Lake of Fire #1

Writer: Nathan Fairbairn
Artist: Matt Smith
Colourist:  Nathan Fairbairn
Inker: Matt Smith
Letterer: Nathan Fairbairn
Publisher: Image

Lake of Fire

I first noticed Lake Of Fire in my local comic book shop previews. It caught my eye because the blurb was “Knights fighting aliens”. That was it; that was all I needed before I pre-ordered the book! I didn’t know the creative team, but sometimes a genre mashup such as this just piques your interest. Later on, I read an interview the creative team did in ‘Image +’ and Nathan started talking about the Albigensian Crusade. I have a history minor, so to read this book was going to firmly rooted in its historical context made me realize I made the right decision pre-ordering.

The first thing you notice about Lake Of Fire when examining the interior is that it is primarily made by two creators. Most books in the industry will have a separate person for each specific job of writer, artist, colorist, inker, and letterer. To have two people do the work of five is a testament to how much this project is a labor of love. Given that this issue is almost double the size of a standard comic at 44 pages, means that these two fellows really worked their butts off to get this out to the comic loving audience.

Typically in pop culture reinterpretations of historical periods, especially medieval Europe, you get a piece of fiction with the trappings of the period but no actual context. That is to say, the set design and costumes are wonderfully designed, but the story and history of whatever event is the subject is so watered down that the plot is practically unbearable. Often times it is simply fighting bad guy and save damsel in distress. Lake Of Fire avoids all the genre conventions and roots itself firmly in the time period without becoming a quagmire of unreadable medieval terminology.

It is immediately apparent that Nathan and Matt did some deep historical research and have tried to stay as historically accurate as this story would allow. The Albigensian Crusade is basically when the Pope allowed one group of Christians to wage war against another because they didn’t worship God the right way. Whereas the first couple of Crusades were waged in what we consider the Middle East to reclaim the ‘Holy Land’, the latter Crusades had devolved in to political moves to consolidate control of Europe. While we normally think of Knights as beholden to a ‘Chivalric Code’ and doing noble acts, a quick look at the Albigensian Crusade reveals ignoble acts were widespread. Look up the Massacre at Beziers. History proves that our popular conception of knights might be a little off base. Fairbairn knows popular expectations for knights/crusaders and subverts them in Lake Of Fire.

As much as historical context frames the story, what makes the reader become invested in the story are the wonderful characters. Matt Smith’s character designs are wonderful. Each character seems distinct and fully realized by the time we meet them in the story. And while the book does mainly have white men as the focus, never does the reader become confused at which character is which. Theobald is a newly knighted crusader who is fresh faced and eager for war. Hugh is his good friend who accompanies him on his journeys, no matter how frivolous they might be. Michel, their squire, is ever the neophyte. Lord Montfort, the person in charge of the crusade, has eyes that are burdened from having to carry the weight of war. Count Henry is the elder statesman of the group and has the grey beard to prove it. Baron Raymond Mondragon was the finest knight of the crusades, but now spends his days drinking and nights whoring. He has seen battle and has the scars to prove it. Smith draws all of these characters uniquely and even characters outside of our principle cast have gotten detailed attention in their design.

At 44 pages you get a heap of comic in Lake of Fire. Never did reading the comic feel laborious though and that is due to the high quality of storytelling. The panels, even when they were filled with word balloons, always flowed very smoothly. I was never confused as to where my eyes should go next. The panel construction in the book makes reading from left to right in each panel smooth and the word balloon positioning never makes the story falter. The colors never overpower the story. During the day, it really feels like a brisk autumn in France. At night, the flames from the fire brightly light the people close by it, and those further away are shrouded in shadow.

Buy it! Lake of Fire 
is an absolute must buy comic! It’s a genre mashup that is a creation of love by two great creators. If you love historical fiction or have a love in your heart for sci-fi stories, Lake Of Fire will scratch that itch for you. If nothing else, Matt Smith draws particularly horrifying aliens and that alone is worth the price of admission.

Robert Coffil
Sales Person by day and geek stuff enthusiast by night. Just a guy who likes comic books. My favorite comic book is 'Saga'. I love 'A Song of Ice and Fire' and I watch 'Game of Thrones'. "Hoc Opus, Hic labor est"

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