As everybody knows, especially if you come to this site on a regular basis, the mega convention known as Fan Expo Canada celebrated four days of merriment and consumerism a few weeks back. Believe or not, there are some people who still go to this convention to look for and buy comics. I happen to be one of those people. I especially like picking up the latest offerings from the many thankless souls who toil away in artists’ alley, where independent and professional artists alike hawk their wares. Unfortunately, I was not able to do the usual amount of perusing of this area as I usually do (even though it sometimes felt like I never left it for most of the con). I did however get the chance to stop by the Big Sexy Comics Table and speak with the writer/artist duo of “Fearless” Fred Kennedy and Adam Gorham. Last year, I purchased the first volume their comic, Teuton, a rip-roaring rampage of a tale that follows the saga of Andrus Tamm, a knight of the Teutonic Order in the Northern Crusades. The action was fast and loose and I was left with a mighty thirst for blood when I was finished it. So naturally, I was very interested in getting my hands on Volume 2 which they had copies of at the show.
I knew going in that this volume would have a slightly different feel. In previous conversations with Fred, he explained that after the first volume was done, he felt that the story needed a little bit of a breather from the action. This would give him a chance to better flesh out and further introduce the characters…..of which there are many. We have Gods, knights, God assassins, slaves, knights disguised as slaves, etc. And everyone gets their time on the page in this installment. Oh, and that a fore mentioned breather? It doesn’t last too long as the fire of battle that lives in these men comes running to the surface as fast as it can.
When last we left Tamm, he was just finishing up making short work of a demi-god named Vakaris. This fight was to ensure his freedom from the Lithuanians who were holding him captive. But that was before Perkunas showed up. Who’s Perkunas? Just one of the nastiest Gods you could ever piss off. He is massive and rides the lightning on his hell-bourne chariot. Turns out, Vakaris was his nephew. But that’s not the main reason why he’s pissed off. In the last volume, an axe that was in the Lithuanians’ care was stolen. This happens to be Perkunas’ property and he wants it returned. So he forces Andrus to go out and fetch it back from his holy order and sends Jadvyga and Asura, disciples, to keep watch on him and to make sure he accomplishes his task. But that’s not all that’s going on here. The axe represents power and the balance of power is shifting among the Gods as their time draws to an end. Bangputys, the God of the sea and brother to Perkunas, plots to take more power for himself and the one thing that stands in his way is his sibling with axe issues. So while the Teuton and his two new traveling companions deal with the likes of the barbaric children of Velinas and an invading army upon a fort for which they find themselves, Perkunas has his own problems fighting off attacks from his godly associates. Oh, and as I mentioned before, there’s also an assassin of the Gods named Ziburnixs who’s been summoned by Bangputys to take out Andrus Tamm for killing his son. When dealing with Gods, there’s bound to be drama and it’s almost as layered as some of the intense fight scenes. The story ends off with the Teuton up shit creek as they fight off a large hoard of marauders. As Fred puts it in his after word, this story is the second chapter of a trilogy and he and Adam wanted it to feel like the Empire Strikes Back. Well, if you mean “putting your hero in a situation you don’t think he can get out of,” mission accomplished. What’s surprising is he follows that statement with the revelation that things get even worse for Andrus in the beginning pages of Volume 3. Can’t this guy catch a break. You’d think after killing a God he’d get to revel in his accomplishments. But No! He’s stuck trying to take an axe back from his own people and it seems that there are just as many people out there trying to kill him as there are trying to kill Perkunas. Dude’s got a raw deal to say the least.
One thing that has been mentioned by critics about the first volume is Fred and Adam’s historical accuracy in creating this story and how they weave in folk lore with events from the time period. I can honestly say that this point is lost on me because I have very little knowledge of the mythology and history that is being sourced in this work. I am strictly looking at this comic from an entertainment stand point. Thankfully, not knowing anything of the historical accuracy of the tale, I still find it very entertaining. I really enjoyed the first book but was happy to find that this story holds up just as well as the previous volume and has it’s own unique voice. If the first volume could be equated to an epic battle, this one would be more like an “Incredible Journey”. We get some quiet moments that delve into the characters as they travel to their intended destination and are occasionally side-tracked by obstacles in the form of foes who they must conquer before they can continue in their quest. What I like especially is that there are no real defined “Good Guys” in this book. There are definitely a few “Bad Guys” who have been established, but the main protagonist is not someone I would call a hero. Nor are his traveling companions. And I can’t really say that of any of the Lithuanians or Christians that have been introduced. This goes both ways in the sense that I don’t really see Perkunas, who by all rights is a big asshole, as a villain. He’s more like a dude who’s trying to hold onto tradition while the world changes around him. Even though he throws his power around like its a fifty foot cock, you can’t help feeling sorry for him as his brother tries to take his place and is using many of the other Gods against him. For the most part, the characters fall into shades of gray. Where they could easily be portrayed as archetypes, they feel more human (even the deities). I also really enjoy Fred’s dialogue. It stays true to the time the book takes place in but isn’t hard to follow. And there is a flow that really makes this story zip right along.
The art by Gorham also lends itself to the fast pace of this story. When the blood is spilled, it looks gloriously gory, but it does not linger. We get fights that run at the speed you would expect them to if they happened before your eyes. But what impresses me more than his swiftness in visual story-telling is his eye for detail. When dealing with black and white comics (which most indy comics are), the styles of art can be broken down into two categories: those that look like fully finished artwork and those that look like pencils waiting to be coloured. I am happy to say that Adam’s work falls into the former. The shading, the expressions and body language, the landscapes. All are well envisioned and conveyed on the page. I don’t know if I would want to see this coloured because the artwork is already saying everything it needs to. You don’t need to gild the lily when it’s bringing forth the stark depiction of brutality that you want it to.
In complete contrast to this brutality, there is a bonus story at the end of the book that illustrated by one of Geek Hard’s favourite artists, Agnes Garbowska. Fred wanted to tell the Lithuanian folk tale that inspired this story, The Tale of Jurate and Kastytis, and so he got Agnes to come on board and deliver her brand of visuals that are perfect for fables. It serves as a great prologue piece for the action and is great in contrast to Gorham’s brutal depictions of battle. Fred, while a gifted scribe, has been blessed with not just one, but two great visual story tellers this time around. The folk tale is only six pages in length but adds much quality to this already well put together book.
I can honestly say that while I did enjoy the first volume of Teuton, I enjoyed the 2nd volume so much more. Both Kennedy and Gorham have grown as story tellers and I feel I could more invested in the characters and personalities this time. I look forward to reading the next volume and seeing what happens to Andrus. All of Volumes 1 and 2 are available to read online at the Big Sexy Comics Website. Check it out when you get the chance as it is truly a fun time if you like bloody and occasionally sexy violence.
And if you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!
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