TITLE: Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince.
Story-arc: The Rebel Army.
WRITER(S): V.E. Schwab.
Artist(S): Andrea Olimpieri & Alessandro Cappuccio.
Colourist(s): Enrica Eren Angiolini & Alice Konoki.
Letterer: Rob Steen.
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics.
RELEASE DATE: April 21st, 2020.
GENRE(S): COMICS, Fantasy.
MY OVERALL RATING: ★★☆☆☆.
Previously in the Shades of Magic graphic novel series:
Shades of Magic (Vol. 1): The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab.
Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince (Vol. 2): Night of Knives by V.E. Schwab.
It’s nice to see an author attempt to explore a different medium to tell stories set in the same universe as some of their best series. Comic books offer a very unique style of story-telling where the visual elements help guide the reader into further appreciating the writer’s ideas by being quickly immersed into the familiar lands established in books and watching their characters being drawn to life. At what cost though? While the spin-offs, prequels, tie-ins, and whatnot are all exciting ideas, the execution isn’t guaranteed. After all, if there is no reward, there is only disappointment. In what should be the final story-arc in the adventures of prince Maxim Maresh, author V.E. Schwab sends her character up against a pirate fleet that will stop at nothing to take down anyone who stands in their way.
What is Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince: The Rebel Army about? The Rebel Army was nothing more than a lowly group of pirates roaming the seas aimlessly with no manpower or leadership to make something of their lives. It is the arrival of certain traitors from each of the three empires (a Faroan, a Veskan, and the Arnesian known as Rowan) who look to build their own empire with London as their capital that the Rebel Army is rebuilt into a destructive fleet. However, before establishing their new kingdom, they will have to pass by Verose where Maxim and his newly-trusting comrades will have to face them and put an end to their rampage before more lives fall to their hands.
“They simply see the truth. They realize they don’t have to die for a crown that cares nothing for them, when they can rise with a tide of their own.”
– V.E. Schwab
It was interesting to watch Prince Maxim Maresh try to learn to become a leader instead of rotting away as a privileged member of royalty. However, with the adventures presented in the previous story-arcs being far from original, there was no surprise with this final event as it follows down the same path and offers a generic journey of preparation to face an upcoming naval threat. On top of that, with these heroes being outnumbered, the solutions and the stakes were far too obvious and made this adventure too contrived and stale. The linearity of the narrative coupled with the generic writing to embellish the action-packed story thus offers very little reward. It doesn’t help when there’s little room to invest in the characters and their motivations as they are all mostly poorly-developed (and drawn) characters. Leave it to a banal ending where Prince Maxim Maresh learns nothing about loyalty and leadership to wrap things up and let this series set sail into oblivion.
If the lackluster story-telling wasn’t enough, the artwork should highlight this spin-off prequel’s irrelevance on top of the poor contribution of this comic book series to the original book trilogy’s universe. There’s an absence of attention to detail that is ludicrous for these short four-issue story-arcs that truly stuns me as rough penciling continues to pervade this chapter in Prince Maxim Maresh’s life. Often, there’s also a poor grasp on how to capture movement that is quickly observable and truly strips this comic book’s ability to tell a dynamic tale. The action sequences are also often difficult to understand with rarely any sense of excitement. The colouring at least establishes a gloomier tone to the overall tale and allows all the magical elements to pop off the pages as you swiftly breeze through this finale with overall disappointment.
Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince: The Rebel Army is an unimpressive finale that sends Prince Maxim Maresh into a trial of leadership that juggles life and death.