Written by George Mann, Tauria Moosa, Dan Watters | Art by Piotr Kowlaki, Damien Worm, Nick Percival | Published by Titan Comics
The Dark Souls comics so far have been ok, and in fact have felt very much in spirit like the games they are based on, but have proven quite tough nuts to crack in terms of creating interesting characters and narratives. Adequate in the limited context of things designed solely for games, but not in a medium such as comics. I suspect this difficulty in sustaining twenty page plus stories each issue is why Titan took the editorial decision to go the anthology route, and have Legend of the Flame consist of several, shorter stories. Apart from the fact creators can tell nice, quick stories from the Dark Souls universe with far less restriction, we as readers get a much truer feel for this material, as the game itself is of course a series of specific quests and adventures. So what’s in this particular bag?
Apart from the typical anthology book framing sequence at beginning and end, we have three separate stories for our money. The first story, ‘Crossroads’, by George Mann and Piotr Kowalski sees an adventurer looking for a cure for the undead curse he is slowly being taken over by. Encountering a stranger who offers to help, he soon learns his lesson. The second story, ‘The Flames Return’, by Tauriq Moosa and Damien Worm sees the unfortunate consequences of that old chestnut ‘be careful what you wish for’ as a knight makes a pact he soon regrets. The final story, ‘The Labyrinth’, by Dan Watters and Nick Percival, shows how the undead curse comes for all, regardless of rank or class. Even Kings.
The writing overall is decent enough, though with very limited page count the scripter’s have neither the time nor space to do little more than just tell their particular tale. The second short, by Tauriq Moosa is the most wordy, making full use of the pages available, but pleasing enough as it is, its feels a little too text heavy. Although all the stories were united by a common theme, that of the undead curse, they bear no relation to each other and little to Dark Souls as a whole. Very generic (though nicely done) fantasy writing, in a very typical anthology format.
The art, which has been a strong point through all the Dark Souls comics, is again very good. Three distinct art styles, four if you include the framing pages, but all very nice and suit the tone of their story. Piotr Kowalski’s art in the first tale is very clean, standard comic book fare, with traditional panel layouts and design. Damien Worm’s art for the second tale is darker and murkier, panels uneven and jagged, much more fitting for the dark gothic romance flavour of that particular story. The Nick Percival art for the final tale is the most typical ‘fantasy style’ art in the book, very nicely laid out and nice use of the light and shadows in virtually every panel. The darkness of the story perfectly captured by the tone of his art.
On balance, there’s little new here. Three decent enough anthology tales, with a tenuous at best link between them, but tales almost struggling to tell their story in the limited space available. That being said, this approach is still a better approach than the previous one of trying to sustain an entire issue with a single story. Anthology books by their very nature are a mixed bag in terms of quality, but the quality here is very good. Great covers too.
Dark Souls: Legend of the Flame won’t convert non-fans of the games or fantasy adventure, but will probably please the people it is supposed to.
Dark Souls: Legend of the Flame #1 is out now from Titan Comics