After a great war, a mysterious man from the far east arrives at a castle without a king, whose only heir is an 11-year-old girl. This man, the Stranger, carries with him a message that will alter everything, including giving the castle a new ruler.
Landry Q. Walker and Justin Greenwood's The Last Siege debuts May 30 at Image Comics, and is a brutal war story set in an unforgiving time - but those two wouldn't have it any other way. Walker and Greenwood spoke with Newsaraama about this new Image ongoing, and the serious amount of detail they put into this creation.Here is a primer for the series, previously exclusive to Moonshine.
Newsarama: Landry, Justin, can you talk about the historical backdrop for The Last Siege?
Landry Q. Walker: I decided to pull from a few different eras to make this story work, as I wanted to avoid the pitfalls that come with literal historical depictions. Our story takes place in what is functionally the end of Saxon England – roughly 1067 A.D. However, we’re pulling a bit from both the past and future here – some of the armor and the castle style are several decades ahead of themselves. We’re also dragging a bit out of Eastern Europe and Asia that would comfortably predate the rest by a few centuries.
In other words, this isn’t a literal retelling of any specific moment in history, as much as it is an attempt at capturing the emotional tone of events that very much were occurring during the fall of the Saxons.
Justin Greenwood: By the time I came aboard this project, Landry had done so much research on this time period that I had a lot to work with and it was much easier to drop this story into a believable place and time. Between books, videos and even a model castle he had put together, I had lots of material to consider what this setting might feel like.
Setting those parameters accurately is important for this kind of story because it makes it so much more apparent when we bend them. When the Stranger shows up in town with a pair of Katanas on his sides, it instantly sets him apart and adds another layer to the mystery of his presence in our tiny kingdom.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the main protagonist, this Stranger?
Walker: He’s a catalyst, really. A stranger from a far off land – The easternmost edges of Europe. But he’s travelled a fair amount for reasons that will be revealed. Much further East than his homeland, to be sure.
Greenwood: I think this question invites an interesting dialogue around who this book is really about, too. The issue opens with the mysterious Stranger and largely focuses on him and his immediate conflicts. But I think ultimately he will only be sharing the story as it moves forward, and some of the most satisfying aspects of the book are finding out just who the Lady is and what she will stand for in the end.
Nrama:Justin, what kind of research did you look for when designing the characters?
Greenwood: I spent a lot of time drawing on the aforementioned research and trying to riff on version of the looks of this era that would feel historically accurate but finding my own version of them for this book. The Stranger is intentionally without many of these characteristics to help give him the sense of a man out of his element and in some ways out of time.
One of the things I like best about this story is how the scope changes as the arc goes on. When it opens, the cast is pretty limited and starts to grow until we hit a point where we are seeing foreign armies and tons of different types of armor and weapons. But while the specifics play their own storytelling role, for me it’s as much about how they feel that needs to read first and foremost.
In a lot of ways our recently defeated, brokedown castle is as much a character in this story as any of the rest. It’s a place that has been crushed and there is a sense of desperation that felt important to capture. Much of the first part of the arc is centered in this place and I found myself looking through Landry’s model castle and thinking about how things would play out. Another friend of mine, Andrew Garcia-Price, helped me build a 3D version so that we could play around with scope and really nail down the environment for consistency.
Nrama: Landry, you have Eric Jones on coloring and you guys go way back. Was it a sort of no-brainer to have Eric included in some capacity?
Walker: Eric has been a sounding board for this project since its inception almost 20 years ago. There’s a lot of trust and ease of communication that goes along with the sort of working relationship we have. That said, I still twisted his arm along the way. I’m kind of obsessed with medieval history, Eric less so.
Greenwood: Eric has really brought his own look to the book and he adds a lot to the mood and overall atmosphere.
It’s funny - some of Landry and I getting to know each other touches back to when I lived in the Bay Area and a small group of comics creators would get together periodically for breakfast. I remember Landry giving us a full breakdown for The Last Siege - it first came up with Landry and Eric both, and bringing Eric in to color kind of brought it full circle.
Nrama: Tell us about your working relationship with Keith Wood, the designer of The Last Siege.
Greenwood: I have often remarked that Keith is one of the most talented designers working in comics. We used to work together frequently when I was starting out and he was working full-time as a designer at Oni Press. We have kept in contact over the years and he was the first person I thought of when Landry and I started discussing the logo and design work.
Walker: I just love leaving that stuff to someone else.
I did a lot of the layout stuff for Danger Club, and it exhausted me. Keith has been terrific and incredibly patient with my demands. The book has a very slick look that captures the atmosphere solidly. So... yeah. It’s been a great working experience to date.
I should also give a shout out to our letterer, Patrick Brosseau. We’ve actually worked on a bunch of stuff together over the years – albeit never directly. Always through the filter of an editor. The guy is one of the most gifted and versatile letterers in the industry, and it’s great to have him at the front lines, as it were.
Nrama: Landry, you even have prose at the end of each issue. How do these stories compliment what's already going on?
Walker: The text pieces are basically a separate story that informs the main comic. With the visual side of storytelling, I prefer to jump into the relevant aspects of the narrative that are best told visually. Which means focusing on the action. The text pieces follow the development of another character, one we haven’t seen yet on the visual side, that will become more and more important/. Eventually, there will be a point where both storylines intersect and merge.
Nrama: Lastly, what made you want to plan this as an ongoing instead of a limited?
Walker: My original plan for this book was a 100-issue saga, with over 30 issues depicted as two-page spreads during a single battle. I have scaled it back a bit since then. We’re very much focusing on storylines now. That way we can keep the book both exciting, but also dive in or out as necessary without ever leaving anything unfinished.
Greenwood: When Landry first pitched me this story, it was finite and a lot of ways that overall arc structure remains intact from that first discussion. But as we started to work out the world and characters, we found more stories unfolding in this world that were just as interesting, and wanted to tell them as well without changing the finality of the first arc. So while the book is intended as an ongoing, each arc is very self-contained while also directly related to each other.