Publisher: Madius Comics
Writer: Robin Jones
Artist: Gareth Sleightholme
Release Date: 5th November 2016 (Thought Bubble Festival)
Serving as the second part of the Madius Comics “Viking Trilogy”, Ake’s Trial provides an extension of the world established in their previous release – The King’s Leap – rather than a direct sequel. It tells the tale of Ake, an outcast warrior who finds himself standing trial for the deaths of his brothers in arms, only to reveal the shocking reality of their demise in the form of a grim warning of horrors to come.
As before, the story is framed as a folk tale being recounted to a youngster, this time with a father telling his adventurous daughter a seemingly fanciful yarn. In fact, the overall structure is fairly similar to The King’s Leap throughout, albeit with a different threat and a different cast of characters. Initially, Jones’ writing does seem to rely a little too heavily on delivering weird-sounding names for people and places, none of which really add much to the narrative other than emphasising that we’re in a different, fantastical world. Thankfully, things rapidly even out once the story gets moving, with Jones getting a firm handle on the story before stepping back a little and letting Sleightholme’s artwork do the bulk of the heavy lifting.
Once again, the wonderful combination of wild energy and impressive detail in Sleightholme’s artwork serves as the main selling point for this release – for me, at least – with some fantastically rendered Viking combat and some truly over the top giant monster carnage. Pages are crammed to the borders with beautifully illustrated scenes of violence and brutality, and the reveal of the Sjorisar – monstrously deformed and mutated sea-giants – is brilliant in terms of both scale and impact.
The themes of honour, brotherhood and loyalty remain firmly entrenched in this latest chapter of the trilogy, and while we don’t really learn much about the characters’ motivations or personalities, the way they interact and battle alongside one another speaks volumes as to who they really are. Also, as should be expected from him by now, Jones throws in a nice little sting near the end of the tale, with Sleightholme’s grasp of scale once again helping the denouement land effectively.
Ultimately then, while it doesn’t quite hit the lofty heights of The King’s Leap, this still serves as another impressive addition to the “serious” wing of the Madius Comics library, and another stellar showcase of Gareth Sleightholme’s impressive artistic talents. I’d perhaps have liked it to stray a little further from the formula established in The King’s Leap, and readers picking up both chapters may feel a little underwhelmed by the similarity, but watching Jones and Sleightholme work in synergy like this is never disappointing, and Ake’s Trial still comes highly recommended.
You can grab yourself a copy of Ake’s Trial – alongside The King’s Leap and the rest of the Madius back catalogue – on the Madius Bigcartel Page. Make sure to follow Madius Comics on Facebook and Twitter, and check out all the latest offerings from Sleightholme at his Iron Shod Ape blog.
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