As you’d expect, Legends of the Flame #2 picks up where the first issue left off, which, to be honest, isn’t anywhere in particular. This new duology (as this is the final issue) is more of a collection of mini-stories told to a warrior over a bonfire. The opening scene of this issue informs us that this warrior seeks a certain ‘fortune’ and that the hooded figure is guiding him by narrating these allegories.
The first of this issue’s stories – The Devoted – is a departure from the normal style of these comics. The artwork is quite ‘poppy’ – to the extent that it comes across as childish. In its own right, the style is quite appealing; however, it doesn’t fit this type of story. The story is one of love lost, betrayal and violence. It tells of a lone soldier searching for his lover in a depraved world: hoping to either find her or to, at least, find peace in death. Needless to say, it’s dark and depressing. And this art style trivialises those themes. Separately, the story and the artwork would be impressive. But just because two things are individually good, does not mean they combine to make something great: take chocolate and sushi.
I’m not against experimenting. A departure from a usual style can be effective; take for instance the issue’s second story – That Which Holds Us Human. Unlike the previous tales, this one doesn’t have a distinct narrative. It’s a sort of poetic insight into the forlorn universes that make up the franchise. The story tells of humanity and the struggles of hollowed souls. There’s not too much more I can say because it’s not exactly a direct, or even clear, story. But it is good. It’s also worth reading for the thoughts and emotions it will trigger. Furthermore, I really think it puts us readers in the heads of the poor souls trapped in these lifeless lands.
As good as this second story is, it doesn’t even come close to measuring up to issue 2’s conclusion. Action Replay’s art is stunning, to the point of it almost being realistic. The story itself is gruesome and unlike the issue’s opening story, the art style helps to convey these themes. It tells of a warrior, imprisoned in a dungeon, who is trapped in a cycle of death and revival. He awakes to fight a monster. And when this monster defeats him, the warrior’s body is returned to his cell where he revives and proceeds to fight the foe again. This channels all sorts of familiar feelings – with bosses and difficult areas in the games. In fact, this story came pretty close to triggering my PTSD from my numerous deaths in the games. As unpleasant as that would have been, it’s a testimony to the story doing its job.
All in all, Issue 2 doesn’t quite live up to the excellence of the first instalment of Legends of the Flame. Still, it’s a decent read, and it’s an easy read too. If you’re looking for massive character arcs and unpredictable plots, then this isn’t the comic for you. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the Souls universe isn’t for you. But the Legends of the Flame series hosts a number of interesting and unique tales. The atmosphere is incredible and each story is unique.
If you’re looking for time to kill then this series will kill that time, much like it kills its characters: in the most amusing way.