiar ground with the characters, the major players all feel as though they have a weight about them. You have the grizzled old warrior, the naive young knights and the dark priest all present and accounted for, and yes they are popular fantasy archetypes, but they’re well written archetypes which goes a long way in my book. I’d rather a well written archetype than a shallow character for the sake of originality.
That being said, rather than having the characters face off against a supernatural threat Fairbairn instead pits them against a horde of alien predators. I’ve always been partial to seeing how our ancestors would fair against an extraterrestrial threat, and the collected edition of Lake Of Fire scratches that itch remarkably well.
Matt Smith‘s art couldn’t be better suited to the past-meets-future story; the action sequences are easy to follow and once the comic reaches the midpoint the atmospheric art really amps up the threatening feel of the story itself in a case where Fairbairn’s colouring melds so well with Smith’s line art that it’s hard to believe that two people were involved in creating the visuals for the story.
It may seem as if I’m being a little harsh on the story for being relatively straight forward, and that’s not my intent. Lake Of Fire is a fairly easy tale to follow from start to finish, but there are a more layers to the characters than you’d initially expect from the story – such as the relationships between some of the characters – and there’s an underlying theme about acceptance and tolerance in a time when neither of these were encouraged or widely practiced.
As far as recommendations from my LCS go, this is one of the more surprising ones; I didn’t expect much more out of this story than to be able to just pop my feet up with a cup of tea and just relax with a half the story before moving on to something else. Instead I ended up finishing the entire trade in one go and immediately start writing this column. Lake Of Fire is a really enjoyable story that surpasses a lot of the comics currently on the racks – and it’s also entirely self contained.
There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to spotlight the comic this week, but chief among them is that I haven’t heard anything about it anywhere – and that’s why it’s Underrated.
That’s all for this week folks. Join us next week when we talk about something else that falls under the Underrated banner in the comic book world.