Review - Lake of Fire #1 (@ImageComics)

"My God."

The Crusades were a trying time for Europe, what with all the fighting and persecution and all. It rallied many to its cause and brought out the best and worst in people as they fought for what they believed in. Had they been fighting alien invaders like in Lake of Fire #1 from Image Comics, the world today might be a lot different. The issue is written, colored and lettered by Nathan Fairbairn and illustrated by Matt Smith.

It is 1220 AD, and the gears of the Albigensian Crusade grind on. When an alien mining-craft infested with a horde of bloodthirsty predators crash-lands in the remote wilderness of the French Pyrenees, a small band of crusaders and a Cathar heretic are all that stand between God's Kingdom and Hell on Earth.

Fairbairn's script in Lake of Fire #1 is remarkably well-thought out and even. Each of the characters are very established despite the reader just being introduced to them and Fairbairn works in dialogue that effectively demonstrates their personalities. Theobold of Champagne and Hugh of Blois are naive but ambitious, Count Henry is weary and protective and Mondragon is brash and seasoned--despite the differences they're all mashed together for the quest. The premise behind the story itself is actually quite intriguing as it blends together science-fiction and religion (Crusades) and going along with the characters as they investigate will be entertaining. There's clearly an interest in making Lake of Fire #1 as believable as possible and it appears that Fairbairn is paying great attention to the details of history.

Equally as understated as the script is Smith's illustrations, all of which offer a compelling look at 13th century France. Smith's linework is very clean and simple and really captures the essence of the era. The main players are illustrated in ways that reinforce their disparate personalities, giving the reader a visual representation of their strengths and weaknesses. Smith works in some pretty sweeping views of the French countryside to underscore how removed from everything it was, even though there was a war raging. The colors in the book are somewhat washed out and give it the perfect antiqued status.

Lake of Fire #1 is a great debut issue. The band of travelers are in for quite a surprise when their investigation bears fruit and seeing how they survive will be interesting. Fairbairn's script is concise and moves at an even pace, setting up the stakes and then giving the reader a small glimpse at the enemy. And when the book takes a science-fiction turn, Smith imbues the invaders with a sense of ferocity that shows that even the most seasoned knight might not be enough to save the day. Lake of Fire #1 is pretty awesome and does an admirable job of mixing together an alien encounter with the Crusades.

Lake of Fire #1 is in stores now.