Unlike the previous Dark Souls comics, this little anthology doesn’t let us get too chummy with a protagonist. Rather than introducing us to any distinct protagonist, this series initially introduces us to two characters, then uses these characters to prompt the telling of three separate stories, or legends – if you will – that occur in the Dark Souls Universe.
This new Legends of the Flame series opens with a familiar site: a hooded figure hunched over a bonfire and a heavily armoured knight approaching. The characters exchange dialogue, with the hooded figure instructing the knight to stare into the fire and see ‘the secrets that burn therein.’
From here the comic branches into three separate mini-comics. These each feature different writers and illustrators, which creates differences in setting and style between the fables. Regardless, the comics flow rather well. They progress logically and link together rather well courtesy of their overarching themes.
The first ‘legend’ shows a hollowed knight approaching a masked crucified figure. The masked man calls to the knight, then warns him of the danger ahead. He states that he knows a cure for the hollowed curse. And despite some suspicion over the masked man’s trustworthiness, the soldier cuts him down.
The knight then follows the masked man and the two exchange dialogue on the way, the knight telling of his past and the tragedies therein. They eventually reach a room littered with headless corpses. When the knight exclaims his confusion the masked man attacks, lobbing the knight’s head from his shoulders. Then the masked man speaks. He says that was the only cure for the curse, and bids the knight a peaceful rest, leaving his body in the pile of decapitated carcasses.
This story ends with the masked figure returning to his cross and calling out as another hollowed traveller approaches.
This story could very well be stretched out into a novel. In it, a soldier quests to resurrect his one true love. His narration is coupled with silhouettes of the slayed monsters and varying landscapes that comprise his journey. Essentially these frames summarise what is, ostensibly, a monumental journey. But when that journey ends and the warrior barters for the life of his lover, he is tricked – like many in this tragic universe.
Rather than begging of his lover’s revival, the warrior asked that she would never die. And so, his muse became a monster. As if that was not tragic enough, the woeful tale ends with the soldier drawing his sword.
The Labyrinth is far and away the best-looking instalment in this mini-series. The artwork is flat-out jaw dropping. But that isn’t to say that the story is lacking; it too is excellent. It tells of an architect, who – after he received news of the hollowed curse – created a labyrinth to protect the Kingdom of Quon. The labyrinth preceded the kingdom, so that any who wished to enter its gates would have to navigate the maze. However, over time the hollowed legions stumbled further and further into the maze – and thus, closer to the city.
So, against the King’s wishes, the architect extended the maze into the Kingdom itself – by the means of some kind of foul sorcery. And so the Labyrinth ensnared both the hollowed and the un–hollowed. And the kingdom and its inhabitants became a part of the maze. There’s even more tragedy to this tale, for the narrator tells us of the man who told him this story: a hollow soul clinging to sanity who stands at the entrance to the labyrinth, too afraid to enter and too afraid to leave.
From here, the comic cuts back to the opening scene of the characters at the bonfire. The hooded figure calls the warrior ‘ashen one’ – a title that will be familiar to any player of the third Dark Souls game. There’s some obscure, yet foreboding dialogue from the hooded figure that ensures us that more tragic tales will be heard in the next issue.
Now, it’s no secret that I loved the last series of Dark Souls comics. But they pale in comparison to this. ‘Legends of the Flame’ feels more like a scene from the games than a comic. It’s all so familiar – the woeful tales that compose the universe and the rumour therein – but at the same time, it all feels fresh. If you’re a Souls fan and you’re looking for something to sink you’re teeth into before the release of Ashes of Ariandel, then Titan Comics has you covered. But don’t write these off as unrelated comics; these legends add their own twists to the lore of the universe.
Issue #2 of Dark Souls: Legends of the Flame will release in October, so check back with us then.