‘His armour charred black by the flames of Izalith, Silver Knight Arkon now marches to Anor Londo in search of the brother knights who abandoned him. Meanwhile, in the Lower Ward, the undead curse begins to spread, with no care for rank or status. But who is to blame for this accursed outbreak?’
It’s hard to read Dark Souls: Age of Fire without being shocked by how beautiful the artwork is. Even three issues into the title Anton Kokarev is still able to push the bar further and further, and the very first scene is a testament to this. A meeting between the now cursed Silver Knight Arkon, transformed into a black knight, comes face to face with Artorias, the Wolf Knight, in a forest in the middle of a rain storm.
The effects look beautiful, dark and gloomy skies, streaks of rain filling each panel, as the two warriors enter into combat. There is very little dialogue in the scene, instead each panel tells a very clear story; the warriors watching each other, swinging their swords through the rain, clashing and blocking, circling each other. It’s like watching a samurai movie play out in comic form; and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
Following this brief but brilliant action sequence, the rest of the issue focuses on the undead curse that is sweeping through the Lower Ward and the machinations of Seath the Scaleless, the albino dragon. This is where the story really delves into the lore of Dark Souls and explores the backstory only hinted at within the games.
The undead curse is played as truly frightening and some of the depictions of them are truly terrifying. In one panel, Kokarev depicts them as mindless, withered, shambling victims, yet in the next panel they’re screaming, banshee like monsters.
Elsewhere Channeler Liste is seen in his manipulations of the public, whilst simultaneously assisting Seath the Scaleless with his experiments – experiments that have caused the undead curse that is sweeping through the population, a duplicity that comes back to bite him when Seath turns on him.
Despite these moments of story and lore exploration, the book doesn’t go into great depth. The book touches on important events, yet doesn’t give them the time they need. I don’t feel like this is something that writer Ryan O’Sullivan has done intentionally, as his characterisation is very good, but comes across as an editorial decision to try and maintain enough mystique around these big moments that they can be explored in future comics, novels, or games, depending on the company’s decision. Thankfully, O’Sullivan is weaving enough personal elements into the story through the cast of characters, but it is a little disappointing that we don’t get a little more detail.
Dark Souls: Age of Fire continues to be entertaining and visually stunning, and offers readers artwork that stands out amongst other competition as something really special. Hopefully future issues will dedicate more time to story without having to sacrifice character.