Review Brew: Lake of Fire #1
Writer, Colors, and Letters: Nathan Fairbairn
Art: Matt Smith
So Lake of Fire is basically Aliens set in the Crusades which, as far as I can tell, has never been done in the mass of Aliens and Predator fiction available. There’s Alien and Predator stories set in feudal Japan, the Old West, World War I, and elsewhere, but nothing during the Crusades. Go figure.
Still, Lake of Fire is, for all intents and purposes, following the standard formula of an AvP story in that it’s a conventional story set in a bygone era, where anachronistic figures confront an extraterrestrial cypher villains. It’s possible that there’s more to the monsters than what we get in the first issue, but for now, it’s very familiar. It’s not bad; it’s also not very original compared to what we’ve seen from the licensed properties at Dark Horse.
The story may appeal to history buffs, as Nathan Fairbairn seems to have done at least a little bit of homework in writing this story. Set in early 13th-century France, Fairbairn gives us more medieval intrigue than xeno-warfare in the opening issue. Lake of Fire follows the young knight Theobald of Champagne as he seeks to escape his family’s political struggles and pledge himself to Lord Montfort as a true warrior of God. Check the hyperlinks–Fairbain is using real people here, and Montfort’s real-world history suggests where he may end up in this story. Theobald finds himself called up to join a mission to suppress an outbreak of “heresy” in the village of Montaillou, which…well, we know where this is going. Aliens and all that.
Lake of Fire is the kind of story which would benefit from some author’s annotations which outline where history ends and fiction begins. A quick look around the internet suggests that Fairbairn is basing this story on the real-world Albigensian Crusades in Southern France, but only readers with a deep level of knowledge of the Crusades are going to appreciate that. Maybe the eventual collected edition will sort this out, but for now, the reader is left guessing as to how “accurate” this story is.
Matt Smith’s art is fine, if mostly medieval-focused. It’d be nice to see him cut loose on the aliens, but alas, we don’t see much of them in this issue. Some glimpses, and a lot more towards the end, but he mostly keeps the story grounded until the big finish of this first chapter. One thing the reader will appreciate, though: this opening issue is double-sized. At $3.99, readers definitely get their money’s worth compared to, say, your standard superhero stuff.
Rating: Three and a half crusades out of five.