They’re really churning these Dark Souls comics out. It feels like they’ve been in constant supply since Titan Comics released the original series earlier this year.
And the amazing thing is that they’re all quite good. And the latest series continues that trend.
Winter’s Spite introduces Andred of Ithvale, a knight enslaved to a gladiator-esque system that pits prisoners against each other. You’ll notice, almost immediately, that this story is shaping up to be darker than the first Dark Souls series. The artwork is violent, and though it’s still ostensibly ‘comic style’, it also leans towards realism. This art style works to embed a sense of trepidation in the snow-covered environment. The blues and white of the winter aesthetic are both gorgeous and dreadful. You can almost vicariously feel the cold. And when things turn violent, as indeed they do, the hues of red look startling in juxtaposition with the cooler, softer palate of the environment.
The story itself has a more personal focus. The protagonist isn’t out to save the world or even his species. His quest is personal. The battle-hardened Andred had been bested in combat only once. And the knight that defeated him took his sword, the Pyreblade. To Andred, the Pyreblade was more than just a weapon. Forged form the souls of his ancestors, the sword was his birthright. And so, he set out to retrieve it. This quest led Andred across the realm and into many battles. Eventually the knight was trapped in a blizzard, and – nearly frozen – he was captured, imprisoned and forced to fight other prisoners.
When Andred describes these battles, the comic takes a poignant turn. The protagonist says that the creatures he fights are exactly like him: innocent souls enslaved by a corrupt system. He also reveals that the knight who took the Pyreblade is not among the captured. This dialogue is accompanied by an interesting sequence. Each of the dungeon’s cells shows Andred battling, and slaying, different adversaries. There’s another fight sequence, before the comic cuts to Andred being escorted from his cell into the arena to face another foe. He vows that today, either this ends or he does.
This is obviously an introductory issue. In fact, it’s almost a teaser for a much larger story. What we get in this issue is the background. We know why Andred is fighting, and we know what’s on the line. We also get some sweet, if fleeting, tastes of the lore in this world. I love that Titan change the scenery and characters between each comic series. Winter’s Spite feels totally different to Legends of the Flame, which in turn felt totally different to the first Dark Souls comics.
As far as story quality goes, it would have been nice to get more than just an introductory segment from this issue. It is, after all, a full priced comic. Still, backstory is important, and this one is particularly good. More than that, it’s raised my pulse for the upcoming Winter’s Spite issues. Suffice to say, I’m intrigued.