Title: Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince.
Story-Arc: Night of Knives.
Writer(s): V.E. Schwab.
Penciller(s): Budi Setiawan.
Inker(s): Budi Setiawan & Andrea Olimpieri.
Colourist(s): Enrica Eren Angiolini & Viviana Spinelli.
Letterer(s): Rob Steen.
Publisher: Titan Comics.
Release Date: October 16th 2019.
Genre(s): Comics, Fantasy.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.
Previously on The Steel Prince:
Shades of Magic (Vol. 1): The Steel Prince.
The accomplishments by the #1 New York Times bestselling author are not unbeknownst by readers today. Her gritty and deadly stories glow with an immersive and addictive quality that makes for a truly entertaining ride, whether you see it coming or not. Looking to continue her comic book trilogy by exploring the secret adventures of Maxim, a character that first made his appearance in the Shades of Magic series, V.E. Schwab expands her universe through a new medium that makes for a unique visual experience. It is now time to find out if she was able to learn from the flaws of her first installment.
What is Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince: Night of Knives about? Collecting issues #5-8, the story picks up right after events in the first volume, with the showdown against the Pirate Queen. Sent to Verose by the king as an exercise to not only redeem himself to his father’s eyes but to build his character and show signs of a future ruler, the young and arrogant prince Maxim Maresh now needs to earn the respect of those who live in the port town of Verose and to do so, he wishes to take on the infamous challenges of the Night of Knives, a four-part trial that none has ever successfully completed.
As much as I wanted to remain hopeful for Schwab’s comic book series, this second installment further confirmed my fears for the fate of this run, with only one more volume left to conclude this little detour. Compressed in just four relatively short issues, the story never finds the time to give the reader the chance to care for anything that happens to a protagonist that only thinks about his rulership and takes decisions oriented towards his goals. The story also dives right into new lore elements, dumping most of the world-building elements within a page, before focusing on action sequences. Even moments meant to push the character’s development felt underwhelming and accelerated, almost making it feel like a waste of time.
Although the artwork isn’t the most mediocre style that I have ever seen so far, it still struggles immensely to convey the world’s magical elements. It doesn’t help when action sequences are messy and many sequences felt choppy, leaving the reader wondering if it’s just them or if certain panels were actually missing to help connect the dots. The worse probably lies in the rough and unimpressive facial expressions drawn by the artists on this project that leave you bewildered at the bleakness of the comic book. Even the colouring is questionable, with some panels filled in with no finesse or nuance, almost as if it was meant to hide the lack of substance in the story.
Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince: Night of Knives is a short and flawed episode in the Steel Prince’s life that fails to capture the magic of the series with its choppy and unappealing visual style.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!