Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince #2
Erica Eren Angliolini (colorist), Andrea Olimpieri (artist), V.E. Schwab (writer), Vivian Spinelli (colorist), Rob Steen (letterer)
November 14, 2018
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
In between learning the rules and norms of Verose (booooring), Maxim finds out some family history and finds himself in a tête-à-tête with a very powerful woman.
New and old meet on the streets of Verose as Maxim acclimates to his new home. But training with Isra takes a bit of a backseat with the news of a certain vessel dropping anchor in Verosian ports: the Iron Grip, home to Arisa Raors, the Pirate Queen. The homecoming shakes up the Blood Coast, none more so than Isra herself. Arisa isn’t just your standard pirate with a body count in the double digits; she dabbles in a magic that transcends the laws of power. Oh, and she’s Isra’s aunt.
While the niece isn’t so eager to see her relative, Maxim doesn’t care and wants an audience with this pirate queen. The horrors of Arisa’s terrors aren’t enough to sway Maxim from his plan, and reluctantly Isra accompanies him to a night at Arisa’s favorite watering hole, the Black Torch. Here Arisa reveals a job opening on her ship to be filled by a tournament of combat. The first volunteer? Her niece, who isn’t in this for the money, but for revenge.
This issue continues the world building from the debut, which can either delight or frustrate readers. There’s just enough for us to comprehend the history between Arisa and Isra, but enough held back to build a cliffhanger. What is bone magic, and how does it differ? What happened on that fateful day a year prior to the events of the last docking of the Iron Grip that has left Isra with such contempt for her aunt? This is well-executed slow burn storytelling that fans of Shades of Magic know, building tension and defying convention.
Olimpieri gives a more chiseled look to Maxim. With the use of broad ink strokes and heavy shading, his face is broader, more muscular, more angular, less Disney prince, more wizened man. While it’s not clear how much time has passed between issues, the reader can assume a certain passage of time has had an effect on our noble prince. Isra is all no-nonsense punk, and in close combat, she’s hard to distinguish from Maxim thanks to similar facial features and shading. The opening sequence provides the first look at the magic of Red London in action. It’s underwhelming for those accustomed to the grand magic from the source series, but in context of the story, makes sense: Maxim needs to learn the lesson of caution and use magic when appropriate.
And what of this pirate queen? Wisely, we don’t see much of her face. Not only does she cover it with a mask similar to a Plague Doctor (or if you watch this current season of Supergirl, Agent Liberty), we do not see her close up until the final panel. That close-up is a look at her eyes, silver with flecks of blue, hinting at her mysticism.
Anigolini and Spinelli take the “blood” in the “Blood Coast” literally with choice of color palette. It’s warm, based in crimsons and other warm tones, but still dark and close to the tone of the script. To emphasize the unique aspects of Arisa’s magic, our color team wisely chooses vibrant violets. Violet is the color of mystery, power, and magic, a perfect choice for this mysterious new foe.
Family reunions are not always the smoothest ships to sail, but this one will surely feature literal blood in the streets of the Blood Coast before the Iron Grip pulls out. Definitely not what Maxim expected from this posting, but he’s certainly up for whatever comes his way. This certainly won’t be your normal diplomatic assignment, especially when magic gets involved.