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Umbral #4 (We're pirates Spoilers)

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Postby Punchy » Sun Mar 02, 2014 4:39 pm

OK, that’s Alan Moore on the cover of this issue isn’t it? I mean, I know it’s meant to be either Jinglefingers or a Ghost Pirate, but it really just looks like The Original Writer himself. Anyway, that’s not important, what is important is what happens inside that cover, and what we get is more exciting action, coupled with some fun uncovering of the deep back-story and ‘worldbuilding’ that Antony Johnston is doing here.

Rascal and Shayim are still trapped in the caves being chased by the Umbral, where they come across a weird, ghostly pirate ship. This isn’t some apparition made by the Umbral, nope, it looks like these pirates are a known quantity, and in fact, they are the ones who save Rascal from the grip of the Umbral that has taken the form of Prince Arthir, who she is drawn to, somehow forgetting that the real Prince is dead. The ghost pirates intercede, and Rascal is able to come to her senses. This scene isn’t really explained, but I’m sure it will be, the pirate leader, Black Rojyr looks set to be a big part of this series, and it’s clear from other parts of this book that Johnston has answers to all of these weird mysteries. Rascal and Shayim escape, and start climbing up a ladder to safety, where they end up in an Inn, where they can hide out, and try and meet the ‘Profoss’, who might be able to help them and tell them about the Oculus.

Elsewhere, we get a look at just how crafty the Umbral are, as the Jinglefingers one meets up with the leaders of several other important groups in the city to enlist their help in tracking down Rascal. We also find out that the Jinglefinger Umbral has been in this form, undercover for a long time, and that the Arthir Umbral is… his dad? It’s a great little moment when they hug each other, with the old man actually being the little kid’s son. The issue ends with Rascal and Shayim finally meeting up with the Profoss, but it’s not a happy meeting, as we discover that Shayim’s people, the Azqari are at war with the Profoss’, the Yuilangans, and she is none too happy to see him, even accusing him of being a ‘baby eater’. I love that Johnston introduced this back-story and this war. It makes the world here seem real, like important stuff has been happening before #1, and also makes things for the future very dangerous indeed. How can humanity stop the Umbral if they are at war between themselves? It’s a bit like how, in Game Of Thrones, everyone is distracted by the civil war, when the real threat is the supernatural Others coming in from the north. But of course, it’s different, as the Umbral are already here, and much more subtle.

Christopher Mitten’s art continues to be a great companion to Johnston’s writing, as he sells the supernatural elements, but not at the expense of making the world feel real. The Umbral are genuinely creepy, and not just big purple blobs. I’m really enjoying this book, it’s something different in comics, and as I’ve said before, it’s scratching my fantasy itch whilst we wait for Game Of Thrones Season 4.

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