Image is constantly putting out new comics, so much so that its hard to keep up with all that is out there on the shelves already while still finding room for something new. But I’ve always been a sucker for something new, so I like to give them all a fair shot, and with Lake of Fire #1 I’m glad I did.
The oversized (44 pg) first issue takes readers into 13th century France and follows a misfit group of Crusaders who have been sent on a wild goose chase by their king just to keep them out of his hair. And though none in the group but a zealous monk are expecting to find any heresy while on this fool’s errand, they are all shocked at what they come across.
This debut issue does a great job at drawing readers into the Crusades, and while of course it’s filled with the usual cast of kings and knights and squires, Fairbairn does a great job at making these characters dynamic. He gives each one of them very contradictory sets of belief to show us a broader view of just what life may have been like for these noble men in 1220 AD. Oh, except that there are “demons” too, which Matt Smith brings brilliantly to life in some frenetic panels.
This is a period piece, with a twist, but it feels more like magical realism than fantasy. And though at first you may feel a little disoriented by the language or terminology used right off the bat (if they are like myself and know next to nothing about The Crusades or 13th Century French government), Fairbairn slowly lets us in on what is going on through some clever dialog. There isn’t much exposition here, we learn everything about this story through the way these characters converse and react to situations.
However, in scenes where words just can’t describe, Matt Smith’s subtle and beautiful panels tell the story for us. For example, the opening scene sets up the hook of this story, and Smith nails it. Smith’s art serves this story excellently, the characters are soft and cartoony, the settings crisp and serene, and the action fast and tense. The muted colors add extra dramatics from page to page, emphasizing the quiet haze of autumn as the crusaders reach Montaillou, while casting a cooler palette on our heroes when they seem faced with uncertainty, and going heavy on the black to create an unsettling mood at night.
Lake of Fire #1 reminds me a bit of a few other Image titles I wish were still around; Chris Robeson’s Sovereign and J Bone’s The Saviors, they all have a childlike facade to them, but pack a serious story. I hope that this book stays around as it is more of a slow burn, and it’s possible to drop off before things really get going. Do yourself a favor and give this one; 44 pages of comics for $3.99, totally worth it.
- An immersive story that makes good use of its double sized debut
- Wonderfully juxtaposed characters
- Artwork that spans both calm and chaotic
- Some confusing language
- This one might be a slow burn