Dec 22, 2011

Dragonlance Comics (Issue 31) - Sword of the Kinslayer (Part 2)

This story begins a few days after the last issue.

Once again, we start with a nice little paragraph from Astinus recapping previous events and setting the stage for this issue.

The wolf-clan dwarves are disposing the bodies of the dead neidar (hill dwarves) in a ritual fashion. Wolfthane stops the clan shaman's ritual short, not caring about his "mumbo-jumbo" and fearing the shaman's horn might cause an avalanche.

Meanwhile, the surviving neidar, including Theolin are camped nearby, huddled around a small campfire and saddened that they must wait for another day to honor their dead.

Elsewhere Riva tells Stonehelm a story from her childhood. One day as a little girl, playing in the courtyard of Castle Silvercrown, Riva came upon a clutch of eggs. As she reached out to touch one, the mother goose, trying to protect her children, let loose a wild attack upon the little girl. She cowered in fear until her father chased away the goose and pulled Riva to him. She recalled how safe she felt and wished her was with her now.

Around the corner, and unseen by Riva or Stonehelm, Wolfthane hears Riva's story and seems touched by her "fragile light of innocence".

As he enters the room where Riva and Stonehelm are being held, there is a slight tremor, which Wolfthane dismisses as the "way of the mountain".

Wolfthane gets into a discussion with Riva. She asks how Wolfthane can kill help hill dwarves. The clan leader claims that everything he does is to make the dwarven peoples stronger. That they once followed the old ways, but now some, like hill dwarves, have grown weak, and others, like Stonehelm, are just mercenaries fighting for money. Wolfthane promises not to kill Riva, and will even spare Stonehelm, since the mercenary is Riva's friend.

Meanwhile, back at Castle Silvercrown, Lord Silvercrown is growing even more obsessed at possessing the Kinslayer blade that Wolfthane owns. When Maric informs his father that Riva has been missing for the last few days, Lord Silvercrown orders Maric to form a search party. The lord begins to say, "to find my sword", but quickly changes it to "Riva".

Elsewhere Wolfthane and his followers are outside the entrance to a cave, along with some of their prisoners Riva and Stonehelm. Wolfthane offers Stonehelm the chance to join with him, to help "bring back the days of dwarven glory".

Stonehelm looks in the cave and appears to see something shocking. But still, rather than join with Wolfthane, the mercenary would rather enter the cave. Stonehelm beseeches Wolfthane that if he really does respect the old ways, that the clan leader will let Stonehelm die like a warrior. Wolfthane honors the mercenary's request--he unshackles the dwarf and gives Stonehelm a weapon to defend himself.

Stonehelm chargers into the cave at full speed. From within the cave there is a deafening roar and a blast of bone chilling frost spills out of the opening along with Stonehelm's weapon.

Then a voice from within the cave speaks, asking if Wolfthane found the girl. He replies that he has, but questions the need to kill her. The voice from the cave demands the girl's death.

Just then Riva breaks free from her chains and she and Wolfthane fight.

Elsewhere, at a crossroads in the hills, Theolin, leading the hill dwarves away to safety, comes across Lord Silvercrown, leading his troops into the mountains. Theolin gives Lord Silvercrown information about Riva and begs him to destroy the Kinslayer blade that Wolfthane possesses. Lord Silvercrown laughs at such a suggestion, claiming that the sword will be his to wield, as he and his men ride off into the mountain.

Meanwhile, Riva is trying to run away from Wolfthane. The dwarf is close behind her, impressed by Riva's resourcefulness. When a mountain tremor knocks Riva off the cliff edge, Wolfthane is quick to her rescue. The dwarf is able to pull Riva to safety, but then finds himself hanging on to her for his life. Wolfthane notices the hesitation in Riva before pulling himself to safety.

The dwarf leader then knocks Riva out with a punch and carries her unconscious body back to the cave lair of "his mistress". From outside Wolfthane hears instructions to kill Riva with the Kinslayer blade. The dwarf hesitates for a moment before pushing Riva away from the cave mouth in defiance. From within the cave, a blast of freezing cold wind blows over the dwarf. Afterward, only the bones of the dwarf remain, still clutching the Kinslayer blade.

The dwarf shaman goes for the blade in an attempt to seize leadership of the clan, but the voice from inside the cave scares him away. Riva is given the chance to grab the blade, and is even shown a hint of the great things she can achieve (including knighthood), if she takes the weapon.

Riva, sensing a trap, refuses the blade, just as her father and his men arrive. Lord Silvercrown pushes her out of the way of another freezing blast from the cave mouth. While his men are engaged with the other wolf-clan dwarves, Lord Silvercrown takes the opportunity to grab the Kinslayer sword for his own.

Commentary

Wow. Another great issue that works on all levels.
The art is just as fantastic as the previous issue, from the uniqueness of each of the wolf-clan dwarves, to all the detail in the background mountains. The chase sequence where Wolfthane is following Riva though the mountains, along and edge and eventually rescuing her from the fall is fantastic work. The pacing flows smoothly though these pages. There's also a great visual metaphor about a wild flower that underlies the chase sequence and ties in to Wolfthane's thoughts about Riva during this issue.

The other visual element I really liked was during the sequence where Riva seems a glimpse of her future self. Here we see Riva in the outfit she is wears throughout the rest of the series.

Story-wise this issue has been on par with the first one. What really worked for me was Wolfthane. In this one issue we see so many sides of him, that he becomes someone we begin to at least understand, if not identify with. He is clearly one of the strongest, well-rounded characters created in this comic (and does so in just a pair of issues). His death towards the end of the issue was a bit of a shock, but seems to be a great way to clear the stage for the finale which I suspect will be Riva v a possessed Lord Silvercrown v the thing in the cave.

At this point, I'm eagerly looking forward to the last, concluding issue, to this story.