Delve into the thrilling, epic tale of the young and arrogant prince Maxim Maresh, long before he became the king of Red London and adoptive father to Kell, the lead of A Darker Shade of Magic!
The youthful Maresh is sent to a violent and unmanageable port city on the Blood Coast of Verose, on strict orders from his father, King Nokil Maresh, to cut his military teeth in this lawless landscape.
There, he encounters an unruly band of soldiers, a lawless landscape, and the intoxicatingly deadly presence of the newly returned pirate queen, Arisa…
TW: death, violence, gore
I have been WAITING to get my hands on this comic, and things worked out at the tour for The Near Witch, because my aunt gifted me a copy! And honestly, I loved it.
Don’t let the rating I gave it throw you off. Yes, I tend to be a little picky, so a 3.5 certainly isn’t the same as a 4 or a 4.5. That said, I’m also not usually a reader of comics, so this is partly an “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. I’ll still keep reading these comics (I’ll read basically anything V writes, let’s be real), but I’m not the most ideal audience for them.
But let’s start on what I loved! Which is mostly Isra because AAAAAHHH! We have a seriously incredible character in Isra, and more specifically, we have a canon lesbian woman of color. She flat out tells Maxim she’s not into men (on the page! on the page!!), and there is absolutely no question in any of the panels, no matter the lighting, that she’s a WOC. She gets to be there and exist and have her own problems and own solutions and complicated family histories and it’s delightful!
On the other hand, I couldn’t quite muster up as much enthusiasm for Maxim. He very quickly starts trying to move away from the spoiled royal role that he initially filled, but since the clash with the pirate queen Arisa is a little more personal for Isra than it is for Maxim, I’m not nearly as endeared to him yet. That said, I am VERY excited to get into his history, since the Shades of Magic series just wasn’t the place to learn about him. He’s not a focus in that trilogy, and would have been a distraction if V had tried to make him a focus. Here, he’s going to get a fuller pictured painted without having to compete with a larger plot.
Speaking of plot, I feel like you can tell this is the first issue. I mean, obviously, because it does all the character and setting introductory work, but its conclusion has that feeling of setting up for something much grander to come. It left me wanting more (which comics should!), but also wishing some of that more had been within this first volume. I didn’t get a sense of what the next threat on the horizon might be, or any startling development in Maxim’s character, OR any sense of exactly how he becomes the Steel Prince and what exactly the threat of the Night of Knives will be.
I also wish the color and action had been a little more clear. The dark but warm colors, especially the use of lots of red, makes sooooo much sense within the context of the comics and the larger series as a whole, but sometimes, I wasn’t entirely sure what action was being taken. Maybe I should reread it during the day, in a different place (I did read it in the evening in my dorm room, which has absolutely terrible lighting), but the art just wasn’t as clear in direction as I wished it would be.
To be honest, maybe I just don’t like the style as much as I do other art styles? I can’t help but think about the TAZ graphic novel covering the Here There Be Gerblins arc, which was vibrant and clear and delightful, but also in a very different, more lighthearted genre. Again, possibly an “it’s me not you” issue, a matter of personal preference that leans toward the cartoony when possible.
However, the art in the back, which contained a little bit of extra character design and information, was a neat addition! It shows a little more of how certain designs were structured, and the behind the scenes glimpse is intriguing, as most behind the scenes glimpses should ideally be. Getting a look, however brief, at the process can be a very cool thing!
On the whole, for someone who’s not super into comics, I’m really pleased with the Steel Prince and I’m going to keep my eye out for future volumes! I just have to recognize that this is not necessarily the medium and art style for my personal tastes, and that’s okay. Such is life, y’know?
Are you a comics/graphic novel kind of person? Have you read The Steel Prince? What’s your favorite comic or graphic novel (webcomics totally count, now that I think about it)? We should chat!