Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Comics: The Bearer of Bad Tidings

"Strangers in the Night"
Artesia #4 (April 1999) Story & Art by Mark Smylie

Synopsis: The troops give thanks to gods for the new day and the passing of the black sun. Stjepan, Atresia's brother, and his companions bring startling news from the south: The Thessid Empire has invaded the Middle Kingdoms.

We get a lot of background on the conflict:

The Middle Kingdoms have few allies. The League is holding back and Palatia, though a sworn enemy of the Empire, is mistrusted in the Middle Kingdom.

Artesia wonders if the Black Sun marked a defeat for the Thessids as it had before. Stjepan believes quite the opposite. Newly added to the Empire are the Isklids who worship Irre as the father of Islik from whom they claim descent.

It's a lot to take in. Their backwater homeland may be soon drawn into a war of great powers. Of course, Artesia and her lieutenants recognize Stjepan is a spy--they just don't know who he might be working for, as yet. It doesn't matter that he is Artesia's brother. The only blood that matters to her, she says, is blood that has been spilled. Her comrades are her kin, as far as she is concerned.

 The news has made their current conflict seem small. Some urge Artesia to take Dara Dess and depose Bran, others say she should march South. Artesia makes her decision:

She will parley with Bran. "The storm breaks and the wider world calls."

Things to Notice:
  • Smylie gives us quite a geopolitical tour of the Known World (and a lot of hints at its history) in the guise of current events.
Though events (and reputtation) have linked Artesia to war, this issue shows she's pragmatic. Despite Bran's betrayal, she intends to make peace to support the other Middle Kingdoms against Thessid-Gola.

Artesia's brother gets the spotlight in Smylie's novel The Barrow.


garrisonjames said...

The artwork in this comic is very striking, quite excellent. The setting sounds intriguing and engaging. I'll take a look at this series when we go to the local comic shop in a week or two. this looks like a very worthy successor to the Warlord!

Trey said...

@Jim - Yeah, Smylie's faces bug some people, but he undeniably has an eye for period detail and great composition. The rpg Smylie wrote based on the comics and the world is one of the prettiest rpg books ever.