(Archaia Studios Press)
US: Jul 2003
Who Kills a King
Female role models are often a complicated, conflicted bunch. It’s easy to be proud of their accomplishments over men, but generally they are also regularly portrayed as sexual objects. Artesia, the title character, seems at first look like a solid role model for impressionable young women. Except for one fact: she uses her body to rule her armys. Artesia was a captain who slept with the King and used that advantage to assassinate him. She is now in charge of a regiment of about 1,600 that is to attack the Thessid Empire for the Middle Kingdoms. We are told the Thessid Empire has about ten times that amount of soldiers.
Artesia is portrayed as a strong female who uses her sexuality for her wants. While doing that, the artwork occasionally shows gratuitous nudity, which undermines her strength from this reader’s point of view. She becomes just another attractive comic book female. The double standard of men being allowed to be sexual and women expected to be chaste is something that the post-feminism world has yet to deal with (Britney and Christina, I’m looking at you). As a male, I can understand the negative view that women using their bodies to get ahead portrays. But I believe the idea of using your own body in whatever way that doesn’t interfere with your moral stance, is the point. Artesia uses her body so that the King lets down his guard and she exploits his weakness by killing him and taking his rule and power.
Beyond that, the specifics of the plot are vague and a bit confusing. I know Artesia has some sort of magical power. A female assassin who attempts to kill Artesia is brought back as a spirit to tell Artesia who wanted her killed and how the attempt made it past her guards. Through Artesia’s powers, she is able to “erase” a curse upon two soldiers given to them by their Isliklid king. Between trying to keep straight who the Thessids, the Gorgonae, the Isliklids and Erlwulf are, I was lost. The strange names are spoken frequently and although a glossary/history is presented in the back, the five-point or so type is small chock-full of difficult-to-read and pronounce names. The artwork is serviceable, although more facial differences between characters would help. In scenes with many people, the similar facial features are quite distracting when trying to figure out who’s who. It’s definite that Smylie has talent in storytelling. He’s trying to create a world, but for those of us who are unfamiliar with the foundation, it’s too easy to get lost in the dense mythos. As a neophyte reader, I think a recap page would be quite helpful to readers who are sampling Smylie’s vision.
His chapter separations are quite nice and I’m sure add to the whole package, but with titles like “The Düméghal Prayer to Geteema”, it’s just to complex for the new reader to comprehend. The Artesia saga would be appropriate for those who like the “battle politics” and grand mythical elements of J.R.R. Tolkien combined with the artistic style of a Barry Winsor-Smith. The talent is there, but it’s just not for everyone.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.