Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I remember Pa's hand in mine.
"Grasping and shaking for what felt like a thousand years...
"...before he finally let go.
"His spirit released, allowing me brief communion before returning to the Well.
"I told him that I loved him. That I didn't blame him.
"Didn't blame him that his honour had sentenced us to this hard life.
"That I was proud of his sacrifice, that he never compromised his integrity.
"And I promised it wouldn't be for nothing.
"And he knew.
"His final words to me were brief, the same old mantra.
"That no matter what happens...
"Never hear the Mad King's offer."
Well, I guess this would fall very neatly into the Dark Fantasy Western genre. Each title that immediately springs to mind as sitting in the centre of that curious Venn diagram - Stephen King's Peter David and Jae Lee-adapted DARK TOWER series, Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta's EAST OF WEST and Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten's WASTELAND - is a completely different animal, and this is no exception.
Adam Osidis is his own man. Though truly he didn't have any choice in the matter. No, that was decided for him by his father, the moment he refused to give himself over to The God Of Whispers. Those that do are promised seemingly their heart's desires, but would you really give someone total psychic dominion over you to fulfil that entreaty?
Possibly, if the only other choice was death for you and all those you love. So, sadly the vast majority of people have ceded, allowing the Mad King to amass a vast army under his control, including various powerful magical abilities to wield. The more his power and influence grew, the less people were able to convince themselves to even contemplate resisting, Adam's father being one of the few brave exceptions. The Mad King very much wanted to add Adam's father's ability to his collection, however, and did not forget this slight.
So it is that only a relatively small group of free people remain, including Adam and his family, who were taken into the wilderness by his father to try and remain hidden from the Mad King's clutches. They all knew it would ultimately be futile, of course; it was only ever going to be a matter of time before they were hunted down and discovered.
Now Adam is presented with his own choice. Is he as strong as his father? Seemingly not... But then he's living on borrowed time as it is for another reason, so perhaps throwing his lot in with a rag tag bunch of magical freedom fighters who represent the last hope of overthrowing the despot isn't actually that daring a defiance as it could be. Not that they seem particularly keen on trusting Adam...
This is a truly packed opener featuring the usual sophisticated, complex writing from Remender, and gorgeous, intricate art from Opena, very beautifully coloured by Hollingsworth. I genuinely don't know how Remender manages to shoehorn so much plot, subplot and character development into a mere four issues-worth of material, both comprehensively setting the scene and providing spectacular action aplenty as our dysfunctional group's harebrained, suicidal full frontal assault seems to succeed rather too easily for my liking...
Just what is the Mad King up to...?